Few things on the golf course lead to more frustration than missing makeable short putts. A lot of players have an easier time moving on from a bad tee shot than they do getting over a short golf putt that they missed by a foot — or even more devastating, the ones they missed by an inch or two.
Before you start hurling your golf clubs into the local water hazard, we've got a guide designed to help you turn those mulligans into gimmes. Let's take a look at how to make short putts every time you step onto the green.
Alright, maybe not every time. But following these short putting tips will help you improve your game and lower your score. Combining these tips with some high-quality putting aids could even have you hoisting trophies at your golf club's next tournament.
What Length of Putt is Considered to be a Short Putt?
Let's start first by defining what we mean by "short putt." Some people would consider anything under ten feet to be short, while others might only consider putts inside of three feet.
For our discussion, we're going to settle on a nice middle ground and call a short putt anything that is six feet or shorter. Right around that distance is when professionals really start to distinguish themselves from junior circuit players, amateurs, and even the scratch golfers at your local country club.
On Tour, the professionals make around 70-75% of their six-foot putts, according to Golf.com. For non-professionals, that number slips down to right around 50%. Putting is a huge part of your game, and making short putts is a huge part of putting. Converting more of your short putts can have a significant impact on your handicap. Knowing how to make short putts consistently is a good building block for future lessons and training programs as well.
While we can't promise you that you will learn how to make short putts every time, we can at least give you tips on how to make short putts more consistently. As with all things related to this glorious game, you get out what you put in. There's no shortcut to being a consistent player, you just have to put in the work and practice time. So let's take a look at making short putts by breaking your approach down into three distinct phases: The Setup, The Backswing, and the Follow-Through.
How to Make Short Putts Part 1: The Setup
When it comes to our list of short putting tips, The Setup is everything that happens before your backswing. This includes reading the green, addressing the ball, and adjusting your stance.
Reading the Green
Most people struggle with this phase. Some people will even tell you that the key to making short putts is all about reading the green. As we'll discuss throughout this article, there is no silver bullet that will help you make short putts — it requires a comprehensive approach where every facet works together to create an ideal result. Namely, sinking the ball into the bottom of the cup.
For most short putts, reading the green comes down to looking at the angular plane of the green between your ball and the hole. Backing off of the ball can give you perspective on any undulations that occur in the path of your short putt. Hold your putter vertically with the head of the putter off of the ground, letting gravity find its true north/south center line. Then, using the vertical plane of the putter shaft, compare it to the horizontal plane of the green to see which direction it tilts. Also make note of whether or not the hole sits above or below your ball, indicating an uphill or downhill shot respectively.
Address Your Golf Ball
Addressing your golf ball is the next step in our list. You will want to develop a routine on how you address your golf ball, that way you can repeat your setup over and over again. Repetition is one of the most fundamental parts of shotmaking in golf, and developing a routine — even for short putts — will do wonders for your game overall.
Position yourself correctly behind the ball. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the ball centered between your feet and a few inches in front of your toes. Make sure that your toes are perpendicular to the cup and that the club face is aligned with the imaginary line you want your ball to travel.
Adjust Your Stance
Grip the putter lightly with both hands while keeping your wrists relaxed. The ball should be placed near the center of your stance, or perhaps one inch forward from center at most. Make adjustments to your feet and posture to align your body up with your putter and club face. We want to swing in-line, which means our club doesn't move once we have it placed along the swing path we want to take, our body adjusts around the club.
Short Putting Tips Part 2: The Backswing
The Backswing is a critical part of a successful short putt. In golf, most problems occur before our club even hits the ball. If you open up your shoulders, rotate your wrists, or have a hitch in your backswing, all sorts of things have gone wrong and your shot will be nowhere near where you want it to be. Here's a rundown of what a solid backswing looks like on short putts.
1. Maintain Soft Hands
Your hands and arms should stay relaxed. Tension in your hands, wrists, or arms can lead to jerky, inconsistent strokes. Keep your arms relaxed throughout.
2. Use Your Shoulders
Instead of using your hands or wrists, use your shoulders to control the backswing. This will help you with consistency and prevent you over or under-rotating.
3. Keep Your Head Still
As you take the putter back, try to keep your head still and maintain your posture. This will help you keep your stroke on the correct path and hit the ball solidly.
4. Control Your Speed
To make a smooth backswing, you need to control your speed. Don't rush your stroke or swing too quickly. Instead, take your time and make a controlled, deliberate backswing.
5. Practice Your Tempo
This is something we preached in our guide to putting better. Using a count, putting rhythm and controlling your tempo will help you with shot consistency, distance, speed, and break on all of your short putts.
6. Maintain a Square Club Face
By following all of these short putting tips, you should be able to maintain a square club face. This will help you hit the ball on the right line and prevent mishits.
How to Make Short Golf Putts Part 3: The Follow-Through
One of the first things we try to teach new players is that putting a golf ball is not the same as hitting a cue ball in pool or whacking croquet balls with a mallet across your lawn. Putting — and short golf putts in particular — is a finesse game.
Instead of thinking about a short putt in golf as hitting or striking the ball, think about it as pushing the ball with your club. On a six-foot putt, you want to roll the ball toward the pin, not blast it across the green. As you follow through, keep your head down, control your speed, maintain posture, and extend your arms. As you follow through, your arms should extend toward the target, maintaining a straight line from the club face to the path you want the golf ball to roll.
Then, watch the ball as it rolls. Assess its speed and direction to determine whether you read the green accurately or if you need to make adjustments on your next shot. Hold your final pose to reinforce good technique and to help you maintain your tempo and rhythm.
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