If you've got a 5-foot putt with no break, where are you most likely to miss it? If you're a right-hander who answered “to the right,” read on. (Same for you lefties who miss left.)
First, make sure your aim is sound. Find a short, straight putt and place a ball with its alignment guide aimed directly at the center of the hole, match up your putters alignment accordingly, and stroke it. If you miss right, its a path problem.
The two most common causes of pushed putts, both with obvious cures:
- Standing too far from the ball: Very simply, you'll take the putter back too far inside the target line and return it on the same path, with the putter head moving out (right of the hole) toward the ball.
- Ball too far back in your stance: In this case, you won't have enough room to return the putter to a square position at impact. Put another way, you'll strike the ball before your stroke reaches its mid-point, so the face will be open.
- Stroke path is inside-out: Even if your setup is spot on, you could be yanking the putter back inside the line. While an inside-out path is highly desirable in the full swing, that's not the case when putting. You may even suffer from a stroke that starts outside, then loops back to the inside on the transition from back to forward.
- Stroke is outside-in, with the face open at impact: This is the equivalent of the full-swing slice. Striking the ball in this manner creates sidespin – even at the minimal impact speed of putting – which causes the ball to veer right.
- Place two golf balls 4-6 inches apart, on either side of the line of a straight putt and a foot in front of your ball.
- Stroke the putt directly between the two balls.
If neither of the above issues describes you, lets look at a couple more possibilities:
If your stroke is out of whack, try the “two-ball drill” to straighten it out:
If youre pushing putts into or close to the ball on the right, you'll learn to adjust as needed to hit it dead straight. Whatever your ailment, it will naturally work itself out.
Everything You Need to Know About Pushing Your Putts
If you hope to lower your scores as fast as possible, the first place you should look is the putting green. The quickest way to have your practice efforts turn into lower scores on the course is through working on your putting, because changes to your putting stroke take much less time to learn than do changes to your swing. You could potentially work on improving your putting stroke today and have it start to pay off on the course in your very next round. Don't make the mistake of taking your putting for granted – every golfer can stand to benefit from a better putting stroke.
For most players who have trouble on the putting green, one mistake tends to dominate the majority of their misses. For example, you may miss most of your putts to the right, or to the left, or they may come up short. Whatever your own pattern happens to be, it will tell you a lot about the putting stroke that you are making and what kind of corrections are necessary. The content below is going to focus on pushed putts, which are putts that will miss to the right of the hole (for a right handed golfer).
Consistently pushing your putts can be highly frustrating because you may quickly find that you are having trouble making even the shortest of putts. If faulty mechanics are to blame for pushing the ball to the right of the hole, it wont matter how long or short the putt might be – you will always have a chance to miss. Not only will pushed putts hurt on the scorecard, but they will also start to chip away at your confidence throughout the rest of the game. In order to keep your confidence high and your game heading in the right direction, you will need to correct this putting issue as soon as possible.
While most golfers who struggle with pushing putts have a mechanical flaw in their technique, pushed putts can be a mental problem as well. If you miss just a few putts to the right of the hole, you might start to worry about that miss and your future putting strokes could be affected by that fear. Only when you are able to bring together quality technique with the proper mindset for putting can you expect to see the ball fall in the hole regularly.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed player, be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Finding the Mechanical Flaws
When you start to notice that you are having an issue with pushing putts on a regular basis, the first step you should take is trying to find the mechanical flaws that are causing the ball to miss right of the target line. If you wait too long to address the problem, those faulty mechanics will become more and more difficult to correct later on down the line. Deal with it now so you can start making more putts as soon as possible.
Below are three of the most-common technical mistakes that can cause putts to miss to the right of hole.
- Head moving early. The majority of people who struggle with pushed putts are going to find that their head is moving too early during the stroke. Ideally, you should have your head down throughout the stroke, only allowing it to look up once the ball has been hit and is on the way toward the hole. If you start to move your head and eyes up toward the hole before you hit the ball, the putter face may not quite finish releasing. The result will be a putt that starts to the right of the intended target line and has no chance of going in. Although it is one of the first things that you learn as a golfer, keeping your head down is a fundamental that you cant afford to forget about no matter how long you play.
- Long backstroke. There are a number of problems that can be caused by a backstroke that is too long, and pushing your putts is one of them. When the backstroke gets too long, you wont be able to properly release the putter through the hitting area because you will have to slow the putter down to avoid hitting the ball too hard. As you slow down through impact, the club face will be left open, and the ball will again miss to the right of your target. You want to keep your backstroke as compact as possible to give yourself the best chance of making an aggressive forward stroke that starts the ball on line with proper speed.
- No release. When making a full swing, it is necessary to allow the club to release through the hitting area in order to get the club face square to the target line. The same idea applies with the putter. As you swing the putter back away from the ball, the face will become open to the target line. Therefore, as it swings forward, it needs to rotate back to the left in order to become square at just the right moment. Many golfers struggle with this concept as they attempt to steer the ball into the hole. You cant guide your putts into the hole – you need to hit them just like you hit any other shot on the course. By taking the mindset of hitting through your putts, the face of the club should have a far easier time returning to square.
The vast majority of golfers who are having trouble with hitting pushed putts are going to find their own mistakes within the three points above. Take some time to analyze your current putting stroke to determine if one or more of the problems above are causing you to miss putts to the right. Once the problems are identified you can get to work on making the necessary corrections.
Addressing Your Putting Problems
Putting practice might not be the most exciting part of golf, but it is necessary for success. If you hope to make more putts on a regular basis, you are going to have to invest the time on the practice green to learn good habits and get rid of bad ones. It isn't good enough to simply stand on the practice green and hit a bunch of putts – you need to have a specific purpose for those putts so you can actually make progress. Since putting doesn't require much from your body from a physical perspective, you should be able to put in as much practice as necessary to make improvements in short order.
To help you get the most out of the time you spend practicing, following are tips for working on correcting the three problems that were outlined above.
- Keeping your head still. It isn't hard to keep your head still – all you have to do is, well, nothing. Assuming you start with your head in a good position with your eyes looking down at the ball, you need to make a stroke that allows you to stay in that same position until the ball is gone. That shouldn't be very hard, but your mind may get in the way and convince you to look up before you should. A great way to practice keeping your head down is to hit a series of short putts while only listening for the ball to drop into the cup. Set up five golf balls at approximately five feet away from a hole on the putting green. Try to find a putt without very much break in either direction. Hit each of the five putts while never once looking up at the hole. Simply listen to learn if the putt went in or not. After all five putts have been struck, look up and see where your misses went – hopefully, the ones that didn't go in were missed to the left of the hole. That is a sure sign that you have successfully taken the tendency to push your putts out of your stroke. You can use this drill on a regular basis, even before a round, to control the movement of your head and reinforce good mechanics.
- Shortening your backstroke. Making the change to a shorter backstroke can be a major challenge because you will have to slightly adjust the natural tempo that you use to hit your putts. However, if you want to fix the problem of pushing your putts, making a more compact putting stroke is a necessary step to take. There will be some practice time required to get use to the new stroke, but it will be worth it. To learn how to make a shorter stroke, start by hitting a few putts without using any backstroke at all. Simply start the putter head a few inches behind the ball, and move it forward through impact. You should only be hitting putts from five or six feet away with this drill. You will quickly notice that you don't need to start the putter very far behind the ball in order to create enough speed to reach the cup. After hitting a few putts with no backstroke, move back to your usual putting stroke but remember how little distance is needed between the ball and the putter head. Make a short stroke and accelerate smoothly through the ball. Continue to alternate between hitting putts with no backstroke and hitting normal putts until you are comfortable using a compact backstroke on all of your putts.
- Learning the release. The best way to learn how to release the putter through impact is to hit a series of putts with only your right hand. The right arm is really the part of your body that will allow the putter to release through the hitting area, so using it alone for a few putts should help you to feel that sensation. Most of the time, it is the left hand that is guilty of causing the pushed putt – so take it out of the equation for the time being. Hit several short putts with only your right hand and focus on feeling the release. It shouldn't take long before you are making the majority of your short practice putts even with only one hand. As you add the left hand back onto the grip, make sure you don't lose the release you have just learned. Continue to allow the right hand to release the putter while using your left hand to simply guide and steady the club throughout the stroke.
There are no shortcuts in golf that will lead you to better results. If you want to play better, you need to practice, and that is certainly true when it comes to putting. Work on each of the three areas included above and you should find that pushed putts quickly become a thing of the past.
Correcting Your Aim on the Course
Once your stroke is corrected and you are rolling the ball on line more often than not, you will still have a problem – the bad habits that you have developed over the years. Since you have been pushing your putts for some period of time, you will have likely started to aim left to account for the push that you usually hit. Even if you have been making that adjustment subconsciously, it is still something that will need to be taken out of your putting process. If you were to continue aiming left of the actual target, you could be led to believe that there was still a problem with your stroke – even if your stroke was perfect.
In order to work this bad habit out of your stroke for good, you need to basically start over and relearn how to aim your putts. Having a consistent process that you go through prior to each putt is the best way to be sure that you are aiming accurately and giving your putts the best possible chance to go in. Following is a step-by-step process that you can use to get your putter lined up correctly prior to each stroke.
- Start behind the ball. Each putt should begin with you standing behind the ball looking at the target line. Remember, the target line does not necessarily mean a line that runs directly to the hole. You should pick out the target line based on the break that you are expecting in the putt. Once that line is picked out, keep your eye on it as you prepare to walk up to the ball and take your stance.
- Set the putter down. When you walk up to the ball, the putter should be the first thing to take its position. Rather than setting your feet in place first, you want to establish the position and angle of the putter behind the ball before doing anything else. Take care to place the putter head down behind the ball so that it is perfectly positioned to roll the ball exactly on your target line.
- Set your feet. Only when the putter is in position and properly aimed should you take your stance. Stand in a comfortable position that will allow you to freely swing the putter back and through. Since you aren't making a full swing or a big shoulder turn, you wont need as much knee flex while putting as you need when hitting a regular shot.
- Take a look at the hole. With the preparations finished, the last thing that you need to do is look up at the hole one last time. This last look is your opportunity to get a final judge of the distance so that you can roll the ball just the right speed. At this point, you shouldn't be thinking at all about your target line – that part of the process is completed. The only concern that you should have at this point is the speed of the putt. Get the speed right and the outcome of the putt should be a good one.
- Hit the ball. When your eyes return from looking up at the hole and are back to looking down at the ball, start your stroke. There should be very little delay at this point, as any idle time will only give you a chance to doubt yourself. As soon as your eyes arrive back at the ball, start the putter in motion and make your best stroke. Having good tempo on the putting green doesn't just include the actual stroke, but also everything that leads up to it. Your entire putting process should be consistent and reliable throughout the round.
Many amateur golfers ignore the need for a pre-putt routine, and their performance suffers as a result. If you are going to consistently aim accurately down your target line, you need to have a routine that is the same from hole to hole and round to round. Use the process above so you can correct any bad aiming habits that you may have developed over the years.
Getting Your Mind Out of the Way
It is possible that your putting stroke isn't causing your problem with pushed putts after all. It could be that your technique is just fine, and your mind is standing in your way. The putting green is the place where most golfers fight problems with confidence and nerves, so you certainly wouldn't be the first player to deal with mental hurdles while putting. Of course, if you are going to ever reach your potential on the greens, you have to find a way around this problem.
When it comes to pushing putts, the issue is almost always one of confidence. When you lack confidence, you wont have the trust in your hands and arms to release the putter through the hitting area. The blade of the putter will stay open, and the putt will miss to the right of the hole. If you ever watch professional golf near the end of a tournament, you may notice that many of the pressure putts are missed to the right. This is the same thing that happens to amateurs – fear and lack of confidence leads to a tentative stroke, which causes the ball to be pushed off line.
The only way to solve this issue is to earn your confidence on the practice green. When you spend plenty of time making hundreds or thousands of short putts, you will earn the right to be confident on the course. You wont have to wonder if your putting stroke is good enough, because you will have proven that fact to yourself. When you face a difficult short putt on the course late in a round, your mind will be able to think back to all of those successful practice putts when looking for confidence. Believing in yourself is a powerful feeling in golf, and it comes from quality practice sessions.
One other trick that can help to keep your mind from getting in the way is simply taking some of the pressure off yourself. Before an important putt, remember that it is just golf, and it is still a game. While you badly want to make the putt, it isn't the most important thing in the world. Understand that all you can do is give your best effort to hit a quality putt, and the outcome will be what it will be.
A pattern of pushing putts can cause you to waste several strokes during a round of golf. There is very little that is as frustrating in golf as hitting great shots to put your ball in position for a par or birdie, only to hit a lousy putt and waste your chance. If you find that you are missing most of your putts to the right of the target, take the time to work through the instruction contained above to iron out the problems and get your ball rolling in the right direction.