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How to Putt
by Virgil Herring

When learning to achieve high performance putting we must first understand the three undeniable fundamentals that dictate the golf ball's roll. To achieve a consistent roll of the ball we must have:

  1. A stroke that moves along the target line as long as possible.
  2. The face of the putter must be perpendicular to the target line.
  3. Finally we must consistently strike the ball on the center of percussion, or the "sweet spot".

To achieve these fundamentals the body must be in a certain position to allow them to happen. I cannot honestly say that there is one correct way to set-up when putting. There has been so many styles, grips, stances, and ball positions that have worked wonderfully at the highest level that it would be wrong to say that there is one correct way.

I believe that any set-up that allows you swing the putter back and forth on the target line, keeping the face perpendicular to the target line, and strikes the ball on the sweet spot, is a great set-up. There are many characteristics of the set-up that can influence these three fundamentals.

To give you the best chance of performing these fundamentals I believe that we simply want to have as many parts as possible parallel to or on the target line. Let's first talk about the grip. I am a firm believer that the cross-handed putting grip is the most technically correct method I have seen to date. Unfortunately putting is not all mechanics. I believe that distance control, green reading skills, and attitude all have equal bearing on your greatness. I have noticed that if someone started putting with the conventional reverse-overlap grip they will tend to struggle with distance control. I would tell anyone who averages more than 36 putts per round to switch to cross-handed today, but for an already accomplished putter to at least try this method if they begin to struggle with putting.

To take the grip, for a left handed player, place your right hand on the putter first and place the grip in the lifeline of your hand. Place the clubhead behind the ball and allow your left arm to hang relaxed from the shoulder, then place the left hand on the club with the grip resting in the lifeline. For a right handed player, reverse the process. The reason we grip the putter in the lifeline is that it reduces the risk of the wrist action in the stroke.

To take the conventional reverse-overlap grip we would place the right hand on first about five inches down the grip in the lifeline. Place the putter behind the ball, then place the left hand on the grip, above the right hand, with the grip in the lifeline and then rest the forefinger on the fingers of the right hand.

Once we have the desired grip, let's quickly address grip pressure. If squeezing the grip as tight as possible is considered a ten on a one to ten scale, I recommend a pressure of four. This should have a feeling of being soft-firm. The grip should feel soft in your hands to give you a sense of rolling the ball out of your fingertips, yet firm enough that another person couldn't twist the putter-face around in your hands. Now lets address the ball.

At address we would like to have our feet shoulder width apart and aligned parallel left of the target line. Place the ball two inches ahead of the center of your stance. Since we are trying to impart overspin on the ball, we would like to make impact with the ball at the bottom of the arc or even slightly on the upswing. We would never place the ball behind center because that would encourage a descending blow at impact that would impart backspin and make the ball bounce up in the air early in the roll.

Our posture should have the upper body bent over from the hips and our knees feeling unlocked. This posture should allow our eyes to hang directly over the target line or just slightly to the inside of the target line. It should also allow our arms to hang directly below our shoulder sockets, and also align our shoulders parallel to the target line. This gives the body the best chance to swing the putter back and forth along the target line for as long as possible.

With the putter now directly behind the ball with the face perpendicular to the target line, we must make sure to align the ball directly in line with the sweet spot. Right before beginning the stroke be sure to feel the weight of the putter in your hands, do not rest it on the ground. This is a very important factor in putting. If the weight of the putter is resting on the ground the right wrist will have to lift up the putter head by pulling back the right hand from the address position before the shoulders can begin to rock back. This is a classic breakdown of the wrist that consistently ails the recreational golfer. The putting stroke is a single-lever pendulum swing, not a multi-lever swing like the full swing.


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