If there's one piece of advice I would give everybody that wants to improve their golf it's practice your short game. I know it's a great feeling when your drives fly high and long but if you really are serious about decreasing the number of times you hit the ball before it goes into the hole then improve your short game, particularly your putting.
Now I also know that most people don't practice and despite what they might say have also no intention of doing so. What I am going to explain this month is How to Putt!
Putting is such that it doesn't require a massive amount of effort to practice although if you suffer, like me, with a bad back it can be very difficult to spend a long time putting. If you can recall on Tip no. 2 I showed you many drills on what to do when practicing putting but this tip is about the basics.
Let's start with the grip. Anybody who has seen golf on TV will know that there are 1001 different ways of holding the club but basically what they are trying to do is finding a way of getting two hands to work as one. That's where it gets tricky because we've got two hands and one of these hands is more dominant. Also to putt well the hands have got to be almost passive when we strike the ball together with the fact that when we get nervous our hands tend to do things that they shouldn't in order to get the ball in the hole. My advice with the grip is experiment; try all the grips you've seen (traditional, left below right, claw grip) in fact anything you like until you find the best way(most comfortable) of gripping the putter. I have tried them all many times and I still find the best is what my dad showed me when I was about 10 - the reverse overlap with a standard size of grip(I find the large putter grips that are fashionable at the moment give me a lack of feel). We are all different however and you must find what is right for you.
If you would like to go into more detail about the different ways to grip the putter let me know.
A comfortable posture when you putt has a lot to do with having the right length of putter. It amazes me how often I see people using the wrongly fitted putter. It's almost like some people don't take putting serious (They get the latest driver fitted but a putter is an afterthought). The putter length and lie angle mean that the eyes are predominately over the ball at address, making it easier to 1) see the line of the putt and 2) create a pendulum action. As I wrote in my last tip we have developed a fitting system for Golf Ladies First which includes fitting for putters.
The ball position for putting should be towards the left foot and not in the middle of the stance as many have it.(1/3 towards the left foot and 2/3 towards the right foot) - For left handers the opposite. The reason for this is the ball must roll on the ground with top spin and if the ball is in the middle of the stance then the ball will hop a little to start with as the club will come down on the ball too steeply at impact. I like to have my weight evenly distributed between both feet but you can try putting a bit of weight on the front foot at address if you like. Under no circumstances should the weight be on the back foot at any time during putting.
The putting action is actually very little movement. It is a pendulum action with the hands, arms and shoulders working together as one( as a triangle) The club is an extension of this and the stroke should be as smooth as possible. Most putts are missed through too long back swings and then deceleration through the ball.
A very common fault which is overlooked and it is the most important. Aim correctly - I see probably 90% of golfers aiming too far right of the hole and then are amazed that the ball doesn't go in. Check this with alignment tools or sticks - it is the only way of finding out if you are aiming correctly.
Every time you go to the golf course work a little bit on your putting - this can be only 5 or 10 minutes but it will make a huge difference to your scores. The target is not to take more than 36 putts during a round (The top pros average well under 30) It is easier to take a few less putts a round than hit a few less long shots.
Good luck and have fun,