InstructionSeptember 23, 2019

How anybody can get their putting mojo back

J.D. Cuban/Golf Digest

Looking back at this summer, assess your play on the greens. Did you get the ball to the hole nearly every time you had the putter in your hands? Was your green-reading sharp? Did you sink most of the short ones? Did you have many—or any—rounds when you went all 18 holes without a three-putt? If you answered yes to most of these questions, you might think this article is for the other golfer. But don’t be mistaken—there’s some useful advice for you in here, too. But what I’m really trying to do is bring the downtrodden putters back from their dark places. They need to rethink their approach on the greens, and it starts with rebuilding skills like you were rebooting a computer. I’m talking about pre-putt routine, green-reading, accuracy and distance control. I’ve got drills for all of those things. Before we get to them, let’s start with your demeanor. No matter what transpired this season, I want you to start believing you can routinely hole putts. I might be overdoing the celebration in this photo, but only to prove a point. Bring your “A” attitude to the greens, and you’ve taken the first step to a reboot. Here’s the rest of what matters. —WITH RON KASPRISKE

J.D. Cuban/Golf Digest

BEFORE YOU PUTT

Here are a couple of things to help you before you putt. The first is to read the greens without your eyes. Remember, your eyes can sometimes fool you, but gravity doesn’t lie. The same force affecting your ball is affecting you. So your feet tell you which way the ball will move. When you practice, put a blindfold on, or close your eyes and feel the break (above). Are you favoring your toes? The ball will move in that direction. Heels? Same thing. Leaning to one side? Again, that’s where the ball will go.

Another thing to remember is that the way rolling it where you want Now that you can read greens with your feet and you’re properly aligned at address, accuracy is as simple as controlling the putterface. I’ve got two drills for that, too. The first is to correct a bad habit manifested by your golf swing. When you swing, your body pivots. When you putt, your body still wants to pivot. You have to resist that urge. This drill will help: Place your lead hand on your trail shoulder and make one-arm putts (above). Feel that trail shoulder moving back and forth, but never outward. Great ball-strikers like Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy sometimes struggle with the putter because they have too much arc in their strokes—just like their full swings. But if the putter stays square to its path, it’s only square to the line of you hold the club makes alignment a challenge unless you adjust for it. Say you putt with a traditional grip, your trail hand (right for righties) lower than the other. When you grip the handle this way, your trail shoulder drops and is thrown out of alignment. Then if you try to correct the out-of-position shoulder, you change your eye line.

You have to get into a level position with your shoulders and eyes before you take your grip. You can do that with a little symmetry to your hand positions on the club. It’s like a prayer grip (above, left). When you hold the club this way, you now know what level feels like. Then try to maintain that feeling when you shift into your normal grip (above, right).

J.D. Cuban/Golf Digest

ROLLING IT WHERE YOU WANT

Now that you can read greens with your feet and you’re properly aligned at address, accuracy is as simple as controlling the putterface. I’ve got two drills for that, too. The first is to correct a bad habit manifested by your golf swing. When you swing, your body pivots. When you putt, your body still wants to pivot. You have to resist that urge.

This drill will help: Place your lead hand on your trail shoulder and make one-arm putts (above). Feel that trail shoulder moving back and forth, but never outward. Great ball-strikers like Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy sometimes struggle with the putter because they have too much arc in their strokes—just like their full swings. But if the putter stays square to its path, it’s only square to the line of putt for a brief moment—not enough time to always be accurate. You’ll putt a lot better if you can keep the putterhead moving down the line of putt longer. A great way to reinforce this feeling of having the face square to the path longer is to trace it over the top of a shaft on the green. Note what your body and hands have to do to make this happen. Copy that when you play.

PLAN FOR ARRIVAL SPEED

Everything we talked about so far is wasted if your distance control is shoddy. To get the ball to the hole, make sure you stay in balance from address to impact. If your weight favors your toes or heels at address, you’ll subconsciously move into balance when you putt, and that correction will make you miss the center of the putterface. There goes the energy needed to reach the cup. You want your weight evenly distributed along the length of both feet at address. To improve balance, stand on something that challenges it like a half foam roller (above, left). Get used to knowing what true balance is at address, and your body won’t make corrections as you swing.

Now let’s talk about arrival speed. If it’s good, you’ll be able to hole putts that are rolling over the outer parts of the cup— not just dead center. For uphill putts, good speed will have the ball hit the back of the cup before dropping in. For downhill putts, the ball will tumble over the edge and strike the bottom of the cup first. Then it’s time to come up with your way to celebrate. Your putting officially has been rebooted.