To make the purest possible putting stroke, it's important to set up to the ball properly. The primary factors influencing ball position are your distance from the ball and where the ball lies in relation to the feet.
First, distance from the ball. Why is this so critical? Because the eyes must be directly above or slightly inside the ball at address. If the eyes are outside the ball, the stroke will follow an outside-to-inside path and cause pulled putts. Eyes too far inside the line will have the opposite effect.
For most golfers, standing 8-10 inches from the golf ball will put their eyes over it. Here's a simple way to check:
• With an extra ball in your pocket, assume your normal putting address.
• Take one hand off the putter, get the ball from your pocket and hold it between your eyes.
• Drop the ball. Where it lands tells you where your eyes are positioned. Ideally, it will land on the ball being putted. If not, adjust accordingly.
An even easier way to get this fundamental right is to use a putter with a built-in alignment guide. For example, Thomas Golf (www.thomasgolf.com) offers putters specially designed to center eyes over ball.
As for where the golf ball should be played in the putting stance? Most teachers say right in the middle, or perhaps a touch forward, to ensure a true roll.
Thomas Golf Putters
Traditional, Mid-Length/Belly & Long Putters
Putting – Align Eyes Over the Ball and Target Line
To shoot good scores, you have to make putts. That point isn't debatable – it is simply a fact of life on the course. There is no way to play your best golf without making at least a reasonable number of putts during the average round. If you are inconsistent with your putter, your scoring will never live up to its potential. Even if you hit the ball beautifully from tee to green, your scores will fail to represent the quality of your shots if you can't roll the ball into the back of the cup time after time.
The importance of putting really isn't anything new to the avid golfer. You probably already know just how important it is to roll the ball with consistency from the first green to the last. And yet, there is still a major divide between the importance of putting and the amount of time attributed to it during the typical amateur practice session. For some reason, most amateur golfers neglect their putting during practice, instead choosing to stand on the driving range for hours on end hitting the ball as hard as possible. This kind of practice isn't just a waste of time, it is counterproductive to your goals of playing better golf. If you want to shoot lower scores, you will spend time practicing your putting – it is just that simple.
With that said, you need to know what you are going to be practicing when you step onto the putting green if you hope to improve. Just standing out on the green hitting putt and putt with no real purpose isn't going to get you anywhere. You need to focus in on a few fundamental pieces of putting technique which will help you to make real progress as you move forward. In this article, we are going to look at one important piece of the putting fundamentals puzzle – eye position at address.
When you stand over the ball prior to starting your stroke, where are your eyes? Ideally, you will be able to place your eyes directly over the ball and the target line, making it easy to see the path that you need to swing the putter down in order to strike the perfect putt. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers fail to get their eyes in the right position at address, which leads to a number of different problems once the stroke gets started. While it is common for players to have their eyes too far to the inside of the line at address, it is also possible to be bent out too far over the ball. Either way, trying to putt with your eyes out of position is always going to make things harder than they need to be.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play the game left handed – or, at least, you putt left handed – please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Get a Good Look
Perhaps more than any other part of the game, putting is a skill that is made much easier when you use your eyes correctly. You need to use your eyes in order to read the putt that you are about to hit, and you need to use your eyes in order to watch the ball as your putter swings. Making solid contact on your putts is just as important as it is when hitting a full shot, so keeping your eyes focused on the back of the ball is a crucial priority. By giving yourself a good look at your putts each and every time you stand over the ball, your chances of success are going to quickly increase.
It is important to position your eyes directly over the top of the ball because that view will give you a true sense of the target line as it relates to the path of your putter. When your eyes drift to the inside of the line, for example, it will be hard to picture the target line as you swing the club back and through. You aren't going to be hitting a draw or a fade with your putter, so your job is simple while making a stroke – start the ball as close to the chosen target line as possible. Hitting your target line won't mean that you make every single putt (you have to get the speed and the read right, as well), but it will give you a great chance to make more than your fair share.
In addition to the benefits you get from having a good look at the line when you position your eyes over the ball, taking this kind of stance will help you to swing the putter properly. If you are trying to keep the putter blade square to the line for as long as possible in your stroke, positioning your eyes directly over the top of the ball is a great way to go. You are going to have to bend significantly from the waist in order to take this kind of stance (more on that later), meaning your arms are going to be hanging freely from your shoulders. With your arms hanging down nicely, you can swing the putter back and through with very little resistance – and with very little movement in any other part of your body.
When you watch professional golfers compete – either in person, or on TV – you will notice that the majority of them position their eyes over the top of the ball while they putt. Despite the fact that there are countless different styles of strokes to be seen within the professional ranks, pro players seem to almost universally agree on the fact that the eyes should be over the top of the ball. When something is consistently done in a certain way at the top levels of the game, it is easy to make the case that you should be doing it the same way in your own game. On this point, it is an easy choice to copy the pros – get your eyes out over the ball and watch your putter performance improve almost immediately.
Making It Happen
By now, you should have a pretty good idea of why it is so important to have your eyes out over the ball at address while putting. Positioning your eyes over the ball will give you a great look at het target line, it will make it easier to swing the putter on that line, and it will give you the best chance to make solid contact. All in all, placing your eyes over the ball is just going to make putting easier.
Of course, before you can enjoy these benefits, you need to learn how to properly get yourself into the right position at address. Just putting your eyes over the ball isn't really going to be good enough – you have to do so in a manner that allows the rest of your body to be positioned correctly for the stroke. To build a reliable address position that encourages a solid putting stroke time after time, review the points in the list below.
- Square stance. One of the basic, fundamental pieces of a quality address position when putting is a square stance. You want to be able to swing the putter directly down the target line, and standing with your feet square to that line is going to make the task much easier. The putter is naturally going to want to swing along the line that is created by your feet at address, so make sure you are perfectly square up before going any farther. This is a simple point, but it is one that many players get wrong time after time. Spend a little bit of practice time working on your ability to get your feet into a square position so you can be confident that you will get it right out on the course.
- Bend in the knees. This is another place where many amateur golfers go wrong. As you stand over your putts, you need to have plenty of bend in your knees in order to make it possible to tilt out over the ball with your upper body. If you don't bend your knees, it will be nearly impossible to tilt your upper body properly out over the ball, and your eyes will be inside the target line in the end. You should have a similar amount of knee flex in your stance when putting as you do when making a full swing, so use your regular swing as a point of reference. Obviously, you should hold your knee flex steady during the stroke, without any movement up or down.
- Tilt from the hips. While you do want to get your eyes out over the ball while putting, you don't want to do so simply by hunching your back and shoulders. Instead, you want to tilt from the hips while keeping your back as straight as possible. Keeping your back straight and using your hips to get out over the ball will make it easier to swing the putter freely back and through. Hunching over the putt is a method that can work for some players, but in most cases it will inhibit the freedom of your stroke. Again, this is another point that is very similar to the full swing. When hitting full shots, you want to tilt from the hips with a flat back to promote a big shoulder turn. The idea is the same while putting, even though you aren't going to need a bit turn to get the job done.
- Relax your arms. As was mentioned earlier, your arms should be hanging freely down from your shoulders as you stand over the ball. This is a point that is related to eye positioning because letting your arms hang free will put them in a nice spot to swing the putter as you complete your stance. Many golfers lock their arms into place as they prepare to putt, with plenty of tension in the muscles from the shoulders on down to the hands. This is a mistake. Your arms should feel free and relaxed, and they should have no trouble swinging smoothly both back and through. If you look at your stance in a mirror, you should see that your arms are hanging from your shoulders directly down toward the ground.
- Stand relatively close to the ball. Many amateur golfers stand too far away from the ball as they prepare to putt. This is one part of the stance that you do not want to carry over from your full swing setup. When hitting full shots, you need to stand back far enough to give yourself to swing through aggressively with great body rotation. That isn't going to happen while putting. You aren't going to turn your hips through the shot, so you don't need to give yourself that kind of space. To make it easier to position your eyes over the ball – and to avoid having to tilt too much from the hips – make sure to stand rather close to the ball at address. Generally speaking, you would rather stand too close than too far away while preparing to putt. Experiment with a number of different distances from the ball until you find one that offers great results.
One of the best things you can do for your putting performance is simply to practice your stance as much as possible. This probably seems like a very basic element of the game, and it certainly isn't going to be all that exciting to work on, but it will pay off in a big way down the line. By creating a stance that is as comfortable as possible while still placing your eyes directly over the ball, you will be able to swing the putter with confidence as you make your way around the course.
While placing your eyes over the ball is a good idea for the quality of your putting stroke, it isn't necessarily going to be a smooth transition if you are used to putting with your eyes well inside of the line. If you find that you are having a little bit of trouble making the adjustment to this new putting setup, consider using the troubleshooting points below to get yourself back on track.
- Pulling your putts. This is a common problem to experience when you first get your eyes into the right position over the ball. Why? Because, previous to adjusting your eye line, you were probably pulling your putts without even knowing it. When your eyes were inside the target line, you most likely go into the habit (by accident) of aiming to the right of the target. So, over the years, your stroke learned how to pull the ball subconsciously in order to get back on line. Now that you are placing your eyes in the right spot, you are probably doing a much better job of aiming at address. However, your stroke still has that built-in pull tendency to deal with. Therefore, if you are going to putt well while having your eyes over the ball, you need to work hard on making a stroke that stays on the target line as long as possible without pulling off. You can certainly make this adjustment, but it is going to take time and plenty of practice.
- Hitting the ball too hard. After you have adjusted your body into a better position – including placing your eyes over the ball – you might find that you are suddenly hitting your putts too hard. Most likely, the cause of this sudden increase in speed on your putts has to do with the improved contact you are making with the ball at impact. Now that your eyes are over the ball, it is very likely that you are catching the sweet spot more frequently. When that happens, the ball is naturally going to roll out farther than it would when contacted with the toe or heel of the putter on a similar stroke. Through spending time on the practice green, you should be able to quickly recalibrate your distance control now that you find the sweet spot with regularity.
- Coming up short or missing right (or both). One of the reasons that many golfers stick with the plan of keeping their eyes to the inside of the target line is due to the fact that this perspective helps them to see both the hole and the ball at the same time (particularly on short putts). Even though you don't need to see the hole while you are making your stroke, this perspective is sort of a 'security blanket' for many players. However, when you move closer and put your eyes over the ball, you will quickly find that you can no longer see the hole out of the corner of your eye (unless you are hitting a very short putt). When this change occurs, you might find that you are more tempted than ever before to look up early in order to see where the ball is going. Of course, looking up early is a big no-no when putting, and this mistake can cause you to miss your putts short and to the right of the hole. No matter what kind of stance you use, it is always extremely important to keep your head and eyes down all the way through the stroke. Looking up early isn't going to help the ball go in, so you might as well keep your head down and finish off your stroke the right way.
None of the problems included in the list above are going to be major hurdles on the way toward better putting, but you do need to take some time to address them on the practice green. Hopefully, with just a bit of practice time, you can overcome these issues and start to see the ball drop in with regularity.
Other Putting Keys
It is important to make sure that your eyes are in the right position over the ball when you prepare to putt. However, this is only one of many important fundamentals that you need to keep in mind while on the greens. If you would like to putt at the highest level possible, also be sure to work on the other keys listed below.
- Relaxed grip pressure. Many golfers squeeze tightly onto the handle when they address the ball – and this is a big mistake. Your grip should be relaxed at address, as light grip pressure is going to help you swing the club back and through as freely as possible.
- Get a good read. The best stroke in the world isn't going to allow you to make putts if you are unable to match up that great stroke with a correct read. Take your time in reading the greens and commit yourself to a specific target line before you ever take your stance.
- Focus on speed. With all the attention that is paid to picking the right line when you putt, it is easy to overlook the importance of speed in this equation. Once your line is picked, shift your attention to focusing on the correct speed that will be needed to drop the ball into the middle of the cup.
- Lower body stability. This is a point that is not often included with putting tips, but it is crucial to your performance. While the putter is swinging back and through, make sure that your lower body is as stable and quiet as possible.
Golf is more fun when you are making putts. Not only will you be able to turn your good shots into pars and birdies when you putt well, but your putting performance can even help you to save your score on holes where your full swing gets you into trouble. Use the information contained above to make sure you are using a great putting address position. With this piece of the puzzle in place, you will be one step closer to rolling the ball beautifully.