I see many amateurs address putts with an open stance, a curious move they think will help them see the putting line better. Don't copy their technique. Instead, stand with your feet parallel to the line (use your toes as a guide). As you can see in the photo at right, my toes are aligned left of the cup on this straight putt by the same distance I stand from the ball. This establishes my toe line as parallel to and left of the putt line. It also sets my shoulder alignment parallel left of the putt line. Together, these setup features create a "direction of flow" for my shoulders, arms and putter to swing naturally and easily along in the same direction.
The best way to see the putt line is to stand behind the ball and look down various starting lines until you see one you like. Many professionals (watch Anthony Kim, for example) stand in this position and make practice strokes until they commit to the line they want to start the putt on and feel the stroke they want to make.
After reading your putt from behind the ball, walk around and step in just shy of your ball and make practice strokes to get a feel for distance. Make strokes until you find one you feel will roll the ball perfectly into the hole. That's the stroke you want. Then step into your parallel-left alignment, take one last look down the line to your aim point, and repeat the perfect stroke you just saw and felt. The better you align your body (and shoulders) parallel left of your line, the more your putter will naturally want to swing down that line, and the more often your putts will find the hole.
The distance in inches your putts should roll past the hole when they miss. Rolling putts at this optimum speed maximizes your chances of holing them. If you roll putts faster than this optimal speed, you'll endure more lip-outs; roll them slower and your putts will be more susceptible to footprints and green- surface imperfections and curve offline. The 17-inch rule applies to both downhill and uphill putts.
Research data to help you play better
If you're having trouble making breaking putts, check these four facts of putting:
• The slower the green speed, the less a putt will break
• The faster the green speed, the more a putt will break
• The more uphill, the less a putt will break
• The more downhill, the more a putt will break