Not enough is written about the putting game. I say “putting game” because putting is an entirely separate discipline to that of the long game, short game and mental game in golf. Most of what we read in golf magazines these days seems to focus on distance off the tee. Fair enough, but keep in mind that a par 72 golf course is designed for 36 full shots and 36 putts; putting is half the game!
The problem I have giving advice on putting, however, is that there are no absolutes for putting technique. From the “claw grip”, to the “belly putter”, putting technique is singularly individual to each player. Therefore, I must provide the following disclaimer: the ideas that follow in this column are merely suggestions; truly, whatever works for you on the putting surface is correct.
Here are a few suggestions that work for me. Perhaps they can help you to drain that 12 foot birdie putt at your next Sunday match.
I am very traditional where the putting grip is concerned. The conventional reverse overlap grip works fine for me. I simply reverse my right pinky finger, Vardon style grip, under the left index finger so that the left index finger now overlaps the pinky and ring finger of the right hand. Now, there are many variations to this most basic of all putting grips, and so here is my own little twist for your consideration. Actually I got this tip from Stephen Lindskog, a local pro here in Jakarta. Stephen suggested that I “weaken my left hand”. Assuming you also use the same traditional putting grip that I have outlined above, I recommend you weaken your left hand as well. I’m not referring to weak grip pressure here. No, I am referring to the position of the left hand on the club. Simply turn your left hand to the left so that the back of the hand faces squarely to the target. With a weak left hand, both the top of your left forearm and the back of the left hand should be pointing toward the target.
I like to feel that the left arm and putter are one in the same, that the left arm is an extension of the putter. Certainly I’m not alone here, there many others who advocate this approach, including the great Harvey Penik who wrote about this in his “Little Red Book”. There is no need to introduce rigidity or tension when employing this concept as the arms and hands should remain soft and tension free. One of the main benefits, as I see it, is that I never break my wrists when I feel like the left arm is an extension of the club and thus my hands remain soft and quiet throughout the putting stroke. Now, when I stroke the ball, I like to feel that I’m ‘rolling’ the ball, leading with the back or top of my left forearm, following through towards the target. Of course the ball is struck by the putter head, but I prefer to think that I’m using my left arm to roll the ball. Getting back to the weak left hand grip, I feel confident using my left arm since it is pointed to the target and in line with the putter face, another benefit of a weak left hand grip. Thanks Stephen!
I would like to reiterate that these are putting concepts that I use. I wouldn’t suggest they are for everyone. Again, whatever works for you is the correct method of putting! Good luck and please let me know if any of these concepts work for you. More on putting next month!