How to Putt Like a Tour Pro

Mike Shannon putting tip from 2008 Golf Magazine Innovators
Monte Isom
For the proper address, hold your putter straight out, left; draw your elbows into your rib cage, center; then tilt forward.

TAKE YOUR ADDRESS
For a proper setup (above left), which leads to perfect aim, start this way. Holding your putter, stand up straight and extend your arms. Then, draw your elbows in snug to your rib cage; this keeps your arms and torso "connected" and promotes a consistent, one-piece, pendulum-type motion. Then, tilt your upper body forward until the putterhead rests behind the ball. And put a little flex in your knees. You don't want to play with stiff legs.

FIND YOUR BALL POSITION
How close you stand to the ball is key — it frees you to make a relaxed, pendulum-like stroke. Stand too close and the putter will work out-to-in, which will result in a pulled putt. Stand too far away? You'll push putts to the right. How far away should you stand? On average, Tour pros have 2.5 putterhead lengths from their toe line to the near side of the ball. Use trial-and-error to find your ideal distance. Hit practice putts while standing between 2 and 2.75 putterhead lengths from the ball. If you stand too far away from the ball, you'll see the club go too far inside; if you stand too close, you'll see it go too far outside. When you reach the right distance, your eyes will tell you.

Next, you have to find where to play the ball in your stance — center, forward or back. It's different for everyone. To find out, ask a buddy for help. Find a straight putt, take your address, and aim, with your friend standing a few paces behind the ball. Have him tell you if your putterhead is aimed right, left or dead straight. If you're aimed left, you're playing the ball too far forward and need to move it back a bit. Aimed right? Move the ball forward until your friend tells you that your putterhead is dead square.

MAKE THE STROKE
With all the hard work done, don't think too hard. You're aimed perfectly! Simply make a smooth, unhurried stroke. You now have the technique of a Tour pro. Soon, you'll have the confidence of one, too.

Mike Shannon is the putting instructor at the Golf Learning Center at Sea Island Resort, on St. Simons Island, Ga. (888-732-4752; seaisland.com)

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