It is important to build a consistent Putting Stroke.
Your Putting Stroke will determine:
| Four Basic Beliefs|
The blade of the putter must be square to
the target at address and impact positions
The blade of the putter must be square to
the path of the stroke through the contact area
Stroke the ball with a slight upstroke
Visualise every putt as a straight putt
Modified from Harold Swash : Championship Putting with Harold Swash
Below is a breakdown of the main components of the Putting Stroke. As this is a long web page you can jump to any sub-heading should you wish by clicking the link.
In the right-hand column are related topics that go into more detail.
During the putting stroke your head should remain quiet until the ball is well gone. Your head will move slightly as it counter-balances the motion of your putting stroke.
This is normal. However, any tendency to peek early by turning your head towards the hole will cause your putter blade to close and pull your putt off-line.
The steadier you are over the ball, the easier it is to make solid contact on the putterface.
- Shoulder Movement
The more your shoulders move straight back and straight through, the more the putter blade will stay above the aimline.
However, a vertical shoulder stroke where the sweetspot of the putter remains vertically over the aimline can fell awkward during the backstroke.
Many professional golfers compromise by coming fractionally inside the line on the backstroke, but hold their shoulders square through contact and beyond by riding their left shoulder upwards.
This is a slightly exaggerated, but subtle, movement as the natural action is to allow the left shoulder to fold back during the continuation of the stroke.
It is important that your eyes don’t follow the putter blade back on the backstroke and the passage of the ball on the forward stroke.
The focus of your eyes should remain fixed on the line on top of the ball or some other spot. By keeping your eyes steady you also help to keep your head steady.
- Y Formation
Address + Backstroke
The secret of the pendulum-like putting stroke is to keep the triangle formed by your shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands intact until the ball is on its way.
In other words, you should try to putt with inactive or 'dead' hands. There should be no rotation of the forearms in the stroke.
Impact + Follow Through
An example of changing the shape of the triangle is the wrong advice of artificially keeping your putter low to the ground on your backstroke, instead of allowing your putter to rise naturally in an arc.
After contact it is allowable for your left elbow to separate from your left side in order to allow your left shoulder to ride upwards.
This keeps your putter blade moving down the aimline in such a way that if it were allowed to continue to hip height, the face of your putter would point vertically skywards.
It is widely accepted that wristy putting leads to greater inconsistency in your putting stroke. You should also avoid using your hands to guide the ball to the hole.
Because of the better-prepared and faster greens today, the trend is to avoid any wrist action in putting, especially in the forward stroke.
Using your wrists creates an unnecessary pivot point in your stroke. Your shoulders and arms should control the putting motion from start to finish while your wrists remain passive.
A common mistake of poor putters occurs when their left wrist breaks down through the contact area as they flip their putter with their right hand.
For this reason a number of golfers putt with their left hand low as this stabilises the left wrist and prevents any cupping action.
You should always putt with dead wrists. However, on very long putts you may have to hinge the wrists on the backstroke in order to increase the length of the backstroke.
Nevertheless through the contact area it is critical that your wrists remain passive and in the same relationship to your forearms as that at address. Any cupping or wrist break is a basic error.
There is no weight transfer in the putting stroke. Your lower body should remain quiet as if it was set in a barrel of concrete. To achieve this some players widen their stance and toe-in their feet a little.
However, locking the knees in a stiff leg position is not a good idea as this can create a feeling of tension in the lower body, which can radiate to the upper body.
It can also tend to push the weight back on your heels instead of having your weight on the balls of your feet.
- Putting Paths
There are essentially three useable Putter Paths.
The Square to Square (or Straight-back and Straight-through) putting stroke is difficult to accomplish on the backstroke as sometimes in an effort to keep the putter blade square to the aimline, there is a tendency to manipulate your wrists.
The Inside-Square-Inside putting stroke can cause problems as the putter blade is only perpendicular to the aimline at one spot. It can happen that the putter closes too early through the contact area causing a pulled putt. Ball position is therefore critical.
Most pulled putts are the result of the left shoulder rotating backwards too early in the forward stroke or because the wrists are flipped. Pushed putts seem to be caused by over-active wrists or inconsistent ball position.
From observation most European professionals who have been coached by Harold Swash favour the Inside-Square-Square putting stroke.
This is the putter path that I would recommend.
Good putters have good tempo. They also don’t fidget over the ball. It is usually one look and away. The longer you are over the ball, the harder it becomes to initiate a smooth take-away and the greater opportunity there is for self-doubt.
To help initiate a smooth take-away a number of players use a slight forward press. The forward press should only be slight, as too exaggerated a forward press will deloft your putter.
Other players hover their putter. This is referred to as underweighting the putter. It encourages a smooth, slow backstroke with no change in grip pressure.
When you set the putter on the ground at address, moving it off the ground requires a slight change in grip pressure that can lead to an inconsistent take-away.
Still others push down vertically with their left shoulder. (I have found this difficult to do without moving my head downwards.
I prefer to hover my putter and then push back slowly with my left shoulder using a mental image of a tug pushing away an ocean liner from the dock).
The bottom of the arc of the putting stroke is in the centre of the stance. Therefore, it is possible to snag the putter at the start of the take-away when the putter is placed hard up against a ball positioned forward of the centre line.
To alleviate this players typically lift their putter just prior to starting their take-away. The method I recommend is to leave a small gap between the back of the ball and the putter blade.
- Forward Stroke
One of the common faults in putting is decelerating your putter head at the moment of contact. The advice is that you should always accelerate through the contact area while holding your finish.
Opinion differs as to whether the length of your backstroke should match that of your forward stroke. Some coaches say that your putting stroke should be divided evenly between your backstroke and your forward stroke.
Others say that the ratio of backstroke to forward stroke should be one third to two thirds as this helps you to avoid decelerating your putter.
The length of your backstroke in relation to your forward stroke should not be confused with the time each part of your stroke takes.
The forward stroke to impact should be about one half of the time of your backstroke - the (One Potato - Two) timing of the pendulum stroke.
- Putterface Angle
The most important part of putting in terms of direction is the putterface angle. 83% of directional errors are the result of the putter blade not being perpendicular to the aimline.
You can get away with a less than desirable putter path as long as you ensure that the putterface is pointing down the aimline at impact.
Every effort should be made in the forward stroke to ensure that the putterface is perpendicular to the aimline and remains so well after the ball is on its way.
- Impact Pattern
As the ball is positioned 2 inches forward of the centre line (that of your sternum), the putter blade will contact the ball on a slight upward trajectory. This will help to get the ball rolling smoothly as soon as possible.
If the ball is positioned too far back in your stance, there is a danger that the putter blade may trap the ball into the turf and cause it to hop or bounce.