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Golf Tips: Don't Overlook Your Putting

July 16, 2015

If you are a golfer who has multiple three- and four-putts per round with the occasional one- or two-putt, you may find that improving your putting technique will be the quickest way to lower your current score. But let's be honest, practicing putting can be boring, and how do you know if you are actually getting better? 

What do you have to do to be a consistent putter? 

Let's start with my top three things:

1. Control your ball speed.

2. Learn how to roll your ball on your intended line. 

3. Double the amount of break you see.

If you can do these three things more consistently, you will make more putts. Of the three, learning to control your ball speed is, by far, the most important. Most golfers don't miss the hole too far left or right unless there is a lot of undulation (curve) in the green, but leaving the ball well short of the hole or hitting it miles past it is quite common among poor putters. 

Take some of the boredom out of your normal routine by practicing the following:

1. How do you control your ball speed?

Let's start with the "Lag Tee" drill.

- On a fairly flat putting green, place tees or old CD disks at 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-foot distances.

- Practice hitting two balls to each tee position.

- Try to make the practice very random. (start at 20 feet, then go to 40 feet and then go to 10 feet, etc.)

Your swing should feel like it's initiated more from your shoulders and arms and less with your hands. The key to getting the ball to roll out to various distances on longer putts is to have low tension in your hands and arms, along with a higher tempo. 

Issue 211: Golf (putting)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Owen Dawson


- If you increase your tempo but don't decrease your tension, you will hit the ball too far.

- If you have a slow backswing, you will generally have a quicker forward swing, which creates higher tension, resulting in poor distance control.

Both of these swings minimize the feel element in the putting stroke. 

2. Learn how to roll your ball on your intended line.

Once you get a feel for how to control ball speed, use the drill below to improve the direction you start your putts on. 

In the illustration above, I'm using a suspended string line about six feet from the cup. The putt is flat with no break. The objective in this exercise is to get the ball rolling directly down the string line and into the cup. Once you are able to do this with some consistency, move on to the third step below.

3. Double the amount of break you see.

Almost everyone I teach who struggles with putting will under read their putts by at least half the distance. This means, if you think it breaks (curves) one foot, it probably breaks closer to two feet. 

Is it possible to make a putt you under read? 

It sure is, but if you miss the hole, you're most likely looking at a three-putt, because to make a putt that is under read, you need to hit the ball firmer to keep it on that line. If you have more than your share of three-putts during a round, a good rule of thumb is to double the amount of break you think you see. 

The illustration below shows two different aim points. One of the aim points is the apex (white box) of the intended curve of the ball, and the second is at the "true aim" point. If you aim at the apex, there is a good chance you will miss the hole on the low side. On a right to left putt, envision the ball rolling in the hole between the 9 and 8 o'clock position, not the 6 o'clock position. If you double the amount of break, or aim more right of the apex, you will have a much better chance of hitting the hole with the correct speed. A good thought would be to aim higher and hit the ball softer, so the ball curves more with better delivery speed.   

Issue 211: Golf (within article only. do not use for dynamic lead or promo image)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Owen Dawson

Owen is the PGA director of instruction at the Country Club of Maryland in Towson. For more of Owen's golf advice, check out

Issue 211: July 2015