A Putting Epiphany

Even though I’m writing a book on putting ( “ The Natural Approach To Better Putting " – hopefully out next spring), my own putting had been disappointing lately. So, like I always do when I have an issue with my game, I analyzed it and began working on it.

The problem was that on the putting green, I was very consistent on short putts of ten feet or less. I could just roll another ball over and drain them one after another. But on the course, I was just not getting it done. Not terrible, mind you, but leaving too many strokes out there.

My first instinct was that my set up was inconsistent.

And I was right. If you start each putt . . . or any shot . . . from an inconsistent relationship with the ball, your chances of repeating a functional and effective stroke or swing are pretty slim.

In my case, what I found was that sometimes I was just not comfortable over the ball, and a bad putt resulted. When I felt good, I usually made the putt.


So, on my practice putting track in the spare bedroom, I began stroking 6-7 foot putts until I found a position of my hands that produced comfort and repeating results. Then I had to find a way of duplicating that set up every time.

In my case, I found that if I lined up the putter head at the hole with only my right hand on the grip, I could put my left hand in a light fist, just like I was holding a club, and place the heel of my left hand right in my left groin.

The grip made flush contact with the top of my thumb. I could rest the putter there, take a very precise look at the putter head alignment, then, holding the putter lightly in my right, just smoothly move my left hand to the putter grip.

With one more long look at the hole, I can move right into my stroke. This little routine begins with precise alignment of the putter head, and then gives me a consistent guide as to where my body needs to be to make the right stroke. It allows me to have my hands in exactly the same place with the beginning of each stroke.

I practiced this alignment drill at home for a few days, then took it to the course – the results were dramatic. I was much more consistent on my putts, made many more than I had been, and my misses were due to misreads, not poor strokes.

The other thing I like about this little routine is that it fully engages my mind (which tends to wander) on the putt at hand.

Now, I’m not saying that my putting routine and set up are right for any of you, but if you're not having the consistency you want in your putting, it just might not be your stroke, but rather the consistency of your set up.

Here’s how to find out:

Go to the putting green (or on your carpet) and begin stroking putts of 6 feet or so. When you get in a groove, take some time to really understand your set up position.

Find a way to “build” that setup with repeatability. It all starts with putter head alignment. Then find a “measuring device” to make sure you begin in the same posture and ball position each time.

Maybe it’s a distance from your belt buckle to the top of the grip; or maybe a fist with thumb extended from your left thigh . . . could be anything, or any method that ensures you are set up the same each time you get over a putt.

I hope this made sense, because I can practically guarantee that getting consistent in your putting set up will pay off big time.

As always, I’d sure like to hear your feedback if you try this.

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[ comments ]
Pappy says:
Like you, I found a hand position that worked consistently, but mine came about more as an accident after hours of trying to find a less-painful putting stance (without having to resort to - ick - a longer putter). I was too new to golf to realize what I'd done.
Wayde says:
I like to look at the hole when I putt, rather than at the ball. Then I just toss the momentum to my target, it feels very much like making an underhand toss of the ball to the hole. When I focus only on tossing the momentum in such a manner, I find my body instinctively sets up the same way without my having to think about it.
wedgeguy says:
There are many ways to achieve a repeating and consistent set-up and I like your imagery of "tossing" the ball at the hole. To putt, chip and pitch our best, we have to engage our visual acuity and let it naturally work with our master hand thumb and forefinger's touch capability. The same eye-hand coordination that allows you to do hundreds of daily routines -- keys into the ingnition, reaching for a doorknob, etc. -- can make you a better putter.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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