Lining Up Your Putts
By Snyper on 9/7/10
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

One of the most frustrating things about the game of golf is putting. It doesn't matter how many good shots you hit in the course of your round, if you can't putt, you can’t score. Three good shots and one bad putt still make a bogie. However, three bad shots and one good putt is, somehow, a par. It is so frustrating to hit the ball well all day and end up losing to the guy in your group that hits it all over the place, but manages to make every putt! So, here's a little suggestion that will revolutionize your putting stroke.
One of the most frequent mistakes that mid to high handicappers make is that they fail to commit to a line.

Making putts is all about getting two things correct, the line and the speed. In this column, the line of your putts is going to be our focus. One of the most frequent mistakes that mid to high handicappers make is that they fail to commit to a line. Have you ever stood over a putt and changed your mind about the line that you were going to play? I know I have. And, rarely, does the line that I changed to end up being the correct one. It is also very common for players to not pick a specific line. For example, you will read a putt and decide that is going to break to the right, but you never really decide how much. As you stand over the putt, you aim your putter somewhere left of the hole and proceed to hit and hope! Neither of these approaches to putting is going to prove to be consistently successful.

In order to sure up your commitment to a specific line, I suggest that you subscribe to the strategy that is continuing to gain more and more popularity. That strategy is the use a line on your golf ball to line up your putts. In fact, I suggest drawing a line the entire way around your ball. That little line is going to change your putting forever! I know it because it changed mine! It is a very simple thing to do, but it will help you with several different aspects of your ability to make putts. First of all, the line will force you to choose a specific target. Once you read your putt, you aim the line as far left or right as you think the putt is going to break. It is no longer a hit and hope situation. You read it and set the line accordingly. So, when you are reading the putt, you are already thinking about where you are going to point your line. This forces you to be specific and pick an exact aiming point. Secondly, the line makes you commit to your read. You just have to decide that once you get it lined up, you are no longer going to think about the read. When you are standing over your putt, you are focused on the speed. You have already made up your mind about the break and the length of your stroke is all you have to consider. Consequently, not only are you going to do a better job with the line of your putts, you are going to also become more consistent with your speed. Separating the two points of focus in your pre-shot routine will make you better at both of them.
You want the ball to start rolling immediately after your putter impacts the ball.

The last little bonus that comes with using a line on your ball to improve your putting is that the line will give you instant feedback on how you are striking your putts. You want the ball to start rolling immediately after your putter impacts the ball. A lot of amateur players have the ball skidding and hopping off their putter face. If you use a line on your ball, you will know exactly how you are rolling it. When you hit a putt properly, the solid line will be easily visible as the ball rolls towards the hole. However, if you cause the ball to skid or jump instead of rolling, the line will disappear. It is instant feedback that you can use on the course and on the putting green to develop a much more consistent putting stroke.

Drawing a line on your ball is not just a gimmick that someone dreamt up to make some money. It is a legit method for improving your putting. In fact, it is so common that many golf balls now come from their manufacturer with a line already printed on them. If you watch golf, you will see guys all over the PGA Tour that are using a line to make more putts. You can find a template for drawing your line at any golf shop for less than five bucks. I cannot urge you enough to give this idea a try the next time you head out on the links. You’ll be amazed at the difference that a simple line can make!

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.

photo source

[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
Good article. Sound too. i've been doing that for some time now. It's tough to make the change, even for a single handicapper. I'm comfortable with how i read the greens, but more often than not i still second guess things as i stand over the ball and "feel" the read. Stay with your first instinct. you were looking at it from a much better angle than when you're over the ball. Read it, roll it, hole it.
Michael Colucci says:
Thanks Matt. During my pre putt routine I pick out the line my ball is going to travel and picture a hot wheels track from the ball to the hole (you remember those orange tracks with the little race cars). Somehow the visual works for me because the width of a golf ball (1.68") is very close to the width of the track. Once I have the overall line I then pick out a spot at the high point of the race track and putt to it. I have dramatically dropped my putts per round
cjgiant says:
Although I don't employ the line on ball, I think it can be helpful. I do agree on the goal of this tool. Pick a line (or point on a line) and putt to that point "as if it were a straight putt" to that aim point.

I know what I do at times (and I definitely see it in some of my friends that play less often) is to try to "steer" the ball towards the hole. This rarely works out well.
SD Charlie says:
Seriously, so true for me too. I think 100% of the time that I change my mind at address, it ends up being for the worse. This is particularly vexing when I make that slight adjustment to my aim, and the putt ends up missing by a tiny bit in that direction. So far, I just use the existing line logo ("Z-Star X", "Penta TP", etc.) to line up my putts. I feel that a heavier, Sharpie-type line would distract me, but it's always worth trying.
cph2133 says:
I guess I'm a little different, but I cannot just say "it's 2 balls to the left" and aim it there and hit. I look at the hole as if it were a clock and see where the break will lead the ball to die into the hole (9 o'clock on a side entry, 7 o'clock on a putt with less break, 6 o'clock on a fairly straight putt). I then hit the putt.

That helps me with an idea for the line and the speed because I'm not trying to putt to a point X number of inches to the left of the hole, but I'm also trying to die the ball in on a specific point of the hole.

Weird, I'm sure of it, but it's how the assistant at the club I work at helped me when I was really struggling with the flat stick, and it's helped since.
nate94gt says:
the line is the best move i ever made. I used to push a lot of putts but never truly realized it until i added the line. When i see a solid black line rolling along the green, i know i hit it correctly (give or a take a bit, sometimes i can miss a 5' by burning the edge yet it appears to roll true according to the line).

i also tilt my hands forward so that they are over the ball. that eliminates the ball hopping off the putter face for me.
TravisMiller says:
I need a new putter! I putt ok with the one that I have but I don't like the look and feel of it. So i want a new one!
legitimatebeef says:
I use the line. Part of me wishes there was a easier faster way. But holing putts is a game of precision and being off by one or two degrees is often not going to cut it.

The line sets me free. Once I've lined up the ball, I am more or less done with the aim part. Now I am free to focus only on the right speed. Sometimes I imagine the ball lined up a rail that extends right into the hole, and all I have to do is provide the right amount of force to get it there. The line of the putt has been predetermined.

It works, but its not for everyone. Not all have the patience to putt this way plus that's a lot of bending down over the course of eighteen holes.
SteveMM says:
I've never done the "draw on your ball" thing. Most (all?) balls have the line on them today, and I find that's enough for me.
Bryan K says:
I use an arrow. I point the arrow at the hole, so then the ball knows where it's supposed to go.

Seriusly, one thing I think needs to be mentioned in this article is to make sure you mark your ball while you are lining up your line.
Jattruia says:
The line on the ball changed my putting for the better. But most importantly is trusting the line. Second guessing at address almost always makes for a bad decision.
lcgolfer64 says:
Another good article - I use the line or the alignment stamp if there one on the ball already to line up my putts and agree with many on here. It definitely gives me a visual to follow of where I'd like the put to go.

Sometimes it's even a mental thing for me. If I want to rush up and hit the putt and I didn't line it up, it just doesn't look right to me. It makes me stop, slow down try and read the green and align it.
tpgirnds says:
Won't belabor the point...but my putting got considerably better once I started using the alignment aid that (most) balls come with these days. Found that it is easy to lose perspective between the time you are crouching behind the ball getting your read and when you take your address over top of it.

The reason I am posting is this:

Easy, cheap way to get a line around your ball. Now if I could only get the speed right.....
birdieXris says:
@tpgirnds - Niiiiiice. That's awesome. i never thought of using the gatorade ring!!
Banker85 says:
second guessing my intial line usually results in missed putts. gatorade ring very cool idea. now for my smart a$$ comment of the day.
"Making putts is all about getting two things correct, the line and the speed."
Thanks Captain Obvious!
Bryan K says:
the funny thing's not the line I have a problem with. It's the speed. It drives me crazy, too. Rarely, do I step away from a putt thinking "I didn't read that right". It's always, "I can't believe I left it short" or "I can't believe I burned it".
stedar says:
Great advice.
Aiming via a line of sight takes the guess work out (although reading a green is still a little tricky at the best of times :-).
Leaning the putter forward (as you see the guys on tv do) means the face of the putter is square to the ball. The putter has a natural 15 deg slant, so if it is straight up and down at impact, you will find the ball bumps and rolls (often causing it to roll out of alignment to your target).
Putting has to be one of the most satisfying parts of the game when you drop a 10' plus putt - and one of the most frustrating when you miss a 2' or less.
Great topic...
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