Missing putts left most likely means you're lined up in that direction. If not, the next step is to check your setup positions. If all systems are go there, you've got stroke issues.
Let's examine how your address can cause you to pull putts. The fixes for these faults should be self-explanatory:
- Standing too close to the ball: This will force the arms away from the body on the back-stroke, sending it outside the target line. Return it to the ball on the same path and, voila, there's your pull.
- Ball too far forward in your stance: Most teachers recommend placing the ball in the middle of your stance, or ever so slightly forward (closer to the hole). Get it too far forward, though, and by the time the putter face reaches impact it will have passed the square position and rotated closed.
- Starting a few feet from the hole (or target object if practicing at home), place a second ball 6-8 inches behind the one you're putting.
- Make your backstroke without hitting the second ball.
- On the through-stroke, finish at least 6-8 inches beyond the starting point. In other words, your follow-through should be longer than your back-stroke.
After these fundamental flaws, a decelerating stroke is by far the most common cause of pulled putts. When your putter slows down before contact, the toe turns inward and the face becomes closed. Here's a time-tested drill to groove an accelerating stroke:
Try this drill from varying distances, increasing the space between the second ball and the putted ball as you move farther out. You'll emerge with a shorter, firmer stroke that eliminates deceleration – and those dreaded pulls.
Pulling Your Putts – Causes and Cures
You don't have to play golf for very long to begin to understand the importance of putting on your scores. It is great to have the ability to hit long drives or accurate approaches, but none of those shots will matter if you are unable to make your putts. The ability to make putts on a consistent basis takes pressure off of the rest of your game because you will always know there is the potential to hole a great putt and save your score. On the other side of the coin, poor putting can create pressure on the rest of your shots, as you will feel like you need to be perfect from tee to green. Any way you look at it, putting is the single most-important aspect of the game of golf.
Every golfer misses putts – that is simply a fact of the way the game is played. You aren't going to be perfect on the putting green, and you need to learn how to maintain your patience when a couple of putts slide by the edge of the hole. However, when missing easy putts becomes more and more common during your rounds, you will need to take action to correct the problem. If you allow your poor putting to continue for too long, it will start to erode your confidence – and it could take a long time to rebuild the confidence in this crucial part of your game.
One of the best ways to improve your putting is to look for patterns. If you spot a pattern in the way that you are missing the hole, you can use that information to work on improvements to your putting technique. For many amateur golfers, the pattern that shows up more often than any other is pulling putts to the left of the hole.
The key to making putts is starting the ball perfectly on your target line, time after time. That might seem obvious, but it is a point that many golfers lose sight of while working on their putting. It is easy to get distracted by the wide range of variables that you can work on in your putting technique, but the goal should always be simple – roll the ball right down the line that you have selected. When you do this consistently, you will still miss the occasional putt, but you will make more than your share.
If you have noticed that you tend to miss the majority of your putts to the left of the hole, the content below will walk you through both the causes and cures of this frustrating problem. All of the instruction included below is based on a right handed golfer, so please reverse the directions as needed if you putt left handed.
Three Ways to Pull Your Putts
Putting is not nearly as complicated from a technical standpoint as the full swing. When you hit a full shot, the club head can be moving in excess of 100 MPH, and there are a number of different moving parts that need to be coordinated perfectly to achieve success. By comparison, putting is relatively simple. The putter head moves slowly through the ball even on long putts, and most of your body stays still while your shoulders rock back and forth to power the shot. Putting is not easy, of course, but it is not nearly as complicated as the full swing.
That is good news, then, if you are trying to improve your putting. While it will take some practice, you can expect to see your hard work pay off quickly on the putting green. Where it might take weeks or months for changes in your full swing to really take effect, you can putt better in your very next round after a practice session. If you would like to see an instant payoff from your practice time, the putting green is certainly the place to be.
Before you can start to correct your putting stroke, you need to determine what is wrong in the first place. At this point, all you know is that you are pulling your putts. That is a good starting point, but what you really want to know is why you are pulling your putts. Only when you have determined a cause of the pulls can you really get to work on fixing the problem. Following are three common causes of pulled putts on the golf course.
- Overactive right hand. If you are pulling your putts, there is a good chance that your right hand is too-active during the stroke. Ideally, your hands will simply stabilize the putter while your shoulders do the work of moving it back and through the ball. However, many golfers get into a bad habit of using their hands actively – especially in the forward stroke. When your right hand starts to become involved in the stroke, it will close the putter face to the target line and your putt will miss to the left of the hole. Taking the right hand action out of your stroke will make your putting more consistent and should eliminate your tendency to miss to the left.
- Short backstroke. There is an element of timing within the putting stroke, just as there is in the full swing. Good timing will allow you to return the putter face to a square position at impact time after time. However, when your stroke gets too short and the timing is thrown off, you are likely to start missing left. If you cut your backstroke off too early, you will be forced to use your hands to apply enough speed to the putter head to roll the ball all the way to the hole. That means that your right hand is going to be too active, and you will be missing left just as in the previous point. Much of the time you spend on the practice putting green should be dedicated to working on your tempo and rhythm because those elements play a crucial role in the consistency of your performance.
- Lower body movement. If you move your upper body too early during the forward stroke, you will likely miss your putt to the right. This is commonly see when golfers look up early to watch where the ball is going – the putter never releases, and the ball is pushed off line. However, if you are missing left, your lower body is more likely to be to blame. If you allow your legs to move as you are swinging the putter through the ball, the face is going to close and the ball will be pulled left. Unlike in the full swing, your legs should not play an active role in the putting stroke. Once you have taken a solid stance at address, the only job assigned to your legs is to remain stable until the ball has been struck. When you feel movement in your lower body before you hit the ball, you will know that there is a problem.
Pulling putts to the left of the hole is not as common as missing them to the right. With that said, plenty of golfers fight the pulls on the putting green – especially on short putts. If that sounds like you, there is a good chance that your mistake is found in the list of three problems above. Think about the putting stroke that you make currently and try to identify the point where things are going wrong. Only when you have decided what is causing your pulls should you move on to making the necessary corrections.
A Fix for Each Problem
The previous section identified three problems that may be leading to your pattern of pulling putts left of the target. With your specific problem successfully identified, you now need to move on to getting that problem fixed so you can start rolling your putts on line once again. Following is the mechanical fix that correlates to each of the three problems from the previous section.
- Use your left shoulder. When your right hand seems to want to do too much of the work during your swing, the best way to fix the problem is to focus on your left shoulder. By using the movement of the left shoulder to power your stroke, you will be less-tempted to engage your right hand during the forward stroke. The putting stroke, when done correctly, is quite simple – your shoulders rock back and forth, and the ball is rolled smoothly away from the putter. To keep things simple, you can key on your left shoulder during the stroke itself. After taking your stance, start the putter in motion by pushing your left shoulder down toward the ground. When the backstroke is completed, your left shoulder reverses its motion and the putter comes forward through the ball. While most golfers make the putting stroke quite complicated, it can actually be beautifully simple. As you stand on the practice green hitting putt after putt, focus on using your left shoulder to control the action and your active right hand should be a problem of the past.
- Relax your grip pressure. Believe it or not, the grip pressure that you use while putting can be directly related to the length of your backstroke. When you use a tight grip on the putter, you will be more-inclined to cut your backstroke short and rush your way through the ball. If this is a problem for you on the putting green, try relaxing your grip to give your stroke a better tempo. When you use a relaxed grip, your hands will have less control over the putter head, so you will be forced to manage the stroke using only your shoulders. As long as your shoulders are in charge, you won't be able to cut the backstroke short and still hit the ball hard enough to reach the hole. Practice with a relaxed grip and you should quickly learn how nicely you can roll the ball when you allow the stroke to flow naturally from start to finish.
- Control your knees. A great stance prior to starting your putting stroke is just as important as it is when getting ready to hit a full shot. However, once your putting stroke starts, your lower body should be held in place until the putt is completed. If you allow your legs to move around during the stroke, a variety of problems can develop – including the pulls. As a way to keep your legs steady, focus on the position of your knee caps during the stroke. While on the practice green, hit a few putts in a row where your only focus is on holding your knees in place. It doesn't matter if you make or miss – just strive to control your knees successfully. As long as your knees aren't moving, you will know that the rest of your legs are maintaining their address position perfectly.
As you can see, the fixes for these putting problems are relatively simple. There isn't any complicated swing theory needed when it comes to putting – it just comes down to basic fundamentals and quality practice sessions. No matter which of the three points above applies to your putting stroke, be sure to put in enough practice time to make the necessary changes.
Two Drills to Fix the Pulls
Putting drills are a great way to break bad habits and form good ones. One of the best things about putting drills is that since they don't require nearly as much effort as full swing drills, you should be able to work on them for a longer period of time. If you can stand on the practice green for an extended period of time working on the two drills below, you should be able to quickly improve your technique – and your results on the course.
The first drill requires your putter, a tee, and five golf balls, along with a hole on the practice green that you can use for your target. Try to find a hole that is on a flat section of the green so you don't have to worry about reading any side-to-side break in the putt. Once you find a flat section, place the tee in the ground approximately five feet from the hole. Set the five golf balls down next to the tee. One at a time, try to roll each of the five balls into the hole.
Of course, the drill isn't quite that simple. Instead of using your usual grip for these putts, you are going to modify your grip to take your right hand out of the equation. Start by grabbing onto the putter with your left hand as you would normally. Next, place your right hand on top of your left so that your right hand isn't actually touching the grip of the putter (it should only be touching your left hand). This 'stacked' putting grip will take all control over the putter away from your right hand, and you will be required to hit your putts by rocking your shoulders back and through. Try to make all five putts while using this modified grip, and repeat the drill as many times as you would like.
The second drill to help you correct your problem with pulled putts requires the same set up equipment at the first drill – your putter, five golf balls, and a tee. This time, however, you are going to place the tee into the ground near the hole itself. Use the steps below to complete the drill.
- Pick out a putt on the practice green that you wish to use for the drill. It can be anywhere between 4'-8' long, and it should be relatively flat, as in the first drill. You don't need to mark an exact distance for these putts – just place the five golf balls down on the green at your chosen spot.
- Walk up to the hole and place the tee into the ground just slightly left of the cup. Use a golf ball to measure out the spot where you are going to place the tee – it should be one ball width left of the hole. Leave enough of the tee sticking out of the ground that it will stop or deflect your ball if you should happen to pull one of the putts.
- Head back to your group of five golf balls and start to hit some putts. You aren't going to modify your stroke in any way for this drill – just use your normal technique and try to make as many putts as possible. Prior to each putt, go through your pre-shot routine just as you would on the golf course.
- For this drill, you are going to keep score to track your progress. The scoring goes as follows: 3 points for a made putt, 0 points for a miss to the right, -1 for a putt that hits the tee, and -3 for a putt that misses to the left of the tee. Obviously, the scoring is designed to encourage you to either make the putt, or miss it to the right, as you are penalized for missing to the left.
- At first, make it your goal to finish the drill with a positive score. Once you improve your stroke and your pulls become less frequent, strive for a perfect score of 15 for a set of five putts.
Each of these drills will help you eliminate the left-side miss from your putting stroke. Of course, you will never completely stop missing your putts to the left, as there are a number of reasons why the ball can drift in that direction – even when you make a good stroke. However, through the use of the tips above and these two drills, you should be able to quickly improve your performance on the putting green.
Breaking Bad Habits on the Course
If you spend some quality time working on your stroke on the practice green, you should be able to quickly correct the problems that have led to left-side misses. Unfortunately, those improvements don't always translate onto the golf course. You might find that the pulls return to your stroke as soon as you play your next round. You have built up your putting patterns and habits over years of play, and they usually won't go away without a fight.
The solution to this problem is to focus on the technical details that have allowed you to improve on the practice green. It is easy to become solely focused on 'make or miss' on the course. Obviously, you want to make your putts, but you need to focus your mind on the process rather than the outcome. When you only think about the outcome, it is easy to lose track of the mechanical changes that you have made to your stroke. Don't waste all of that practice time by letting your mind wander when you are on the course.
Before each and every putt that you hit during your next round, focus your mind on the technical aspects of your putting stroke. Ignore the results and worry only about the process – this approach will allow you to translate your hard work onto the course sooner rather than later. Eventually, your new technique will become natural and you will be able to simply head out to the course with a clear mind and play your best.
A pattern of pulling putts to the left of the hole is a sure sign that your putting stroke needs some kind of mechanical improvement. Too many golfers just assume that they will have good and bad days on the putting green, so they only worry about improving their full swings. This is a mistake. Players who are serious about shooting lower scores will embrace the process of putting better through detailed practice. Don't continue to pull your putts left without taking action – use the information contained above to solve the problem and get ready to see more of your putts roll into the middle of the hole.