How To Make Short Putts
Three Ways to Beat’em

One of the most frustrating things in golf has to be missing short putts. I’m talking about putts under 6’ for the most part here, but particularly those inside of four. You hit a great approach to set up a short birdie . . . and then miss it. Or you make a great pitch or chip to save par . . . or even bogey . . . and it doesn’t go in. I’ve been thinking about that lately, and then got this exact question from Clint R., from Meridianville, AL. In obvious frustration, Clint asked:

“How do you teach people to putt? I seem to miss the shortest of putts.”

Well, Clint, I obviously can’t teach you to putt in a single column, but let’s focus on the short ones that are driving you crazy. If you can get comfortable and confident with those, you will find that all your putting success will be enhanced.

When we face any short putt, several things happen to get in the way of our success. First, because we feel like we “have” to make this, we naturally tighten up, which mostly manifests in a firmer hold on the putter, maybe even the proverbial “death grip” (appropriately named). That firmer hold is generally concentrated in the thumbs and forefingers, which then tightens up the forearms, shoulders and everything else. So the first tip is:
1. Lighten Up. When you take your grip on the putter, focus on the firmness, and feel like you are holding the putter in the fingers, with your thumbs only resting lightly as possible on the top of the putter. To see the difference, try this: while you are sitting there, clench your thumb and forefinger together and move your hand around by flexing your wrist – feel the tension in your forearm? Now, relax your thumb and forefinger completely and squeeze only your last three fingers in your hand and move it around again. See how much more you are able to move?? Actually, that little tip applies to all your shots, but particularly the short putts . . . or all putts. A light grip, with the only pressure in the last three fingers, sets up a smooth stroke and good touch.

The second thing that happens when we have a short putt is we often allow negative thoughts to creep in . . . “Don’t miss this” . . . “What if I miss it?” . . . “I have to make this” . . . all those put undue pressure on us and make it that much harder to make a good stroke. So, the second tip is:

2. Chill Out. Just allow yourself a break here. You have hit a great shot to get it this close, so allow yourself to believe that you are going to make this. Relax, shake out the nerves, and think only positive thoughts while you are waiting your turn to putt. And you know what? If you do miss it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just one shot. So chill out and have fun . . . and make more short putts.

Finally, we often tend to get so focused on “just make a good stroke” that we get all wrapped up in mechanical thoughts. Forget those. Focus your vision intently and completely on the target. Most short putts are pretty darn straight, so it’s just a matter of hitting it into the back of the hole. My tip for this comes from a favorite movie, Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot”:

3. Aim small, miss small. Early in the movie, Gibson’s character took his two very young sons and several rifles and went to rescue his older son. He asked them, “Remember what I told you?” and the son replied “Yes sir. Aim small, miss small.” That’s great advice on short putts. Instead of focusing your eyes on the hole, pick a specific spec of dirt or grass in the back edge, or inside one lip or the other – on whatever line you want the putt to start. Don’t just look at “the hole” . . . focus intently on that very specific spot. That intensifies your visual acuity and allows your natural eye-hand coordination to work at its very best.
So, there you have the three keys to making more short putts:

1. Lighten up.
2. Chill out.
3. Aim small, miss small.

I hope this helps all of you make more of them.
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[ comments ]
mantajim says:
Many short putts are missed because we lack the confidence needed to make them. We lack this confidence because not many people hole out. 'That's good' is heard way to often. Nor do we practice short putts. If you really want to get good at short putts, follow the advice I got in a putting lesson with a PGA instructor. Be warned this is boring but it works. Find a flat straight 3 foot putt on the practice green, then make 25 putts IN A ROW. If you miss start over. When you can do that regularly, move up to 50 putts in a row. Then move out to 4 foot. This builds confidence, builds concentration, and builds pressure as you get close to completing the 25 or 50 putts. You've probably heard this before, but have you practiced it at all or for weeks on end? Guaranteed, if you practice this regularly those short putts will become routine.
mjaber says:
I've improved my short putting by NOT putting to the center of the hole. I think this is in part due to my inability to find the "dead center" of a circle. Try it sometime. Trace a coffee can on a piece of paper, and try to pinpoint the center without using any tool other than your eyes. I've found it's easier to find a point close to the center, but not right in the middle.

I noticed I was missing my straight putts mostly a little bit to the left. It could be a flaw in my putting stroke but when I practiced without a hole, the putts were rolling straight. I've started aiming "right center" and I've been holing alot more 6-8 footers.
bphillips422 says:
Before every round, I practice putting in three foot increments starting at 3ft. I make 3 in row at each stop out to at least 12ft depending on how much time I have.
Changed out says:
I kind of do the same thing as bphillips except I use 3 tees and aim and the middle one. I think a big key is to keep your head still on all putts especially the short ones. As for the mental part I seem to make a lot more if I say something stupid to myself like this put can't miss or something like that as stupid as it sounds it works for me, guess it's just the positive thinking.
ToddRobb says:
This may sound arrogant but so what ;), I am the best putter I know, and I say that to myself throughout the day when I'm on the green. I actually do practice short putts everyday for at least a few minutes, my theory is if I'm not worried about making a four footer coming back, it frees my mind to make an aggressive first putt because I'm not worried as much about the next one (if there is one). During my practice sessions I putt to another ball instead of a cup of some kind. Also, on top of all that, I use a Long putter (48") that I have been using for over 20 years.
SuperMike5 says:
Tell me about it. I missed 4 putts inside 3 feet today. Shot 93 :(
fketchum says:
All good advice, but you left out an important concept wedge guy. Practice them! Do the drill mantajim suggests. Sinking putt after putt breeds confidence and feel. It is what I have done and it is very rare that I botch one inside 4 feet.
bducharm says:
I also suggest a great book, "Putting Out of Your Mind" by Dr. Bob Rotella. Putting has as much of a mental aspect as physical, possibly more. Putting doesn't take a great deal of strength or coordination. I highly recommend the book. One of the best tips in the book is to putt as if you have already been conceded the putt. How many times do you step up and just hit the putt when it doesn't matter and make it??? More often than not...
old lefty says:
ToddRob makes a good point, don't be timid on any putt. How many times have we all wanted the ball back as soon as we hit it because even though it is heading dead center to the cup we knew at contact we hit it to soft!!!
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