Putting Mistakes: 3 Putting Myths Debunked
If you’ve been struggling with your putting, I can take a pretty good guess at the advice you’ve been hearing.
“Keep your head perfectly still.”
“Your stroke should be long and even.”
“You need to fix the shape of your putting motion.”
These putting tips are all too common . . . and a bit too misleading. I’ve seen a lot of golfers fail to make the improvements they’re capable of just because they’ve latched on to advice like this. Now I’m going to debunk all three of these popular putting myths and teach you three new drills that will finally help you take strokes off of your game.
Myth #1: You Have to Keep Your Head Still
This is probably the best-known putting advice out there. And it’s not wrong. It’s just over-emphasized.
While it is best to keep your head still as you putt, a little head motion won’t destroy your stroke. Many golfers hear “Don’t move your head!” so frequently that they get the impression any movement will be a disaster. This creates tension in their stroke, and it pulls focus away from a much bigger concern: steadiness in the body.
When you putt, it is far more important to keep your body still. There should be no rotation in your torso, no shifting in your legs, and no extra movement in your arms.
If you’re just now realizing that body movement is a problem you never realized you had, here’s an easy drill to help break the habit.
The steps here are pretty basic.
- Set up your putt.
- Lift your trail foot, balancing only on the lead foot.
- Make your putt, doing your best to stay steady through the stroke.
The only way to stay balanced on that lead foot is to keep your body as still as possible. If you can find your stability in this drill, you’ll have mastered the steadiness you need to finally improve your putting.
Myth #2: You Need a Long, Even Putting Motion
In all fairness, there are golfers who putt with a long, smooth motion where the backstroke and follow-through are the same length.
However, the majority of accomplished golfers putt with what I think of as an “authoritative motion.” Their backstroke accounts for about 60 percent of the overall length of the stroke, giving them a shorter follow-through (about 40 percent). The result is that they deliver a little more energy to the golf ball at impact.
Now, to be clear, they are not jabbing or popping the ball. They are simply getting the momentum they need in the backstroke and transferring that energy from the clubhead to the ball.
By contrast, that long, smooth, 50/50 putt you’re used to hearing about doesn’t create that same energy transfer. Instead, you’re more or less pushing the ball forward with the clubface.
If the long stroke has become your go-to habit, here’s a drill that can help you discover a more authoritative motion.
For this drill, you will need your golf ball and two tees.
- Set up your putt about four or five feet from the hole.
- Place tees in the ground on either side of your ball. They should be positioned like a little gateway square to the cup.
- Take your putt. Try to feel yourself deliver energy to the ball as the tees force your putter to stop short.
Don’t expect to get the ball in the hole on your first several tries. If you’re used to sweeping the ball towards the hole, your body is going to have to learn a whole new approach to creating the ball speed you need. And that’s the whole point. The more you run this drill, the better you’ll be at creating an effective putting motion, rather than a long one.
This drill also comes with the side benefit of helping you make sure you’re delivering a square face alignment at impact. Your putter face should come in contact with both tees at once. If you find yourself hitting the inside tee first (and you’re a right-handed golfer), then you know your face is a little open. If you hit the outside tee, that’s your signal that your putter face is closed. As you’re about to learn, correcting these errors is another essential step towards improving your time on the green.
Myth #3: Your Stroke Should Have a Perfect Arc
I can already hear the dissent of my fellow golf instructors, but I truly believe there is no such thing as a perfect arc. Everybody is a little bit different, and the concept of “correct shape” is relative to your individual stroke.
Far more important than mastering your arc is learning to consistently deliver a square putter face at impact. You could have the smoothest arc possible, but if your putter face isn’t square, the golf ball isn’t going to make it into the cup.
You can correct that mistake with this great drill I actually learned from a student.
The Dime Drill
For this drill, you will need an alignment rod, two tees of the same length, a Sharpie, a dime, and a flat area on the putting green.
- Place the alignment rod on the ground.
- Place the tees on the ground at either end of the rod so they are perpendicular to the rod and parallel to one another.
- Use the Sharpie to mark the green at the tip of one tee.
- Place a dime on the ground at the tip of the other tee. Because you used same-length tees, the dot and dime should be in line with one another.
- Remove the tees and alignment rod and place your golf ball on the dot.
- Make your putt with the goal of rolling the ball over the dime.
This is such a great drill for squaring the putter face, because there isn’t much room for error. A coin is a much smaller target than a cup. That said, feel free to use a quarter instead if you find the dime is a little too small. I prefer to use a dime because the ball rolls over it more easily.
The Big Picture
While there is some truth to traditional putting wisdom, the advice you’re most likely to hear is all too often the least likely to help your game. These old familiar tips tend to pull focus away from much more important concerns.
- Don’t worry about keeping your head still; think about keeping your body steady.
- Don’t try for a long, even putting motion; let the follow-through be shorter than the backstroke so you can deliver a little energy to the ball.
- Don’t obsess over creating the perfect arc; think instead about delivering a perfectly square putter face.
Refer back to these drills as often as it takes to turn these new tips into old habits. And get ready to see a few strokes start disappearing from your scorecard.
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And now that you’ve learned the worst putting tips, learn 3 Pro Putting Tips for Amateur Golfers!