You need two things to make putts: a good read and a good stroke. Many experts think my stroke is one of the best on Tour. My secret? I “pop” the ball, rather than putt it. It’s old-school; players needed more oomph at impact back when greens were slower. But it works, even on ultra-fast greens. It gets the ball rolling sooner with less wobble and skid.
The keys to the pop method are hinging your wrists and transferring all the energy into the ball at impact, not past it. Once the ball leaves the putterface, there’s no reason to keep moving the putter. Many everyday players use a short backstroke and long throughstroke, thinking that it will help promote deceleration. Big mistake. In fact, a stroke like that can cause an inconsistent steering motion. With a pop stroke, you’re always getting smooth acceleration.
If you make good reads but miss a lot of putts, try my pop stroke. A quicker, shorter stroke helps the ball hug the line, turning your frustrating flatstick into a legitimate scoring weapon.
Step 1: TAKE TWO GRIPS FOR MORE FEEL
The quality of your grip determines how well you can control the putterface, so you’ve got to spend some time working on it. A lot of players hold the club in a way that fuses their hands into a single unit. That’s not my preference. I think a method like that deadens your feel for the putterhead. Instead, I put my hands on the grip separately, so I can feel the club with all of my fingers. For a better hold and more control and feel, follow these simple steps.
1. Place the grip over the lifeline in your left palm. Make sure the butt of the grip sticks out above your heel pad.
2. Set your left thumb on top of the handle and squeeze your pinkie, ring and middle fingers around the grip.
3. When you apply your right hand, again set the grip against the lifeline in your palm.
4. Press your right thumb against the top of the handle and wrap all four fingers firmly around the grip.
Don’t worry about overlapping or interlocking your fingers -- simply rest your left index finger against the knuckles of your right hand.
Your goal? Feel the club with both hands, which you can’t do if you press your left index finger hard against your right hand, or interlock it with your right pinkie. Make sure the Vs formed by both thumbs and index fingers point at your right shoulder, as with your irons and woods. In this sense, the putting stroke is a small version of your full swing, and you want to treat it the same way.
Step 2: USE YOUR EYES FOR BETTER POSTURE AND AIM
It’s important to feel comfortable at address, but you don’t want to get sloppy. Make sure you bend from your hips and not your waist, and that your eyes are directly over the ball. This is critical, because if your eyes aren’t over the ball, it means you’re standing too close or too far away from it, and your stroke won’t be consistent. Plus, setting your eyes over the ball aligns them with the target line, making it easier to aim the putterhead.
Here’s a trick you can use to practice getting this right. Address the ball, then hold a second ball against the bridge of your nose and let it drop. If the dropped ball hits the one on the ground, you’ve nailed your setup. You can also use your putter to check your address by holding it in line with your eyes and making sure it points straight down at the ball.
If you’re left-eye dominant, tilt your head so that your left eye looks directly at the ball. If you’re right-eye dominant, like I am, tilt your head so that your right eye looks directly at the ball. This extra fine-tuning helps you keep your head steady when you putt. Your dominant eye always seeks out the ball’s position, and if it doesn’t have a clear view of it at the start, you’ll instinctively move your head so that it does at impact. This makes it impossible to produce consistent contact, roll or distance.