For many golfers, putting causes more frustration, anxiety and disappointment than any other aspect of the game. After two great shots that travel a total of 400 yards, it's difficult to swallow having a hole ruined with a three-putt from 20 feet away. Putting is less of a physical activity than other golf shots and it requires the delicate touch of a billiards player combined with the sharp eyes of a land surveyor.
Practice Basic Mechanics
Numerous different putting stances, grips and strokes are available to golfers, but learning the proper fundamentals provides a solid base for a golfer to incorporate his own methods. Keep your lower body still as you putt. There is no weight shift on the backswing as there is with other shots. Keep your head as level as possible until the ball is on its way to the cup. Swing smoothly through the putt. Don’t decelerate the putter head as you approach the ball.
Training your mind to see the putt traveling to the hole and falling in helps you improve your confidence because it provides a positive image to work with and helps to eliminate confusion. It helps you factor in how the putt will break and whether the greens are slow or fast. You then imagine the stroke you need to send the ball on the correct path at the correct speed. Successful putting becomes a matter of repeating what is already ingrained in your mind.
Even a golfer as accomplished as Jack Nicklaus, who has holed many clutch putts from distances of 30 feet or more, doesn’t expect to make them all. In his book “My Golden Lessons” he writes that on long putts his goal is to get the ball to within a 3-foot radius of the hole. Practicing to achieve this realistic expectation has allowed him to have easy tap-ins when he misses the putt.
Confidence plays a role in whether a golfer is a good putter. It’s not just a matter of technique. Instructor Bob Rotella recommends a putting drill to increase confidence through repeating success in the book "Breaking 100, 90, 80." You start with three golf balls placed 3 feet from the hole. When you have made all three putts, you move back in 1-foot increments and try to make all three of those. If you miss one, you have to start over from 3 feet. This makes your practice time more focused because there is pressure to make all three each time--or you might be there all afternoon.
Practice to Save Strokes Two Ways
Amateur golfers waste strokes on the greens in two major ways: three putting from long distances and missing short putts from 4 feet and under. On the practice green, concentrate on putts across the full length of the green, and then work on the short putts.