Putts for Beginners

By Mike Southern
Luke Donald's putting skill helped him win the 2011 money titles on both the PGA and European Tours.
Luke Donald's putting skill helped him win the 2011 money titles on both the PGA and European Tours.

Although most putting takes place on the green, not all putts do. Players – including pros – often use their putters for unusual shots, and sometimes they putt using clubs other than their putters. What they all have in common is that these various shots use the player's putting stroke, regardless of the club or situation. Sometimes your putting is the most dependable and least risky shot you can make.

Standard Putts

Most of your putts are on the green, and you use your putter to make them. Both the speed of your putts and the line you start them on are important, but sometimes one is more important than the other. For putts inside 10 feet, the line is slightly more important because you have a good chance to make the putt. For longer putts, the speed becomes slightly more important because you want to leave yourself no more than a short tap-in. That's the idea behind "lag putting."

Tricky Putts on the Green

For putts with a lot of curve, allow enough break. Putts that curve away before they reach the hole never go in. Uphill putts need to be hit a little harder than normal, but leave a short uphill putt rather than a downhill putt. You have to hit downhill putts easier to avoid running them too far past the hole.

Putts Just Off the Green

Sometimes your ball ends up on the collar, the short grass around the edge of the green also called the fringe. This grass is usually short enough that you can use your putter and just hit the ball slightly harder. But it's not unusual for your ball to roll up against the tall rough at the edge of the collar. In those cases, try hitting a "bellied wedge." Hold your pitching wedge with your putting grip and hit the ball so the front edge of the bottom of the wedge hits at the equator of the ball. It takes a little practice, but you'll get a clean hit without getting the clubhead caught in the tall grass. You can also use a hybrid or fairway wood for this shot.

Putts from the Fairway

When your balls lands on the fairway just short of the green, you have a number of shot possibilities. Your choice depends on how close you are to the green and how tall the grass is. On short grass close to the green, a putter will often work fine. As you move farther from the green or the grass gets taller, use a longer club. In the past, players often used a 3-iron, but nowadays it's more common to use a hybrid club or a fairway wood, or even a driver. Use your putting grip, but with the longer shaft, you won't be able to get your eyes over the ball.

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