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Putting Technique: Key Points
Type of Putter
The two main types of putters, although there are others, are the Blade and Mallet Putters. The Blade is a light weight putter allowing the golfer to control the ball velocity with no adjustment for the weight of the putter. The Mallet is a heavier putter with specific weight, therefore allowing for a smaller stroke to send the ball as far as the Blade. Essentially a smaller stroke is much easier to maintain accuracy with than a larger stroke.
Developing a clean and smooth putting stroke is one of the most difficult parts of the game, however it is key to eliminating unnecessary strokes on the green. The only way to achieve this is by way of repetition, I know that sounds obvious, but very true. A good way to develop a straight back and forth stroke is to practice with a heavy putter, or create some kind of weight to add to your putter, the same idea as a donut for a baseball bat. Also practicing your putting over a straight line will allow you to see the deficiencies in your stroke. Once a smooth stroke is obtained, you will see that your ball starts to go more in the direction that you want it to and will eliminate the pushing and pulling of short putts. For those that do not know, a push is when the ball is hit and is forced to far above your line and a pull is when the ball is hit to far below your line, in regards to whether you are right or left handed. Imagine not stressing those three footers, and knowing that the ball will go in. Develop your stroke.
There are several ways to grip your putter when putting and it all comes down to personal preference. The different kind of grips consist of the actual grip and the way you address your hands to the club. The grip of the putter can be a fat grip or a skinny grip, a round grip, or a square grip. To find out which one you prefer you should simply hold all of them and pick the one that best suits you. There are a few different ways to put your hands on the putter. The first is the conventional grip which is simply the right hand on the bottom for a right hander and the left hand on the bottom for a left hander. Some use a switch grip or a cross grip, which is using the left hand on the bottom for a right hander, and the right hand on the bottom for a left hander. The other grip which is probably the least used is a grip where the index finger of the bottom hand is lined up parallel to the putter, guiding the putter back and through the stroke. You should not choose a grip based on anything but how comfortable you feel with the grip. Remember that comfort is one of the most important parts of putting.
When judging the distance of a putt, one must consider the green. Are the greens hard? Are they soft? Is the lye uphill or downhill? The speed of the green will vary from course to course, where some greens will play much faster or slower than others. A good way to get a feel for the distance of a putt is to practice taking putts in length increments. Take a putt from five, ten, fifteen, and twenty feet, over and over again until you start to get a feel for how much you need to adjust your stroke for each distance. Its important to get a feel for how far back you bring your putter for each putt. Try to never add arm power to your putts unless you are far away from the hole and it is necessary in order to get the ball all the way there. Your stroke should mimic a pendulum creating potential power when brought back with as little power added from the arms as possible. Let the club do the work.
Choosing A Line
Line will differ at every course. The slope of the green will determine which way the ball breaks and how much it breaks. The line should be chosen according to the speed in which you plan to play the ball. Keep in mind the ball will break substantially more when playing a slower putt than when playing a faster putt. If you watch the PGA Tour, they show you the line of the putt that the players have and they show how many feet of break the ball will move to the right or left. The thing is, there are several ways to play these putts and there is always more than one line to the hole. An aggressive putt is one on a more direct line to the hole compensating the break by playing more speed. A conservative putt is one that plays the break of the green by rolling a slower putt toward the hole. If you are not a confident putter, it is always better to play a conservative putt, using the break to put the ball near or in the hole. Sometimes a putt is hard to read and you do not exactly know where it is going to go. If you cannot decide which way the break plays, your best option is to play the ball directly at the hole and try to get the speed correct. Some players choose their line based on a mark on the green halfway to the hole, or a landmark residing behind the hole, in order to direct their putt. Other players decide how far left or right the ball will break and then aim that far left or right of the hole. The best putt you can make is the one you meant to hit. If the green fools you, it is just part of playing the game.
When addressing your putt there are a couple of key factors when choosing a stance. The distance you stand from the ball should not be too far away or to close. It will feel awkward to putt when standing to far or to close, and will also lead to pushing and pulling putts. Ideally, you want your putter to lay flat on the ground, different putters have different angles from the ground and you will want to choose a putter with an angle that suits your height. Again a tilted putter will lead to pushes and pulls. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart but this may vary from person to person. If you feel comfortable with a wider stance, or even a stance that is closer together, you should go with what is comfortable for you. Lastly, your head should be as close to a direct line above the ball as you can get, this gives you a clear view of the path the ball is about to travel and will allow you to make adjustments to your line if needed.
Your goal should be to eliminate the three putt. If you can get away with putting two strokes or less on the green you can significantly lower your score. I can say with confidence that expensive gear does not make you play better. You do not need the newest putter out on the market, the skill comes from you and the putter you become accustom to. The only personal anecdote I will share is my fifty foot birdie make at the eighth hole at The Crossings at Carlsbad with a ten dollar putter I bought at Play It Again Sports. Find a putter that you like and feel comfortable with and then go putt with it for hours and see what happens. Remember the most important things first, comfort, personal preference, and repetition.