We've heard so much talk about the "ideal" setup for putting, but a lot of it is contradictory. How close to the ball should you stand? Do your eyes have to be over it? Should your eye line be straight? Do you have to stand square?
Players have putted great from all kinds of setup positions. That's because setting up in a way that lets you see your aiming point accurately is the most important factor, not specifically how you set up.
Two players I teach look almost like they're playing a different game on the greens. Jonas Blixt stands far away from the ball, so his eyes are way inside the target line. Alex Rocha is much closer, and he has his head tilted to the right—almost like a sniper. But when I measure them on the SAM PuttLab, they both aim exactly where they want the ball to go.
Instead of trying to build a textbook setup, use my technique to develop your own setup so you can line up accurately every time. The best part? You can apply this trick no matter what kind of stroke you use—swinging on an arc, straight back and through, it doesn't matter.
Here's how to test your aim: Find a straight 10-footer, and set four balls at specific intervals—at address, a foot down the line, four feet short of the hole and on the front edge of the cup.
As you approach the first ball from behind, make sure you see the line of balls as straight. Then take your stance, and trace an imaginary line through the balls to the hole. If the line still looks straight, you're good to go (above). If any ball appears out of line, your eye dominance is distorting your view. This will affect your aim, so you have to adjust.
There are three things you can do: (1) Change the distance you stand from the ball, (2) raise or lower your head, and (3) tilt your head so your eye line is more horizontal or more vertical. One of these or a combination of them should work—you need to experiment. You know you've got it right when the line of balls looks straight at address. Once you've got it, set an alignment stick in front of your toes and another crossing it in line with the heel of the putter. Practice getting into that setup, and remember the look and feel to be more consistent on the greens.
Jorge Parada, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, works with several tour players at the Tour Academy TPC Sawgrass, site of the Players Championship May 7-10.