Chances are good that you've heard players talk about their pre-shot routines for putts. There are things every player needs to do before making a putt. A good pre-shot routine on the green gives you confidence because, once it's finished, you know that you're ready to give the putt your best shot. A consistent, relaxed pre-shot routine can improve your ability to make putts.
Mark your golf ball, fix your pitch mark and figure out your place in the putting order when you first arrive at the green. The Rules of Golf state that the player farthest from the hole plays first, then the next farthest and so on until all putts have been holed. Your routine should include these "housekeeping chores" early on, so the following steps won't be interrupted by them.
Read the putt. There are two parts to this: determining the line and the speed. These two are interdependent – that is, the line on which you choose to start your putt will be affected by how hard you hit the putt, and vice versa. While putting teachers can give you tips on how to choose a line or determine the speed, there is no right or wrong procedure for doing either. You have to experiment to find the technique that's comfortable for you without unduly delaying play.
Find your rhythm. For many players, this is where a pre-shot routine really begins. The process of setting up over the putt so that your mind and body are ready to actually hit the putt is a very personal process. Some players are very mechanical in their routine; others treat it as an almost mystical experience. Again, there is no one correct way to do it. A player who struggles with line may focus heavily on body positions during this phase of his routine, while a player struggling to get his distance correct may focus more on relaxation and finding a comfortable "tick-tock" swing rhythm. The goal of this stage is simply to get yourself ready for the putt.
Pull the trigger. With all the intangibles in place, your routine climaxes with the putter striking the ball. If you've taken care of the other aspects, your mind will be quiet, with no other thoughts than simply stroking the putt. This is the goal of a pre-shot routine: to put your mind in a calm state, knowing that your line and speed match up, that you've taken everything into account and that you're giving the ball its best chance to go in the hole.