Putting: Distance & Direction

Published on 17 November 2010 by in Putting


Two fundamentals to strive for in Putting: Distance and Direction. Of the two, distance is by far more important in determining the capacity to putt with any sort of consistency. Take note at most amateurs, you might notice that when they practice their putting, they practice more on their direction. They spend an inconsistent amount of their practice time on putts of less then ten or fifteen feet. I believe that when the golfer can feel their longer distances it’s easier to manage the short-range putts.

You need to have the feeling of consistent rhythm and pace of the stroke to control your distance. You also need this feeling of rhythm on the short putts; another benefit of practicing longer putts is that you will start to feel a rhythm and tempo in your stroke.

Address Position of The Putt:

Grip – thumbs straight down the shaft, very light grip pressure, hollow with the palms and general preference to the reverse overlap grip
Stance and Width – this will vary with individual preference but square to slightly open is acceptable with the width usually five to ten inches and wider on windy days
Ball position – one inch forward of center
Bottom of the stroke arc – one inch behind the ball, with the putter impacting the ball on a slight upswing
Butt end of the club – straight up and down with club head, not a big forward press
Contact point of clubface at impact – bottom half of the clubface

There are several common mistakes in putting, beginning with the attempt to control and influence the clubface to direct the ball toward the hole. Just like the full swing, your hands should be reacting to the direction of the larger muscles. Your shoulders and arms are the primary engine of the stroke, with your hands staying very quiet, passive and inactive.

Another frequent error is the attempt to hit the ball on a specific line which leads you to start watching the roll of the ball toward the target too soon, thereby moving you head forward as you stroke through. Listen for the sound of the ball dropping in the cup before you look up on the short putts.

Another familiar mistake is the attempt to make the stroke straight back and straight through. Because you stand to the side of the ball the arc is on an incline. As clubs get shorter, the arc goes more vertical. As club shaft gets longer, the plane of the arc is more horizontal. The ball is played away from your body; therefore the arc will never be vertical. The only way the club could swing straight back and through would be if the stroke were traveling on a vertical plane. Therefore, your stroke should be slightly to the inside of the target line on both back swing and through swing. Letting the club swing on its natural arc will reduce the tendency to influence the clubface with the hands. As you stroke on your arc, the clubface will appear to be opening and closing, however remember the clubface is merely staying square with the arc.

A worthwhile goal for your putting stroke is keeping your head and lower body (from the hips down) to remain motionless while your shoulders and arms execute the crucial movement. If you don’t, your stroke will lead to inconsistency. If you focus on feeling the correct distance, your tendency will not be to move your head, but to stroke the putt with the correct pace and rhythm for the appropriate distance.

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