Putt More to Putt Less

With Mauna Kea Golf Course director Josh Silliman

If you’re like most golfers, you’d probably admit that you don’t practice nearly enough, and that the majority of your practice time is spent on full swing shots. Practice-putting is often an afterthought and only performed minutes before a round just to “get a feel” for the speed.


A common practice effort for most golfers is to grab a few balls and roll them one after another to the same hole. You’ll probably notice each putt getting closer to the hole than the previous. Unfortunately, we aren’t permitted second and third tries on the course—so why practice that way? Try practicing with three balls, hitting each to a different target. It is important to read each putt as if you were on the course putting for birdie. Then focus on rolling the ball down your selected line. This technique will enhance your green reading skills as well as your aim.


Slope and grain are the obvious factors when it comes to reading putts. To properly read both, you need to closely survey the turf between your ball and the hole from several different angles. Look at your putt from behind the ball, then walk (or “stalk”) in a circular direction. Be sure to get another great look from behind the hole as you make your way back to the ball. Once you have completed your stalk you now know if the putt is up or down hill, breaking right or left, and the direction of the grain. Trust your line and execute.


Sooner or later, all golfers need to “work the ball,” or make it curve at will. Whether it’s a dogleg hole or trees in your way—as was the case at the Masters for Bubba Watson—you may need to hook the ball. Here’s how.


You should be able to see the top knuckles of your index finger and middle fingers on your left hand. The V created between your thumb and index finger on your left hand should point to your right shoulder, and vice versa for your right hand.


At address, your feet and shoulders should be parallel and pointing at or slightly left of your target. Be sure to give yourself enough room to swing—the top of the grip of your club should be approximately four to six inches from your body.


Your take away should begin with the feeling similar to that of pull starting a lawn mower with your right hand. As you transition to the downswing, focus on keeping your right elbow close to your body to feel as though you are coming from the inside. Allow your arms to swing out and away from your body so that your swing path extends out to the right of your target.


This is the key factor to curving the ball right to left. As you enter the impact zone, let your right hand roll over the top of your left. The weight in the toe of your club head will help you naturally make this movement. Or in other words, the club wants to “turn over” on its own as you swing it, all you have to do is let it! If your left arm is rigid or tense, it makes this natural movement very difficult.

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