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Your Aiming Preference is a choice

only you can make.


Golfers either visualise a putt as a straight line to a specific spot, or alternatively as a curving path to the hole. There is no right or wrong way. It is up to you to discover your preference.

It will dictate if you are more comfortable picking out a specific spot on your aimline (target line), or prefer to trust your natural instincts to get your ball rolling on a visualised path.

Linear and Non-Linear

According to Mike Shannon of the Sea Island Golf Learning Center, when it comes aiming in putting, golfers can be roughly divided into two categories:

  1. Those who visualise in straight lines (linear)
  2. Those who visualise a curving path (non-linear)

He estimates that there are twice as many non-linear (65%) putters as linear (35%).

Further Reading

For a more complete explanation you should read Chapter 7 in Golf Magazine's The Best Putting Instruction Book Ever. Mike Shannon explains how you can establish which is the best way for you to aim.

Never Work a Putt

It is important to remember that putting is not like full swing shots where good golfers can work their ball in either direction. In putting there is no place for hook or cut spin. No matter your aiming preference, trying to steer your ball towards the hole is no way to putt.

Linear Aiming

Stewart Cink explains that he treats a 100-foot putt the same way that he treats a three-foot putt. He chooses an intermediate target where he wants to start the ball, usually a little spot on the grass and then strokes his ball over that spot. Interestingly enough he doesn't use a line on his ball as it distracts him.

Linear aimers look for a spot (or aimpoint) on, or as a reference to, their aimline. This could be an old pitch mark, a different coloured blade of grass or simply an imaginary spot. Mostly it is a spot close to their ball, but on occasion it could be to the side of the hole, or the apex of the break.

Non-Linear Aiming

Non-linear aimers don't like the restriction of straight lines, preferring to visualise the ball's path and where it would enter the hole.

It is a point and shoot approach or the 'Look and Let Go' drill favoured by Dr Bob Rotella.

In the illustration below the golfer imagines the putt breaking left to right and entering the hole at 7:30 on an imaginary clock.

Brain Power

Ggolfers using a non-linear approach rely on the brain's built-in ability, through unconscious information processing, to find the path on which the ball should roll, rather than the structure of identifying a spot over which the ball should roll.

In his book Instinct Putting Eric Apfels uses this idea of natural instincts by stating that you should look at the hole, not the ball. He asserts that we should rely less on linear vision. Instead, look at the hole, imagine it as a clockface and determine at which hour on the face your putt should enter the cup.

Aiming Preference

It is for each of us to discover through trial and error our aiming preference - the way we are able to aim best. For those with analytical minds it is tempting to reduce putting to angles and straight lines.

However, don't short-change your subconscious mind's ability to direct your body to perform manual tasks amazingly well.

The last word on the potential for error in aiming comes from Tiger Woods after a bad putting week. He said that he never hit the ball on line. When he did hit his putts on the exact line, they still didn't go in as he didn't read them correctly.

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