How to Make a Smoother Stroke and More Putts

By Sandy Retsky

Your putter is the most frequently used club in your bag. Putting is the easiest part of golf to master (the smallest swing) and has the most individual styles. Good putters have "touch," which is an intimate understanding of judgment (a good read) and execution (a good putt). This comes from solid fundamentals and practice. Your goal is to say, "I made a smooth stroked putt exactly as I wanted."

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate
Step 1
Read the green for your putt. This is very important, but not the focus of this article.
Step 2
Check your body setup. There are many putting body setups. Choose one that is comfortable. Here is a basic style: Align shoulders, chest, hips, knees and feet parallel to the target. Place your feet shoulder width apart and your weight evenly balanced on your feet. Position the ball in the middle of your stance.
Step 3
Check your grip setup. Choose a soft, firm, comfortable grip. In a full swing, you grip for power; in a putt, you grip for touch. Most common is the traditional grip (front hand forefinger on the fingers of the back hand, thumbs on the flat part of the handle, palms facing each other). Another choice is the cross-hand grip: it puts the front hand below the back hand and minimizes wrist movement. A less common choice is the split-hand grip, a gap (distance varies) between the hands: the front hand guides the putter, the back hand powers the putter. For short putts (less than 10 feet), choke up on your grip for better control.
Step 4
Check your club setup. At setup and impact: palm of your back hand and putter face square to shot path, your hands even with the putter head.
Step 5
Check your mental setup. Visualize "the putt path." Believe: "I will make this putt." This works when you have solid fundamentals.
Step 6
Check your stroke. There are two main choices: straight and arc. Straight (shoulders rock like a pendulum) is straight backstroke and straight-forward stroke, eyes over ball. Arc (shoulders rotate minimally around spine) is a slightly inside backstroke and a slightly inside forward stroke, eyes inside ball, shaft flatter angle. Some golfers use the straight stroke for short putts and the arc stroke for longer putts. You'll have no wrist action and minimal body movement. Keep your head still until finished with stroke (no peaking). Backstroke and follow-through should be smooth, consistent and the same length and speed. Hit center of the putter face (sweet spot) for solid contact.
Step 7
Practice on a putting green or carpet. Distinguish between putting practice for fundamentals (to improve your putting) and putting practice for warm-up (to get a feel for a course you are about to play). This is putting practice for fundamentals. Practice takes time and yields the best results when you have a specific focus.
Step 1
Pick the drill(s) that work best for you. Try these drills on a flat surface, where your result is based on your stroke, not on contours.
Step 2
Putt using a 5-inch backstroke and a 5-inch follow-through (start with five putts). Repeat for 10 and 15 inches to increase your feel for distance. You don't need a hole for this one.
Step 3
Putt with one hand at a time, first back hand (start with five 10-foot putts), then front hand; this increases the feel in each hand.
Step 4
Putt without looking at the ball, first with your eyes closed (start with five 10-foot putts), then with your eyes looking at the hole; this connects the stroke with the result.
Step 5
Putt the first ball 10 feet. Putt each successive ball 3 feet farther than the previous ball (start with five balls). Do the reverse: Putt the first ball 25 feet. Putt each successive ball 3 feet shorter than the previous ball. This builds confidence. You don't need a hole for this one.
Step 6
Putt 1 foot from hole (start with five putts). Make all putts, then move back 1 foot and repeat. If you miss a putt, move closer 1 foot (obviously, 1 foot is the closest you will putt). This builds confidence.

Tips & Warnings

Use a target that is smaller than the actual hole. Some courses have a hole on the putting green that is half size. If your course doesn't have one, use a quarter or a tee. Every course's greens are different, and the same course's greens change based on conditions. Green speed is officially measured by a Stimpmeter, originally designed by golfer Edward Stimpson in 1935.
Use a target that is smaller than the actual hole. Some courses have a hole on the putting green that is half size. If your course doesn't have one, use a quarter or a tee.
Every course's greens are different, and the same course's greens change based on conditions.
Green speed is officially measured by a Stimpmeter, originally designed by golfer Edward Stimpson in 1935.
Putting for contours is an important adjustment but comes after you have a solid fundamental putting stroke.

About The Author

Sandy Retsky caddied at Baltusrol in Springfield, NJ and owned a software consulting business in New York, NY. He is a partner at Reverie Winery in Napa Valley and Butterfly restaurant in San Francisco. He has been writing for golflink.com since early 2009.

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