How to Putt in Golf: A Complete Guide From Stance to Speed
Learning how to putt better is about more than improving the mechanics of your putting stroke. To become a better, more consistent putter, you need to become an expert at the entire putting process: reading the green, distance control, selecting a putting grip, and making the stroke. Here’s our complete guide on how to putt.
Step 1: Reading the Green
The first step to hitting a successful putt is making an accurate read. Reading the green can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. World-renowned golf instructor Hank Haney advises a very simple visualization to help you read greens.
“The best way to figure out your break is to imagine you dumped a big bucket of water on the green,” Haney said. “Where would the water flow? That’s the direction that your ball will break.”
Golfers who prefer a more scientific approach to green-reading can learn the aimpoint putting method, or the plumb bob technique. Both of which are designed to give players the most accurate read possible.
Before you finalize your read, consider the fact that 85 percent of all putts are missed on the low side of the hole. To give yourself a better chance of making your putt, factor in a little extra break.
Step 2: Distance Control
Once you can read greens effectively you’re off to a great start. If you can pair that skill with excellent distance control, you’ll probably be the best putter in your foursome most days.
The optimum distance to hit your putt is 17 inches past the hole. That pace gives you the best chance to make your putt on your intended line, without bringing lip-outs or knee-knocking comebackers into play.
Distance control is absolutely essential to a successful putt. Most golfers whose 10-foot putt travels 9-feet-11 inches never think twice about the strokes they’re leaving on the greens, but a putt that misses short is not the same as one that misses long.
Think about it, if you hit every putt hard enough to get 17 inches past the hole, some of them will go in. However, no putt that fails to reach the hole will ever drop. Every time you leave one short, you cost yourself a fraction of a stroke, and those really add up over the course of 18 holes.
The speed of your putt also dictates how much break you need to play. If your putt dies into the hole, you’ll need to play a line with more break than if you ram your putt into the back of the cup.
Every time you practice your putting, or before every round, carve out some time to work on your distance control, making sure you hit putts past the hole, but within 17 inches.
Step 3: Proper Putting Posture & Setup
After you’ve chosen your line and have a feel for your speed, it’s time to step up and hit your putt, and that means getting into the proper putting posture. Here are a few key fundamentals to help your putting posture:
Bend enough from the hips so that your arms hang down away from your body
Set your eyes over the top of the ball so your eye line is parallel to your target line
Position your stance so the back of the ball is directly underneath your sternum
Putting is all about consistency, and ensuring your putting posture is the same every time will increase your consistency on the green.
Step 4: The Putting Grip
The is no one right putting grip, and that can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you approach it. It’s a curse for golfers who abandon their grip after every three-putt and can’t commit to one style. However, if you’re patient and commit to finding the best putting grip for you and stick to it, you’ll have an advantage over your competition.
Learn a little more about the various putting grip styles and find which one suits you best. It may be a conventional grip, or it may be a saw grip, cross-handed grip, or broomstick.
Step 5: The Putting Stroke
Similar to putting grip styles, there are multiple ways to execute your putting stroke. Some golfers use a straight back and straight through putting stroke. Others have a little in-to-in arc in their putting stroke and some players have a very pronounced arc.
Regardless of which stroke you choose, getting the putter face square at impact is the most important metric. The right stroke for you is the one you can execute with the most predictable results.
Because there are so many different combinations of putting grips and strokes, there are an endless number of putter options available. You might think all putters are the same, but you’d be wrong. Each putter is designed for a specific putting stroke, which is why it's so important that once you’ve settled on a grip and a stroke, you find the best putter for your style. Consider a putter fitting if you want to be certain you're playing the best putter for your individual stroke.
That’s a lot of information on putting, but here are the key takeaways that you can bring with you to the practice green to help dial in your stroke.
When reading the green, play a little extra break to avoid missing on the "amateur" side
To give yourself the best chance to make every putt, hit your putts with enough pace to get 17 inches past the hole
Don’t leave putts short of the hole unless going past the hole brings additional risk into play
Make sure your putting grip, stroke and equipment are working together, not against each other