I’ve been wanting to talk about putting for a while now. It’s something I’ve been told I do well and, of course, when I analyse it and break it down into detail I learn some things about myself along the way, things that may be useful to others struggling with the game.
Like any good swing in golf, putting has no violence to its motion. The putter has been engineered to squarely hit putts; you just need to allow it to do so. And that means minimising unnecessary motion, keeping a simple stroke back and through and understanding leverage.
How I’ve learned to approach every putt
With the club in my trailing hand, I visually take in the lie of the green between my ball, the hole and the surrounding landscape of the putt. I don’t pick a spot or focus on a specific line. The mind fills in all those details if you allow it to.
While analysing the line, I feel the weight of my putter and start to feel the weight of the putt. I look at the hole, then I set the club down squarely to the ground and squarely to the hole, then I let my body setup around the club. This way, the putter sits flush to the ground (as it was engineered to) and I don’t get uncomfortable trying to manipulate the club into a square position once I’ve setup.
My eyes are squarely over the ball, my back is straight (the angle determined by how bent I am at the waist …your butt goes back as far as you need until your eyes are squarely over that ball), my legs are comfortably bent. There is no tension anywhere. My hands are exactly where they would be if they were hanging freely, they just happen to be holding a putter.
I forward-press slightly using my leading hand. A lot of people may disagree with this move, but I’ve used it successfully for years now. It gives me the feeling of the putt in the palm of my hand when the butt of the putter grip presses up against the top of my palm.
Keep Your Ribs Still
Most importantly, I keep my rib cage still when putting, dead still (if you don’t do this, you’ll never find consistency in putting because, if you don’t train yourself, your center WILL move slightly and slight movements in your center = inches off your target when putting). I feel the weight of the putt in my elbows/triceps (you can feel the weight of the putter by lifting the club slightly off the ground. Now you know the weight of the club, you are free to let your mind estimate the weight of the putt to your target). Keeping that very slight forward-press, I just putt with my elbows. Back and through they feel even. My rib cage remaining still prevents any body-tilt; one of the main causes of missed short putts.
The Grip and Leverage
The forward-press that I do at setup continues as a consistent pressure throughout my putt. I’ve reached the stage where it’s no longer a conscious feeling. In fact, it feels wrong if I don’t have this point of leverage.
This leverage through my grip gives me confidence, because it lets me feel what impact will feel like, but it lets me feel it at address, before I’ve even putted (before I’ve even visible moved!). Sounds weird, but when you’re dealing with very small pressures in putting, small points of leverage like this are key to becoming a consistent and confident putter because these are things you can rely on under pressure.
Great putting starts with an understanding of the grip. Study it, learn leverage and how to position your hands to help you release squarely down the line. It will pay off and give you a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the game-within-a-game that is “putting” :-)