Learn How To Putt Like A Scratch Golfer Today!
There aren’t many worse feelings than having a poor putting day on the golf course. You can hit every fairway and every green you’re faced with, but if you can’t get the ball in the hole in one or two strokes once on the putting surface, you’re inevitably going to shoot a bad score.
Here, we will show players of all skill levels the most effective ways of eliminating mistakes and having a reliable routine once on the greens, ultimately resulting in shooting lower scores.
We aren’t trying to sell you on a “Break-Through Putter Design” or a “40-Step Putting Program,” just a no-nonsense approach to save strokes when putting.
We’ll begin by assessing a few of the “putting variables” that will be unique to every reader and player, next we lay out clear instructions on how to make a proper putting stroke, followed by our “7 Steps to Make Putting Easy” defined step-by-step and to conclude we’ll discuss a few drills, tips, and secrets from the Pros to keep your putting skills progressing in the right direction.
Table of Contents
Learning How To Putt
There are a few “putting variables” involved with putting that will be unique to each golfer and reader of this guide. These variables can be assessed before we ever step onto the first hole, and include things like:
- The Speed of Your Greens
- Grass Type and Assessing Possible Grain
- Putting with a Line on Your Golf Ball vs. No Line
Quick Tip: Don’t Look At Your Ball Too Early!
One of the biggest mistakes that golfers do that can make everything you learn here meaningless is tilting your head too earlier as you hit your putt. Doing so disrupts the path of your follow-through just as you make contact with the golf ball. This leads to mishits or skids. Instead, keep your head still all the way to the end of your putting stroke. Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose track of the ball, it’s on the green for Pete’s sake!
Understanding Green Speed
Assessing your “green speed” for the day can be accomplished in a few ways. More prestigious golf courses will professionally test their green’s speed weekly or daily and display the speed somewhere on the course to indicate if the greens are fast or slow to golfers.
The majority of golf courses don’t offer this accurate of a speed reading, and players must determine the green’s speed by hitting a few practice putts on the golf course’s “practice green.”
Hit a few 8-foot putts, 20-foot putts, and 40-foot putts if your practice green has the space, to build a reasonable “mental range” of how much effort it takes to hit a putt of these specific distances to help you gauge distance and speed more accurately once on the golf course.
Grass Type / Assessing Grain
There are three very common types of putting surface grass. These grasses include “Bent-Grass,” “Poa Annua,” and “Bermuda Grass.”
Depending on your specific area, you’ll likely be putting on one of these three grass types, but only Bermuda Grass is harshly affected by “Grain.”
“Grain” relating to putting greens refers to some grasses’ tendency to grow horizontally rather than vertically. Putting surfaces with a strong grain presence will appear “two-toned” in appearance, with shiny light-colored areas indicating you’re putting “with the grain,” and darker areas indicating you’re putting “against the grain.”
When grain is present it can affect your golf ball’s roll on the green. Putts will be faster when putting “with the grain” (also referred to as “Down Grain”) and slower when putting “against the grain.” Additionally, the grain will cause putts to break more if the grain grows in the direction of the break, and less if the grain grows in the opposite direction of the break.
For reference, we’ve attached a photo above of a Bermuda Grass green and golf hole. Notice how one side of the cup is clean and tightly trimmed while the other side is brown and disheveled looking? As a final “Grain Tip,” the grain grows in the direction of the brown and disheveled side of the cup, and the grain will pull putts in that direction.
Aiming Putts Using a Line On Your Golf Ball vs. No Line
This part of putting is entirely up to you and whatever inspires the most confidence in you as a golfer should be the method of aiming you go with on the greens.
Some players like having a clean ball to look at with no alignment line, while others prefer the alignment line to help them know where they are starting to putt.
Golfers should be able to determine which method of aiming and aligning putts gives them the greatest chance at success through practicing for a few minutes on the putting green or experimenting with both methods while playing actual golf rounds.
Making the Perfect Proper Putting Stroke
The putting stroke can be broken down into two specific sub-categories, “Setup” and “Action.”
Proper putting “Setup” requires developing a solid base with your body.
Players should feel like their weight is firmly on the balls of their feet, their feet are roughly hip-width apart, their hands are above their toes, their backs are straight, and their eyes are directly over, to slightly behind the ball.
The photo above is an illustration of Justin Thomas displaying what we envision as “perfect putting posture and setup.”
This might sound like a lot to beginner players but developing this proper putting posture and setup makes the rest of the steps to becoming a fantastic putter much easier to follow. If you have questions regarding the putter grip, check out our guide on How To Grip a Putter.
“Action” in putting is making the physical putting stroke. Players should use little to no wrist motion when making a putting stroke, rather rocking their shoulders in a pendulum-style movement focusing on hitting the absolute center of the putter’s face. This gives players the most reliable and consistent roll with no immediate bouncing or skidding that can misalign and ruin a putt’s “pure roll” and likelihood of going in the cup.
Quick Tip: Position the Ball Just Slightly Forward from the Middle
Ball positioning is very important to producing true rolls on your golf putts. Every golfer positions the ball slightly differently from the rest, but for most, it is one ball forward from the center of your stance. This gives you enough space to hit the ball just slightly upward after passing the lowest point of the arc on your putting stroke which is what produces true roll.
7 Steps to Make Putting Easy
This is the method of reading and stroking putts that have helped the author lower his average putts per round to just 30 for his entire 2022 golfing season.
- Assess Your Putt from Far Away
- Mark Your Golf Ball
- Determine Your Putts Length
- Make Your Read
- If Faced With a Longer Putt, Read from Behind the Hole
- Take a Few Practice Strokes or Stare at Hole for Speed Reminder
- Stroke the Putt Focusing on Speed
1. Assess Your Putt from Far Away
The majority of amateurs make the mistake of not examining their putt until they’ve reached the putting surface.
Professional golfers and higher-level players begin assessing their putt’s potential break, distance, and speed while walking to the green from the tee box or golf cart.
By assessing your putt from farther away, you’re giving your mind more time to evaluate small decisions such as, “Is this putt uphill or downhill?” or “Does this putt have any break?” thus eliminating some of the variables that can make amateurs feel stressed on the greens.
2. Mark Your Ball With Your Ball Marker
Marking your golf ball with an identifier unique to you is a rule and requirement of the game of golf. While most golfers simply place a coin behind their ball on the green, there are no real stipulations around your ball marker choices besides making sure they aren’t too distracting or too large to hinder a playing partner’s performance.
If you don’t know how to mark your ball properly, it’s very simple! Just take your marker and gently slide it behind your golf ball, close enough to mark its position accurately but not close enough that you have a chance to move your ball closer towards the hole.
3. Determine Your Putts Length
Determining your putt’s true length is a step the overwhelming majority of recreational and amateur golfers skip, yet it’s one of the most important steps of all.
If your putt is over 8 feet in length, begin at the hole and pace off the number of steps it takes to reach your golf ball.
*Note from Author* My strides measure just short of a yard so I take slightly larger steps than usual and multiply my total number of steps by 3 to get an accurate estimation of the number of feet the putt is.
This is a step that should also be completed on the putting green when warming up. Here’s why:
If you pace off your putt’s length and for example we’ll say it’s 18 feet, you’ll internally know a putt of this length will take slightly less effort than the 20-footers you hit during your practice on the putting green. This builds more internal confidence when stepping onto the greens for your round and is a building block to great putting performance.
4. Make Your “Read”
Making an accurate “read” (slang for your best guess of where to aim and start the putt) to determine how much your putt is going to break before it reaches the hole is entirely based on your personal experience and practice.
There is no 100% accurate way of determining the break of a putt, but we do have a few steps that make this process simple and straightforward to understand.
Now that you’ve placed your marker behind your ball and know the length of your putt, stand a few yards behind your marker and crouch down to examine what the green is doing between your marker and the hole (as this illustration of Camilo Villegas is demonstrating below):
Always remember, the closer your eyes are to the ground the easier it is to see the direction your ball will break if any. Additionally, if you’re faced with grainy greens, remember how we outlined grain will affect the roll of your golf ball.
5. *Optional* If Unsure About Break, Go Behind the Hole and Read in Reverse
If you’re unsure which direction the putt is breaking from behind your marker, reverse your perspective and look towards your marker from behind the golf hole. This is usually only required on confusing-looking greens or longer-distance putts.
By imagining you are hitting a putt from the hole to your marker, you can often get a better mental image of those trickier reads and which direction the break, slope, or grain will affect your golf ball’s path to the bottom of the cup.
This is a trick one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth, recently shared with Neil, his NoLayingUp playing partner while having a match at Kapalua Resort in Hawaii.
6. Position Your Golf Ball and Practice Stroke – Stare at Hole – Combination of Both
Now that you’ve decided on your read and starting position, place your pocketed golf ball back in front of your marker, if you use a line to aim you’d complete that now (if not, you’ll just be focusing on where you want to start the ball), remove your marker, and begin your “Pre-Putt Process.”
Your Pre-Putt Process can be thought of as what you’re doing moments before you strike your putt. For example, Brad Faxon, a putting legend and now putting coach of many PGA Tour professionals, believes after you’ve made your read players should be in “continuous motion” until they make their putting stroke to avoid getting stiff or tense (a fatal flaw of most recreational golfers).
Some players like to make a few “Practice Strokes” mentally imagining the length of the putt and trying to replicate the stroke they want to make on the ball. Other players, like current World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, prefer to perform a 3 to 5-second stare at the hole to direct his focus on the distance of the putt.
Through experience and experimentation golfers will develop a “Pre-Putt Process” that is unique to them, and if this process is repeated enough, will lead to making more putts.
7. Final Step: Stroke the Putt Primarily Focusing on Speed
Once you’ve reached this final step you should feel confident about your prediction of the break and should be primarily focused on the speed of your putt.
Golfers that get too focused on the line and break of a putt have a much harder time giving themselves easy tap-in two putts or getting the ball to the hole to give it a chance to go in! Bad reads we can live with but bad speed is a death sentence to good-putting performance!
Make your stroke and accept the outcomes good or bad. Pay strong attention to every aspect of every putt you make on the course, as each stroke is giving you more information to make a better decision on your next putting opportunity!
Tips for Preparing at the Putting Green
Here’s a detailed guide on how to have a quick warm-up session on the practice green before your next round.
Begin by tossing a few balls out on the green and watching how they roll and behave after making contact with the ground. Did they bounce high or land soft? Did they roll far or barely move after they touched the green? These factors give us an idea of the green’s speed and moisture level before ever making a stroke.
Next, follow our outlined steps in the above “Green Speed” section by hitting a moderate amount of putts from 8, 20, and 40 feet respectively until you have a good mental feeling of how forceful a putting stroke it takes to hit the ball that far.
This warm-up takes just a few minutes and will provide most amateur golfers with more information than aimlessly hitting random putts until your tee time arrives (like the majority of recreational golfers do).
If you have more time before your round or are looking to practice your putting for better performance in the future, be sure to check out our favorite putting secrets, drills for short putts and speed control, and tips from putting legends like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Bryson DeChambeau down below.
Helpful Tip for Practicing Your Putting Stroke (“Tigers Gate Drill”)
The easiest way to help your putting stroke is by following one of Tiger Woods’s favorite putting drills, something he does before each and every tournament and routinely drills at home.
The “Gate Drill,” is a putting drill that leaves little to no room for error by forcing your putter through two golf tees before making contact with the ball.
To begin the Gate Drill, find a straight putt on the practice green and place your putter head on the ground roughly 6 feet from the hole. Take two tees and place one in the ground at the toe of your putter and one in the ground at the heel. You’ve effectively created a “gate” that your putter head must flow through precisely to hit your putt effectively.
By doing this drill you’re reinforcing a consistent, center of the putter face-finding stroke in your mind, and with your muscle memory and enough repetitions, you’ll be able to replicate this consistent stroke when playing.
Drills for Short Putts (Phil Mickelson Drill)
Short putts are equally frustrating and embarrassing to miss. I’ve often thought “How can a 300-yard drive and a missed 3-footer both count for one stroke?”
Thankfully for our viewers, the “Lefty Legend” Phil Mickelson gives us his secret to becoming unconscious and unstoppable from 3 feet.
Take your sand wedge (generally 36” in length) and place the head inside the cup, stretching the grip end of the shaft outwards. Take tees and place them in the ground at the end of the grip a few feet apart from each other until you have 10 tees in a 3-foot circle surrounding the hole.
Place a golf ball at each tee and make each putt as many times as you can, beginning with 10 and eventually reaching as many as 100.
This drill allows you to build mental fortitude over short putts by adding more pressure to each stroke to reach your mental goal.
Three Putting Tips From Bryson DeChambeau
With a beautiful stroke of luck, Bryson DeChambeau is here to help our readers with his newly released video entitled “3 Tips To Instantly Improve Your Putting.” It’s almost as if he knew we were going to post this putting guide and wanted to help!
In his video he breaks down how to read long breaking putts, how to fully understand “Grain” on putting surfaces, and his secret tip on how to get the most consistent roll to your putts every time!
FAQ: How To Putt
How to Practice Putting Indoors?
If your winter season absolutely kills the chances for you to play golf, it’s really easy to lose your feel for your putts after 3 months of slacking on the couch. One good way to practice indoors is actually extremely simple, practice your putts with a golf ball on the carpet!
Another method that does help with putting regardless if it’s during winter or not, is to practice when you’re off the course with an indoor putting set! They provide a much better feel when compared to putting on the carpet and often come with many training aids that can help in speed control and alignment.
- Great putting aids with alignment and distance markers
- High-quality surface for an amazing feel
- Compact and portable
- Best Seller on Amazon
How to Not Skid the Golf Ball on Your Putts?
Producing true roll from your putts is one of the hardest things in the sport. Or so it seems.
Some of the key takeaways to not skid your putts are to square your putter face with the golf ball, not move your head until after you finished your putting stroke, keep the ball positioned at the center of your stance, and let the weight of the putting do the work (don’t use too much hands)!
Who’s the Best Putter Player of All Time?
The best putters who’ve ever touched the sport would have to be Tiger Woods. It’s ridiculous just how many times he’s managed to win Majors just with his ridiculous putting. One thing we can take out of his putting?
Practice your putts, and I mean a lot! It’s that simple. In fact, he’s putt so much with his Titleist Scotty Cameron Putter, he’s claimed that he is able to replicate anything he wants with that thing. He knows every way the putter would act on the golf ball, regardless of terrain, where he hits it on the face, etc.
The Verdict – How to Putt
I’ve covered a lot here, so take some time to practice each drill we mentioned above at your local range greens. Remember to keep these things in check while practicing, and make sure to have the right putting set-up, grip, and posture. Not to mention, when you’re down at the course, use these opportunities to test your understanding of the grain of different types of green. Eventually, you’ll pick it up in no time!
Keep on putting and let’s get rid of those three putts!
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