Jack's Putting Basics
January 07, 2010
Everybody thinks of Jack Nicklaus as making those key putts to win major titles, like the ones he made on 17 and 18 to win the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. But the real secret to Jack's putting prowess was how he prided himself on never three-putting the last hole to lose a tournament, after he did so early in his career at Pebble Beach to lose to Billy Casper. Jack had an unusual style, which has never been copied by any other great player. Jack putted the way he played golf: He felt and used the clubhead to control the ball. Here are the other points that set Jack's stroke apart.
In setting up to a putt, Jack's first goal was to get behind the ball. His putting posture was similar to his driving posture -- his right shoulder was lower than his left. He felt these were the only two shots you wanted to hit up on. Jack held the putter softly, with an absence of tension in his forearms.
Jack had such a strong will to hole putts, he refused to take the putter back until he had visualized the ball going into the hole. He putted with his hands and forearms, not his shoulders. As he got older, and greens got faster, he used less hands and more forearms. He took the putter back low to the ground.
One of Jack's keys to putting well was to hit the ball on the upswing. His puttershaft was tilted slightly forward at the point of the strike, matching his address position. Jack didn't enjoy practicing putting, so he worked on it in short intervals. He really concentrated on hitting the ball solidly.
Jack always wanted his right elbow and arm to rest against his side when he putted. He had a slight pop in his stroke, with the through-stroke often shorter than the backstroke. The head of Jack's putter worked low to high, not high to low. His setup -- the right shoulder lower than the left -- made this happen.
Jack set his feet open to the target line -- he told me this gave him a better look at the hole. He wanted his eyes directly over the target line, never outside the line.