Keep Putts on Target

Proper hand position will help you drain more putts.
Angus Murray

This story is for you if…
• Your putts never stay on the line you want them to
• You fidget with your putting address
• You’ve never thought much about your setup

The problem — Your putts never track on line.

Why it’s happening — Your hands are too close to your body and inside your shoulder line at address.

Why this is bad for your stroke — Stand in your putting posture without a club. Extend your arms, then bring your hands in close to your body. Now, gently rock your arms back and forth. Notice how your hands naturally move away from your body to a position directly underneath your shoulders. The same thing happens when you putt — your hands swing out and then in as they move into their natural rocking position, producing a stroke that cuts across the ball and sends it off line.

How to fix it — Check your putting posture in a mirror and look for the positions.

• Your arms are relaxed, allowing you to produce a tension-free stroke.
• Your forearms and shaft form a straight line. This removes any wristiness from your stroke.
• Your hands are directly under your shoulders.
• Your putter lies flat on the ground.

What a cut stroke looks like — Setting up with your hands too close to your body causes your putter to swing outward as your hands naturally find their preferred position under your shoulders. Your putter swings up and outside the line as a result, then cuts across the ball through impact and hits it off line to the right (if you leave the face open) or pulls it to the left (if you square the putterface before impact).

What a solid stroke looks like — When your hands and arms hang correctly and you make a straight line with your forearms and puttershaft, your putter swings back on a slight arc to the inside of your target line. And since your putter is following the natural movement of your hands, it will automatically square up at impact, giving you consistent loft at the point of contact and putts that roll straight toward your target.

Four common—and wrong—putting setup flaws that will ruin your stoke

1. Toe up — Check that your putter is soled flush on the ground. If the toe is up, your hands are too low (or your puttershaft lie angle is too upright or your putter is the wrong length). Your ability to make consistent contact on the sweet spot will sour.

2. Cramped quarters — There should be at least three inches of space between your body and the putter grip. If there isn’t, then you’re standing too close to the ball with your hands too close to your body. Your hands will swing outside when you begin your stroke, moving your putter off line.

3. Achin’ back — Hunched—over or over—arched putting postures place undue stress on your back, which is why golfers with these types of setups complain of back pain while putting. To putt pain-free, keep your back straight and bend from your hips so that your eyes are over the ball and your arms hang under your shoulders.

4. Straight arm — If you don’t see any bend in your elbows, you’ll make a seesaw stroke that’s difficult to control. Don’t make the opposite mistake and jam your elbows into your side, either. Bend your elbows slightly until your hands hang directly under your shoulders.