Check out my new Putting Tips under Tips!
A lot of my students don’t realize this right away but the putting stroke helps set the foundation for the full swing. It sounds counterintuitive since putts are typically within 30 feet while a full swing can go 250, 280, 300 yards if you’re a long hitter. Even though the putting stroke is a simpler swing than a full swing, the club face, your putting stroke path, your set up, and your aim all are just as important.
The putting stroke is on a small arc around the middle of your spine. Since you are standing closer to the ball while putting that makes the arc very small compared to a driver where you are standing farther away from the ball which makes it a bigger arc. The outside point of the arc is the ball’s location.
If you are in a proper putting set up, your shoulders, hands, and back should make a triangle (for a refresher on the proper putting set up, click here). This triangle should never break during your putting stroke. Your arms and wrists also shouldn’t break during the stroke because then your triangle that you’ve established will also breakdown. As you see in the pictures below, the triangle never breaks down no matter what. The white triangle shows the triangle at the peak of the backswing, the red triangle shows at set up and impact, and the yellow shows at follow through; they all have the same degree angle (within a 1 degree difference).
The muscles in the middle of your back should initiate your putting arc. If you’re having trouble identifying which back muscles should be doing the work, it is the point on your back in which the end of your putter points to. Imagine the butt of the putter has a laser that shoots out of it, the point on your back that it points to is the muscle group you will use. Check out the video below on identifying the correct muscle group and practicing the triangle.
You will see a lot of new golfers, especially children, rely on their hands and wrists to initiate the putting stroke. This might work for short putts initially but since the muscles in your hands and wrists are fast twitch muscles, they are a lot less consistent so not only is it harder to replicate the same stroke every time, they also are unreliable in high pressure situations. If you want to take your competitor’s money and the match comes down to the final putt on the final hole, the bigger and slower muscles in your back will allow you to be much more consistent.
The last piece of the putting stroke puzzle is tempo. The putting stroke tempo should always be 1, 2. 1 is the back swing and hitting the ball is 2. You want both parts to be within the same rhythm. Your backswing will also be the same length as your follow through, this also helps keep the same rhythm. Tempo allows you to take better control of your distances because you take that part out of the equation, so all you need to worry about is how big your swing should be.
No matter the distance, the tempo will stay 1, 2. I know it doesn’t make sense logically at first. Your swing will be shorter or longer depending on the distance, but the tempo will still be equal (how long your backswing takes will equal how long your follow through takes). Many students have learned to swing bigger or smaller without using the tempo. Their tempo changed in relation to how big the swing is which makes distance control very challenging thus more three putts.
I relate it to tossing a ball to a near and far target. The tempo is the same however short or far the target is. It might look slower for a short target, however the tempo remains the same (the wind up time is equal to the follow through time). For more on practicing your tempo, check out my page on Putting Drills.
While putting strokes can differ from person to person slightly, remember the basics in which muscle groups to use, the points of connection, and tempo to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success on the green!