Late tomorrow evening, our planet will reach the most distant point in its yearly orbit around the sun and the Northern Hemisphere will mark the Winter Solstice. I can hear the groans out there, but the arrival of winter doesn't have to mean hibernation for your golf game. In fact, winter is a great time to get better in a crucial and often neglected area of the game – putting.
Rolling the ball may not be as flashy as launching it into orbit or making it sizzle with backspin, but putting is the great equalizer. It can kick-start a great round, stop the bleeding during a bad one, reverse the momentum in a match and seal championships. And the great thing about putting is that it doesn't require any special physical gifts. We all have more than enough coordination and athletic talent to roll the ball effectively. All that's needed is some dedicated practice and getting off on the right foot with some solid fundamentals.
The hard work and practice is up to you, but for a great foundation to improve your skills on the greens, we're pleased to bring you some wisdom from a resident short game expert, Titleist staff member Brandon Stooksbury.
In the following videos, Brandon breaks down three critical keys to putting the ball consistently with feel and accuracy – the correct Grip, the correct Setup and Posture and the correct Path.
Practice these fundamentals indoors or out this winter and watch your scores plummet this spring. And for more great wedge and putting wisdom from Brandon, visit his website and check out his YouTube, Twitter and Instagram channels, too.
Putting Fundamental 1: Grip
"In the full swing, we grip the club in our fingers, because we need to hinge and unhinge our wrists in order to create power and speed. In putting we need the opposite of power and speed. We need control and softness, which we achieve by holding the club in the palms of the hands." - Brandon
To create an efficient and repeatable putting stroke, a big key is setting up with the shaft of the putter in line with your forearms. This makes it much easier to swing the putter on-plane consistently and it reduces the degree to which the putter head wants to rotate open and closed. Aligning the shaft with your forearms requires a grip that's significantly different than your full swing grip.
The Proper Putting Grip:
- Start by holding your putter as you would any other club - primarily in the fingers of your hands. Raise the head of the putter to about chest height and notice how there's an angle between the club shaft and your forearms.
- Loosen your left hand grip (for right-handed golfer) and use your right hand to tilt the club head down until the shaft of the putter is parallel with your left forearm. You should feel the putter grip pivot over your palm until it rests under the pad of your left thumb.
- The grip should now run across your palm, in line with the lifeline.
- Close the fingers of your left hand on the grip and notice that your pinkie barely touches the grip.
- Now place your right thumb against your left thumb and slide it down the grip one knuckle, until your thumbs fit together like jisaw puzzle pieces.
- Close the fingers of your right hand ensuring that the grip also runs across the palm of your right hand, in line with the lifeline. Experiment with different ways of placing and overlapping your fingers to find what is most comfortable for you.
- Most importantly, take your address position and look in a mirror to make sure that your forearms are now in-line with the putter shaft.
Putting Fundamental 2: Posture and Setup
"Setup is everything in putting. Your posture determines how freely you can swing the putter and how squarely can deliver the putter face. " - Brandon
The way that you position your body and set up to the golf ball has a profound influence on your putting stroke. Proper posture in putting is similar to the athletic posture you should strive for in the full swing with one notable exception. In putting, no hip turn is necessary, so the knees are less flexed on the putting green.
Slouched posture is a common problem for golfers. When your shoulders get rounded and your back gets hunched, it forces you to get too close to the ball and you effectively get in your own way. Your arms can't swing freely and you either have to rock your body out of the way during the stroke or flip the putter through impact. Instead, follow Brandon's keys:
Proper Putting Posture:
- Make sure you start with a putter that you've been properly fit
- Stand tall and set your hands in a proper grip (see tip above).
- Keep your back reasonably flat and move your elbows out and in front of your chest cavity.
- Now keep your knees "tall" (little knee flex) as you hinge from your hips and sole the putter on the putting surface. Your weight should slightly favor your toes.
- Your chest should be up, your shoulders should be held back slightly and your arms should be hanging softly from your shoulders. You should feel like you've created plenty of space under your chest for your arms to swing.
- Maintain this posture as you move your feet to align the putter and address the ball.
- Finally, at address, your eyes should be directly over or slightly inside the inner edge of the golf ball you are addressing. To check this, get into your posture and hold a second golf ball up to your left eye (for a right-handed golfer). Drop it. It should strike the inside half of the ball you are addressing or make contact with the green just inside the object ball.
Putting Fundamental 3: Path
"The path that you swing the club on has a much bigger influence on the club face in putting than in any shot you play with a full swing. For the face of the putter to square up and roll the golf ball on-target, you have to allow the putter to travel on the arc it is designed to swing on naturally. " - Brandon
As with all golf clubs, the Rules of Golf state that the angle of a putter’s shaft relative to the ground cannot exceed 80 degrees when the club is in the address position. This lie angle is what makes the putter swing naturally on an arc – slightly inside the target line on the backswing, back onto the target line at impact, and inside the target line again on the through-swing. (Only a putter with a 90° lie angle would be able to swing naturally straight back and through on the target line, like a pendulum.)
Many players may feel like they swing the putter straight back and straight through on the target line, but to truly do this you would have to manipulate the club considerably, which is very difficult to repeat with any regularity. Instead, use Brandon's gate drill to build a consistent path that arcs slightly and delivers the club face square to your intended putting line every time.
Putting Path Gate Drill:
- Find a perfectly straight putt and set two alignment sticks down, parallel to the line of the putt. The width between the alignment sticks should be just slightly wider than the width of your putter head.
- Without a ball, make a few practice strokes, watching your putter head as it travels back and forth.
- The alignment sticks serve as a frame of reference to ensure that you are swinging the putter on an arc:
- As you swing back, the toe of your putter should move farther away from the outside alignment stick. The heel of your putter should move closer to the inside alignment stick.
- When you swing the putter back to center of your stance, the putter face should be square and the putter head should be right in the middle of the two alignment sticks (the toe is the same distance from the outside stick as the heel is from the i inside stick).
- As you swing through, the toe of your putter should move farther away again from the outside alignment stick. The heel of your putter should move closer again to the inside alignment stick.
- Once you feel comfortable, place a ball in between the two alignment sticks and roll a putt, making the same arcing stroke that you first practiced. Done correctly, the ball will head straight through the gate and towards the cup.
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