Golf Digest editors picks
The Pre-Putt Routine

Try My 4 Steps To Better Putting

August 2011

It sounds simple. A pre-putt routine is a process you should repeat time after time, no matter the situation. But for many players--even those on tour--that doesn't happen. You can see it when a player starts feeling pressure, whether it's over a $5 bet or a putt to win a major championship: The routine gets slower and more complicated. Now the player has time to think about the consequences of failure--and a tentative miss almost always comes next. The truth is, you don't have to change your stroke to become a better putter. Use a quick, simple routine to help you picture the putt and set your focus. Then trust it every time, and success will follow.

1. START BEHIND THE BALL

1. START BEHIND THE BALL

The first step is to visualize the path the ball needs to take to the hole and to prepare yourself to roll it down that path. To start, you need to know the predominant break, and the best place to get that information is behind the ball--not behind the hole. Crouch down, directly on a line to your target, and make a decision: Will it break to the left or to the right? Once you establish the direction of the break, you'll start to form a mental picture of the correct line.

2. BREAK THE PUTT INTO THIRDS

2. BREAK THE PUTT INTO THIRDS

When you read a book, do you tilt it toward you or away from you? Looking from the high side of the break--where the putt swings out to its apex--is like reading a book with it tilted away from you: You can't see very well. Go to the low side--opposite the apex--and you get a much better sense of the slope. Stop midway and mentally break the putt into thirds. The last third is where most of the break usually occurs, so focus on what the ball will do in that part.

3. SKIP THE PRACTICE STROKE

3. SKIP THE PRACTICE STROKE

Your next goal is to connect the line you see with the roll you're going to put on the ball. I don't like practice strokes, because they don't happen on the line you've just picked for the putt--in other words, you lose that connection. Instead, walk up to the ball while looking down the line, holding the putter in your left hand and making small "feel" strokes with your right. Then, standing upright, step in with your right foot and continue to track your eyes down the line.

4. FINISH YOUR SETUP AND GO

4. FINISH YOUR SETUP AND GO

Many players waste their routine at the end. They stare down at the ball before making the stroke. You want to keep concentrating on your target. Set your left foot--I stand slightly open to see the line better. I also start with the putter in front of the ball; that helps me de-emphasize the ball during the stroke. Once you set the putter behind the ball, take one last look and go. I'm looking at a spot an inch or two in front of the ball, and trying to roll it over that spot.

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