What is a solid putting stroke?
A solid putting stroke is one that has minimal movement throughout the entire motion. If this is the case then the putting stroke is repeatable and can be performed again and again giving the golfer consistency with which to control both distance and accuracy.
How do we create a solid putting stroke?
This is very simple - keep everything still. Parts of the body that should remain still during a quality putting stroke are the: head; legs; hips; arms; wrists; and hands. Actually the only part of the body that should move is the shoulders.
Most golfers are very good at keeping their body still but unfortunately most golfers want to use their hands and wrists when they putt. This culminates in a flicking action which varies for every putt as the small muscles in the hands and wrists power the action and are very difficult to control. A flicking action can cause the club face to move off line during the stroke resulting in inaccuracy and it can also cause difficulty in controlling the distance that the golfer hits the putt as sometimes the golfer will flick harder or softer than others.
The key to keeping the hands and wrists still is to keep the left wrist firm (for right handed golfers - right wrist for left handed golfers).
How do we keep the left wrist firm?
Use the following drill in your practice to make that left wrist solid:
1. Get yourself five golf balls, a target to putt at and a spare golf ball to use as a training aid.
2. Set yourself up as normal to one of the five golf balls with the exception being to hold the putter two to three inches further down than normal.
3. Take your spare golf ball and place it in-between your left wrist and the putter grip. It should be positioned so that it is held in the crease of the wrist.
4. Take your putt and use your shoulders to rock back and forth to power the motion. Keep the wrists as still as possible to hold the ball in place against the putter grip. If you use your wrists or they break down, the ball will drop on to the floor.
This drill is an excellent exercise for creating a pendulum action that does not include the wrists and helps to create a solid putting stroke for consistency.
Create a Solid Putting Stroke – Keep the Left Wrist Firm
The mechanics of a proper putting stroke are really quite basic. Unlike the full swing, where there is an incredible number of moving parts which need to be coordinated perfectly, the putting stroke is a simple action. With that said, there are still a few key fundamentals that require attention on the greens. One of those fundamentals is maintaining a firm left wrist throughout the stroke (for a right-handed golfer). In this article, we are going to discuss why this point is so important, and what you can do to keep your left wrist firm time after time.
Of course, as with anything else in the game of golf, you need to master this technique in practice before you take it to the course. You don't want to be standing over a difficult birdie putt thinking about your technique – you want to be thinking about the line you have selected and the speed you are going to use. Your mechanics should be nailed down in practice so your mind can be free to focus on other things once you hit the course. While most golfers practice their swings from time to time, fewer step onto the practice putting green to work on their strokes. Don't put yourself in that category – include putting in every one of your practice sessions and you will be a better player for the effort.
Once you get into the habit of practicing your putting on a regular basis, you may find that you aren't perfectly comfortable with the putter you have in your bag. Many golfers make the mistake of thinking that they can use just 'any old putter', despite the fact that they spend countless hours in search of the right driver and set of irons. In reality, you need to pay just as much attention to the putter you select as you do to the rest of your clubs. Consider going through a putter fitting session with your local pro in order to find the right flat stick for your needs. Even excellent mechanics can be thrown off by the use of the wrong putter, so don't waste the improvements you are about to make to your stroke. Find a putter that fits your game, and combine it with great mechanics to make more putts than ever before.
Getting back to the topic presented in the title, it is important to work on the behavior of your left wrist because this is a fundamental which applies to all golfers. There is certainly some room for individual style and personal preference in the putting stroke – but this is not one of those areas. With regard to the left wrist, all golfers should be trying to keep it as flat and firm as possible. Your left wrist is a reflection of the putter face itself, so moving your wrist around will cause the face of the putter to move around as well. Obviously, if the face is moving, you can't be sure that you will hit the target line. By keeping your wrist flat, and the face steady, it will be much easier to hit your target with consistency.
All of the instruction contained in this article is written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Benefits of a Firm Left Wrist
To get started, we are going to take a detailed look at why your putting will improve when you use a firm left wrist. It always helps to understand what you can gain by adding a new technique to your game, as this understanding will help provide you with the motivation you need to work hard. Knowing that there is a significant reward at the end of the process, you will be more willing to go through the rough patches until you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The points below represent a few of the ways in which your putting should improve when you employ a firm left wrist.
- Accuracy. This point was mentioned above, at it is the main benefit you will experience with a solid left wrist. Taking any flexing action out of your left wrist is going to add stability to the putter face, making it far more likely you will hit your target line on a regular basis. Your putting as a whole will improve when you dial in this part of your technique, but it is really your short putting where you should notice the biggest difference. There isn't much speed control involved in short putts, so your success or failure tends to come down to hitting the line properly. With a flat left wrist that remains solid through the stroke, your accuracy will improve and you will make more putts from inside five feet. All golfers would love to make more of these scary short putts, and you can do just that when you learn how to control your left wrist.
- Speed control. You might be surprised to learn that your speed control can be improved when you manage your left wrist properly. Speed control is all about moving the putter at a steady speed through impact, which you will do more consistently when you take your hands out of the stroke. If your left wrist is flexing at the moment of impact, you will add a burst of speed to the stroke which can be hard to control. On the other hand, you should have an easy time managing your speed when only your shoulders are doing the work of propelling the club forward. Take your hands – and wrists – out of the stroke and you should start to lag the ball with greatly improved consistency.
- Solid strike. Just as is the case when hitting full shots, you need to do your best to hit your putts perfectly on the sweet spot of the club. Hitting the sweet spot will prevent twisting at impact, and it will also allow you to get the distance you expect out of the putt. To hit the sweet spot more consistently, keep your left wrist flat as you move the club through impact with confidence. Players who allow the left wrist to bend are often tentative with their stroke as a whole, and being tentative will never lead to good putting.
- Avoid the yips. You might be able to produce decent results on the practice green while allowing your left wrist to fold through impact. It is going to be a different story, however, when you get out onto the course. You will feel more pressure to perform when playing a round, even if you aren't playing in any kind of competition. As that pressure settles into your game, it will get harder and harder to execute your 'handsy' putting stroke. To avoid the dreaded yips when you get nervous, practicing keeping your left wrist as solid as possible throughout the stroke.
Once you have learned how to keep your left wrist firm through the hitting area, you will likely find that there are even more advantages to be enjoyed than just those listed above. However, even if you only experience one or two of the benefits above, that should be more than enough to motivate you during your practice sessions. Even small improvements in your putting can have a major impact on the scorecard. Take some time in the coming weeks to work on this specific part of your stroke and you will see your scores trend in the right direction.
Proper Setup is Essential
If you are going to be able to keep your left wrist flat through impact, you will need to setup to your putts properly to begin with. This is the point which is overlooked by most amateur golfers, leading those players to disappointing results on the greens. Your address position is incredibly important for all shots you hit on the course, and that certainly remains true when putting.
To make sure you are setting up for each putt in a position which will promote success, check on the points below.
- Weak left-hand grip. Placing your left hand in a weak position on the grip is going to force your left wrist into a flat position – which is exactly what you want to see. If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, a 'weak' grip is one which is turned to the left on the grip. When putting, you should have your left thumb running down the top of the putter, as this will set you up in a weak left-hand position. If you were to allow your left hand to turn to the right on the grip, your left wrist would cup and you would be prone to wrist action during the stroke. Simply using a weak left-hand grip is going to take you a long way toward successfully keeping your wrist firm at the moment of impact.
- Square shoulders and feet. As you take your stance, make sure both your feet and your shoulders are square to the target line. You don't want to have to make adjustments during your stroke to get the putter on line, so start out with everything in a square position. When your feet and shoulders are square, the putter will naturally want to swing back and through on the target line. Of course, you can't set up square to the target line if you haven't picked out a line in the first place, so make sure you always have a very specific target in mind when putting. A big part of the consistency of your putting stroke is going to come down to how well you are able to square yourself to the line at address.
- Eyes over the ball. Unlike in the full swing, where your eyes are going to be well inside the ball at address, you need to have your eyes out over the ball when putting. You don't quite have to position your eyes perfectly over the top of the ball, but they should be close. Getting your eyes out over the ball is going to give you a good view of the target line, and it is also going to put your shoulders in a good position to rock back and forth as the putter swings. If you are having trouble determining where to place your eyes at address, ask a friend to stand behind you and watch your positioning. It should only take a bit of practice before you can settle into a nice stance.
- Flex your knees. Your lower body is not going to be moving much (or at all) during the putting stroke, so you might be tempted to think that you can simply stand up straight without any flex in your knees. That would be a mistake. You need to flex your knees so your legs can act as a steady, stable platform during the stroke. Set up with flexed knees just as you would for a full swing and then maintain that flex from start to finish.
Let's be honest – working on your putting stance is not particularly exciting. There are other things you can do at the golf course which will be more fun than mastering your putting stance, but this remains a crucial piece of the puzzle nonetheless. If you are willing to practice your stance consistently, it will help you hit successful putts round after round.
Making the Stroke
With your stance and grip established, it will be time to put the club in motion. If you have done a good job of paying attention to the pre-stroke details, you should be well on your way to a quality putt. The job is not done yet, however, as things can still go wrong during the stroke itself. Specifically, you can still allow your left wrist to break down, which can lead to a missed short putt or a poor lag.
To get the putting stroke started, you will want to focus on the movement of your left shoulder. When you are ready to make your stroke, move your left shoulder down toward the ground while keeping the rest of your body perfectly still. This action is going to force the putter back away from the target. Your hands and wrists should be quiet, your eyes should be on the ball, and you should be moving the putter at a slow and steady pace. There is no need to rush through the stroke, as the ball isn't going to move until you strike it with the putter face.
Once the backstroke has been completed, you are going to change directions by reversing the move you made to start the takeaway. In this case, you are going to push your right shoulder down toward the ground to propel the putter head toward the ball. There is still no hand action being used, and your left wrist should be just as flat as it was at address. The 'calling card' of a good putting stroke is maintaining a steady body position while the shoulders move the club. If you can manage to make your stroke about the shoulders and nothing else, it is likely you will become a good putter.
The only thing you need to do at the moment of impact is to continue on with your stroke toward the finish. Many golfers try to actively hit the ball at impact, but that is the wrong way to think about the stroke. Instead, you should just be brushing the ball toward the hole, with the putter taking a steady swing on through impact and into a stable finish position. If there is any hint of a hit impulse at the moment of impact when you are putting, your results will never be as consistent as you would like.
You can use your finish position to evaluate the quality of your stroke as a whole. When the club stops moving, what do you see? Is your left wrist just as flat as it was at address? Are you nicely balanced, with your eyes down and your knees holding steady? Any issues that you notice at the finish of your putting stroke should be traced back to the point during the stroke where you are going wrong. By monitoring your finish after each putt, you can catch any trouble within your technique before it becomes a major problem.
In the end, you really shouldn't have too much trouble keeping your left wrist flat through the impact area. Your hands and wrists actually have nothing to do with the putting stroke, so keeping them quiet should always be one of your top priorities. As long as the rest of your mechanics are in good condition, this is a point which may not give you much trouble at all. If you are having trouble with this element of the stroke, work back through your basic fundamentals until you locate the cause of the mistake. With any hit of left wrist activity removed from your stroke once and for all, you putting should become a reliable part of your game.
The Importance of Confidence
A big part of your success on the putting greens is going to come down to mechanics. If you make a solid stroke from a mechanical perspective, you should find success more often than not. However, you can't get the ball into the hole on mechanics alone. In addition to solid fundamental technique, you are going to need to have plenty of confidence on your side. Confidence may be more important on the greens than anywhere else on the course, so do your best to feel good about your stroke before even stepping foot on the first tee.
One of the best ways to build confidence in your putting stroke is to spend as much time on the practice green as possible. As a good rule of thumb, try to spend as much time practicing your putting as you do practicing your full swing. So, if you hit balls on the range for a half-hour, do your best to spend another half-hour working on your putting. You will putt on nearly every single hole that you play in your golfing life, so it only makes sense to practice this part of your game frequently.
To replicate the on-course experience while practicing, try creating some competitions for you and your friends to work on your putting performance. For instance, ask a friend to engage in a match play putting competition around the practice green. One hole at a time, you work your way around the green, trying to get the ball down in the fewest strokes possible. This type of practice will not only give you repetitions with your stroke, but it will also put you under some pressure. Once you see how well you can perform in this type of environment, your confidence will be boosted when you return to the course for your next round.
One other tip you can use to carry confidence with you onto the course is to finish your warm up by making a series of short putts. Right before you head to the first tee, hit several putts from three or four feet from the hole. Once you have made a few in a row, pick up your golf balls and walk off the green. Having those successful putts as your lasting memory when starting your round will only do good things for your confidence.
Using a firm left wrist in your putting stroke is an easy decision. Not only will this fundamental help you to make better strokes, but it is relatively easy to implement as well. Spend the necessary practice time to get comfortable with this technique and then rely on it to help you start the ball on line time after time. Good luck!