There are many ways to get the ball into the hole and when studying the top professionals putting technique, this is extremely evident.
However, one thing they mostly all have in common is a firm left wrist at impact and putting strokes driven not by flicking the wrists but by the arms and shoulders.
Flicking the wrists through impact can not only get a putt starting offline, but also can add unwanted fluctuations in power, both increases and decreases, leading to putts finishing past and short of the hole.
In general, top players have removed a 'wristy' action from their armoury and replaced it with a stroke which sees the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders working as one unit.
Here are three ways to help take the wrists out of the putting stroke.
Left wrist towards the target
This is something advocated by short game god Phil Mickleson and should help players whose left wrist breaks down through impact. When putting, feel like the back of the left wrist (for right handed golfers) remains in front of the club head through impact and remains in front whilst the player pushes it down the target line.
Keep the triangle
Set up in your putting stance facing a full length mirror at home or at your practice facility. Look up and see how the arms and the line of the shoulders form a triangle shape. The hands and the club should hang down from the point of the triangle. Whilst looking in the mirror, rock the shoulders back and through, try to keep the same triangle shape between the shoulders, arms and club throughout the stroke. This should help eliminate too much wrist break during the stroke, making for a more consistent pace and direction to putts.
This drill does require either a wrist watch or elastic band to be worn on the left wrist. When getting set up to the ball, slip a ruler or pen down the back of the wrist watch, in between the watch face and the back of the left wrist. When getting set up for the putt, the ruler or pen should be held in place by the watch and the wrist but should not put any pressure on either the back of the left hand or wrist. The goal of this drill is to keep the ruler or pen in the same position, if the left wrist breaks down then the strain on the ruler or pen will increase and the pressure will be felt on the hand and wrist.
Top Methods to Take the Wrists Out of the Putting Stroke
To be a good golfer, you have to be a good putter. There is simply no way around this fact – you can't consistently shoot good scores without the capability to roll the ball into the hole time after time. No one makes all of their putts, of course, but you should see the ball drop in with great regularity during a good round. If you can get through the day with somewhere between 25 - 28 total putts, you will be well on your way to a satisfying score. If that number of putts drifts on up into the 30s, however, your score will almost certainly be higher than you would like.
While there is a lot of feel and touch involved in good putting, it is also necessary to have quality mechanics on your side. You need to understand basic putting technique, and you then need to be able to execute that technique over and over again. Ideally, you will master your technique on the practice green so you don't even have to think about it on the course. Once on the course, you can then just focus in on reading your putts correctly, knowing that your stroke will take care of the rest.
In this article, we are going to focus in on the specific topic of taking your wrists out of the putting stroke. There is no room for hand or wrist action when putting – the putter should be controlled entirely by a rocking motion in your shoulders. Your wrists need to stay out of it entirely, which is something that is easier said than done. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how you can swing the putter beautifully without involving your wrists at any point.
Why do you need to keep your wrists out of the stroke? It comes down to consistency. Sure, it is possible to roll the ball into the hole once or twice using a stroke built on wrist action, but that kind of stroke is never going to hold up over the long run. Your wrists and controlled by small, fast-twitch muscles, and it is impossible to command those muscles to work the same way putt after putt. There are much larger, slower muscles in your shoulders and upper back, which is why you should put that area of your body in charge of the stroke. A putting stroke which uses the shoulders to move the club is always going to be more reliable than one which relies on the wrists. You will hit your line more often this way, and you will control your speed better, as well.
You should be excited about the opportunity to work on the mechanics of your putting stroke, as this is a change which can help you score better almost immediately. When working on your full swing, it usually takes weeks or even months before you start to see any benefit on the course. Progress on the greens should come much faster, however. Get out and work on your stroke in the coming days and you may post a great score in your very next round.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Role of Your Grip
In order to successfully take your wrists out of the putting stroke, you need to make sure you are taking a proper grip on the club at address. There are endless possible variations for putting grips you can use, and many of them will work nicely. However, even when trying various grips, you should always stick to a few key points. As long as you are able to hit on the points listed below with regard to your grip, your putting stroke will be set up for great performance.
- Handle in your palms. This is the major difference between holding the club for a full swing and setting up for a putt. When hitting full shots, you need to run the handle of the club along the base of your fingers, as this will allow for freedom in your wrists during the swing. When putting, you don't want to have that freedom. In fact, you want just the opposite – you want to restrict the movement in your wrists to make it easier to control the putter during the stroke. To neutralize your wrists, run the handle of your putter up through the palms of your hands. This might feel a bit awkward at first, but that is only because it is different than what you do with the full swing. Spend some time practicing your putting while the grip of the club is in your palms and you will soon come to appreciate the control you are afforded.
- Light grip pressure. This is another key point, although this one is shared between your putting grip and your full swing grip. No matter what kind of shot you are hitting, you should be holding onto the club with relatively light pressure in your fingers. You never want to feel like you are squeezing the club tightly during the swing, as that pressure is going to take away your touch on the shot. Relax, use light grip pressure to keep control of the club, and let the stroke develop naturally without forcing it to happen.
- A quiet right hand. One of the main goals for your grip should be to keep your right hand as quiet and passive as possible. The right hand has a tendency to take over the stroke when an improper grip is used, and too much right hand action is a sure way to wind up with the yips. Try various grip styles until you locate one which will take your right hand out of the equation. It is popular for golfers to opt for a cross-handed putting style when the right hand becomes an issue, but there are actually many options to consider. With your right hand properly out of the picture, your stroke will stabilize and you won't have to worry much about the action of your wrists going forward.
- Comfort. While your grip has a number of mechanical boxes that it needs to check, it also need to be comfortable. You don't want to feel awkward while holding onto the club, as you need to be relaxed and confident when swinging the putter. As mentioned above, some of the adjustments you need to make may feel awkward at first, but you will hopefully settle in to a comfortable feeling after a bit of practice. If not, it may be time to explore other grip options.
It is hard to hit good putts with a poor grip. While it might not be the most exciting thing you can do at the golf course, it is a good idea to spend some time working on your putting grip during an upcoming visit to the putting green. Even just investing a few minutes in working on your grip can pay big dividends for years to come.
A Simple Drill
To learn how to keep your wrists out of the putting stroke, it is a good idea to use practice drills. Specifically, the drill included in this section should help you master the feeling of rolling the ball toward the hole without any wrist action. Consider adding this simple drill to your regular practice putting routine and you should see the benefits sooner rather than later.
For this drill, you will only need your putter, a few golf balls, and a place to practice. It would be ideal to be at the golf course on the practice green, but you could even work on this drill at home if you have a good spot for some indoor putting work. Assuming you are at the course, pick out a relatively flat putt of only a few feet in length to use for the drill. To get started, follow the steps below.
- Take your stance over the first ball and get lined up properly with the hole. Even though the main goal of this drill is not to make the putts, you still want to align yourself correctly. Never miss a chance to work on the crucial skill of proper alignment.
- Place the head of the putter behind the ball and take one last look at the hole before starting the stroke. Instead of placing the putter head an inch or so behind the ball as you might normally, the face of the putter needs to be pushed right up against the back of the ball. It is okay if you touch the ball at address in this drill – there are no rules against that during practice as there are on the course.
- With the setup complete, you are now going to roll the ball toward the hole. However, instead of making your normal stroke, you are simply going to push the putter forward without any backstroke whatsoever. That means, instead of actually hitting the ball, you are just going to push it with the putter face. Of course, this will be odd at first. Go through a few repetitions until you start to feel how you can roll the ball cleanly toward the hole without any backstroke.
- In order to roll the ball successfully, you are going to have to keep your wrists out of the action during this drill. If your wrists do get involved, they are only going to cause trouble – and they will make it difficult to achieve a smooth roll. By using just your shoulders to move the club, you can accelerate the putter head gradually, and the ball will gently leave the face before heading toward the cup. After a bit of practice, you might even find that you are able to roll in most of your putts with this drill.
The best way to use this drill is to go back and forth between the drill and your usual putting stroke. Roll a few balls toward the hole without making a backstroke, then hit a couple standard putts. Keep going back and forth for as long as you would like to practice. In time, these two techniques will start to feel more and more similar, and you will realize that you don't need any wrist action at all in order to hit good putts.
How to Putt Cross-Handed
If you can't seem to keep your wrists out of the putting stroke, no matter what you try, it may be time to use the cross-handed putting grip to solve the problem. While putting cross-handed is not a perfect solution, it can make quick work of your wrist issue. Considering the fact that many professional golfers, including some of the very best players in the world, use a cross-handed grip on the greens, there is obviously a lot to like about this technique. The learning curve can be steep, however, so you should be prepared to invest some practice time if you are going to make the switch.
To putt cross-handed, simply place your left hand lower than your right on the grip at address. That's all you need to do to get started. Many players like to rest their left hand pinky finger on top of the right hand pointer finger in this grip, but that is up to you. Find a position which feels comfortable and go from there.
As you are practicing your stroke with a cross-handed grip, keep the following tips in mind.
- The left hand leads the way. You should feel like your left hand is dominating the stroke when you putt cross-handed. In fact, this is why most people switch to this putting style – to limit the roll of the right hand. As you swing the putter, you should feel like your left hand is in control while your right hand is just along for the ride.
- Light grip pressure is still important. Regardless of how your hands are oriented on the grip of the putter, it is still important to maintain a light grip pressure. It is already a bit difficult to have a good feel for the speed of the ball when putting cross-handed, so you don't want to compound that problem by holding on too tight. Take as much pressure out of your fingers as possible at address, and feel like you are letting the putter swing freely through the ball.
- Stay down all the way through impact. You might feel a tendency to lift up out of your putts when using a cross-handed grip. To counter this feeling, you simply need to focus on staying down all the way through the putt. Keep your eyes on the ball, keep your head still, and accelerate the putter through impact toward the hole. It isn't going to help anything to look up early to see where the ball is going, so be disciplined and keep your eyes down. Once the ball is safely on its way, you can then look up to see how you have done.
- Practice long putts. By far, the hardest part of learning to putt cross-handed is learning how to control your distance on long putts. You naturally lose a bit of feel when you place your left hand below your right, so it is going to take plenty of practice to dial in your speed control from long range. Spend a few minutes in each practice session rolling the ball across the practice green from one side to the other. Also, be sure to practice some long putts before starting any round, as the speed of the greens will change from day to day.
- Keep the backstroke tight. If you allow your backstroke to 'wander' too far back away from the ball, you will struggle to control your speed on the way through. You certainly don't want to be decelerating as you approach impact, so keep the backstroke tight and give yourself the ability to speed the club up through the ball. Practice using rather small backstrokes on your short putts and then gradually work your way up and the putts become longer and longer.
The best thing you can do to learn how to putt cross-handed is simply to practice. By gaining experience, you will get more and more comfortable with the mechanics of this kind of stroke. Your wrists should automatically be taken out of the stroke with this grip, so that part of the equation shouldn't be a problem. However, you are still going to have to adjust to the feel of this stroke in order to have success. Put in your fair share of time on the practice green and better results on the course should follow.
Other Common Putting Problems
Plenty of amateur golfers struggle with overactive wrists in the putting stroke. However, that is just one of many common putting problems seen among the amateur set. Putting gives millions of golfers trouble on a regular basis, so this last section is going to be focused on some of the other issues you may encounter on the greens. While you are working on taking your wrists out of the stroke, also work on solving the following problems to take yourself toward a brighter putting future.
- Failure to read the green carefully. Many amateur golfers simply take their reads for granted. While they might walk up behind the ball and take a quick look, there is a casual attitude toward reading the greens which causes countless missed putts. The read is the single most important part of each putt, so take your time and get it right. In addition to looking from behind the ball, you should be taking a peek from behind the hole as well. Remember, you need to read the elevation change of the putt in addition to reading any side to side break which may be involved.
- Prioritizing line over speed. Yes, the line of your putt is important. It is not, however, any more important than the speed you use for the putt. If you fail to control your speed properly, your putt will be a failure, even if you get the line right. As you prepare to hit a putt, think first and foremost about your speed. How much speed is it going to take to have the ball reach the hole – but not have the ball race past on the other side? The best putters are those who can control their speed beautifully over and over again. Even if you miss your line from time to time, your putting performance overall will be quite solid as long as you manage your speed well.
- Getting nervous. Your nervous are more likely to come to the surface when putting than at any other time on the course. If you struggle with nerves while putting, it may help to add a breathing routine to your preparation. Before you step up to hit the putt, try taking a deep breath or two to slow yourself down. Remember that this is just a game, and this one putt really isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. Do your best to let go of your nerves and allow your talent to shine through. In addition to posting better scores, you will simply have more fun on the course when you relax and focus on positive thoughts instead of being nervous.
Putting is a challenge. While it might seem simple to the outsider, any experienced golfer knows that it is difficult to roll the ball accurately toward the hole time after time. Hopefully, with the help of the advice in this article, you can successfully take your wrists out of the putting stroke in the near future. With your wrists quiet and your shoulders in charge, more putts are sure to find their way to the bottom of the cup. Good luck!