Being a great putter doesn't mean you're rolling in bombs all day. Sure, that would be nice, but quality putting is about distance control from long range and precise aim on the short ones.
From inside five feet, the biggest problem I see is a careless routine. It drives me crazy when golfers step up to a putt and plop their feet into place before thinking about where to aim the putter. Essentially, their feet have already dictated their aim. A better routine is to aim the putterface very carefully down your intended start line, then take a comfortable stance and go (above). If you do that—let your aim drive your setup, not the other way around—you'll make a ton more of these short putts.
For long putts, the first thing to check is grip pressure. Too often amateurs strangle the club, especially when they think they have to hit the putt harder for the ball to reach the hole. The problem is, the tighter your grip, the worse your chances of having any feel for distance. You need a light hold, so you can feel the weight of the putterhead as it swings, and keep that same pressure throughout the stroke. More distance comes from a longer stroke, not a burst of speed at impact.
So focus on (1) grip pressure on long putts and (2) aim on the short ones, and you'll do fine.
“If you take your stance, then try to aim, you’re cooked.”
TRY TIGER'S OLD DRILL FOR CONSISTENT ROLLS
Sometimes your stroke can get out of whack, and you start mis-hitting the ball. Here's a drill Tiger used when we worked together. Create a gate with two tees just wider than your putterhead and hit putts without the club touching either tee (below). If you loop the putterhead to the outside during the stroke, you'll bump the outside tee. If you swing it to the inside, you'll bump the inside tee. Go through clean, and you're hitting the ball in the center of the face. Just like any other shot in golf, if you catch it in the center, with the face square, you're going to get a good result. That's what I see the best putters do.
Butch Harmon is at Rio Secco Golf Club in Henderson, Nev.