Releasing or rolling the right hand over the left is good in the full swing, not so much in the putting stroke. Yet plenty of golfers flip the right hand and wrist when putting, leading to a variety of mishits, pulls and pushes.
The wrists should be largely inactive during the putting stroke as the arms and shoulders do the work. This starts by gripping the club in the palms, rather than the fingers, and placing the hands so that they face each other directly.
Once you've got the proper grip, you want to ensure that the left wrist does not break down and let the right hand take over during the stroke. This is achieved by maintaining the angle formed between the back of the left hand, wrist and forearm from takeaway to follow-through. Focus on keeping the back of the left hand facing the target throughout the stroke, then hold your finish position. Is the angle the same as it was at address?
Make sure to keep your left arm moving toward the target to the finish. If the left arm stops abruptly, the right hand assumes the dominant role and causes a breakdown. Also, make an effort not to grip the club too tightly.
Maintaining the left wrist angle will keep your putter moving down the target line with a square face, creating better contact and greatly improving your distance control.
Firm Left Wrist Key to Solid Putting Stroke
Drive for show, putt for dough. This classic golf saying pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the importance of putting within the game of golf. Sure, it is fun to launch a great drive down the middle of the fairway, and every golfer enjoy sticking an approach shot close to the pin, but none of it matters if you can't finish the deal by making your putts. Even a great round a ball striking can be ruined if you take 36 putts or more to get around the course. If you want to consistently post good scores, you are going to have to make putts – it's just as simple as that.
Putting is a delicate balance between art and science. That means that you need to learn the proper physical techniques to move the putter properly back and through the stroke (the science), while also allowing the natural feel and touch in your hands to play a role (the art). Golfers who are too mechanical on the putting green will have a hard time controlling their speed or performing under pressure. At the same time, golfers who focus only on feel while ignoring basic mechanics will be highly inconsistent, and will also have trouble when feeling nervous. Only players who can blend these two elements together nicely will be able to enjoy putting success over the long run.
For a right handed golfer, maintaining a firm left wrist throughout the stroke is one of the key mechanical ingredients involved in being a good putter (for a left handed golfer, it would be the right wrist). In many ways, the actions of your left wrist are imitated by the face of the putter itself, so controlling your wrist is directly correlated to controlling the putter head through impact. Any kind of a break down or hesitation that is seen in your wrist will also be seen in the path of the putter. Your goal should be to keep that left wrist firm throughout the stroke, and to keep it accelerating gradually as you make contact with the ball. If you can hit on those two points each and every time, you will be on the right path to becoming a good putter.
One of the great things about working on your left wrist in the putting stroke is the simplicity of this technique. Your mind won't be overrun with technical thoughts while focusing on your left wrist, because the mechanics of the motion are actually very simple. Instead of allowing your mind to dive into more complicated areas, which could distract you from the artistic side of the stroke, keep it simple and use your left wrist as a focus point for your technique. As long as the left wrist behaves, there is a good chance your technique as a whole will be ready for action.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Setting Up for Success
Creating a good address position is important for every shot you hit on the course, and that certainly applies on the putting green. When you take your stance and establish your grip on the handle of the putter, you need to ensure that your left wrist is positioned correctly to begin the stroke. If your wrist is out of position at the start, there will be no chance to correct that mistake later. You only have one shot to get it right, so take some time during an upcoming practice session to rehearse exactly how your left hand and wrist should be positioned.
Following are three keys that you should follow when taking your grip on the putter. If you can hit on each of these three points, your left wrist will be set perfectly to remain firm throughout the stroke.
- Weak left hand position. Using a strong grip is a great idea for most amateur golfers when it comes to the full swing, but that is definitely not the approach you want to take when it comes to the putter. Instead, you should be positioning your left hand in a 'weak' position on the grip, which will allow you to establish a flat left wrist position at address. The best way to get your left hand into a weak position is simply to place your thumb on top of the grip, running straight down the shaft. Most putter grips are flat on the top to make this positioning easier – put your thumb on the flat part of the grip and then wrap the rest of your fingers around the back of the grip. It's that easy. You will notice that as soon as you grab the club in this way, your left wrist will land in a relatively flat position.
- Left arm hanging freely. At address, you want to have your left arm hanging freely from your shoulder so that you can easily swing the putter back and through during the stroke. If your arm feels like it is in an awkward or forced position, it will be difficult to make a naturally putting motion, and you may have to manipulate the putter head with your hands in order to send the ball toward the hole. To allow your arm to hang freely, stand over the ball in a position that provides you with plenty of space, without having to reach at the same time. Once you find the right stance to enable a free arm swing, practice it over and over again until it becomes second nature to you.
- Soft grip pressure. Maintaining a soft grip pressure on the club is another one of those things that you should do on all of your shots, not just your putts. However, it is especially important while putting, as a light grip pressure will help you keep your hands out of the stroke. Ideally you will swing the putter by using your shoulders while your arms and hands simply go along for the ride. If your grip is too tight, however, you may find that your hands want to take over the stroke at some point. This mistake would quickly cause you to lose your firm left wrist, and you would likely roll the ball off line more often than not. It doesn't take much grip pressure to maintain control over the putter while rolling the ball across the green, so keep your hands soft and let your shoulders do the work.
It might not be very exciting to head to the golf course only to spend time practicing the address position you will use while putting, but working on these basic keys can pay big dividends on the course. If you would like to be able to hold your left wrist firm while hitting your putts, the three points listed above are going to be a great help in working toward that goal.
Keep It Simple
As humans, we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. When it comes to golf, that is certainly the case. Instead of just moving the putter back and through to send the ball on its way, most golfers over-analyze each and every single bit of the putting stroke. While some of this work can lead to improved mechanics, most of it will just cause confusion within your brain. Keeping it simple, in golf and in life, is almost always the best way to go.
The best putters are the players who simply see the target in front of them and react with a smooth, relaxed stroke. You should think about putting in much the same way a basketball player thinks about shooting the ball. Does a basketball player have time to analyze each element of his jump shot before letting the ball fly? Of course not – they have only a brief moment of time in which to shoot before a defender will arrive to block the shot. Unfortunately, in golf, you have all the time in the world to think and get in your own way. Resist the temptation to overthink your putting stroke simply because you have time to do so. Instead, act more like a basketball player while you are on the putting green. See the hole, see the break, and let it go. It really can be just that easy.
One of the best reasons to focus on a firm left wrist in your putting stroke is that you can keep your stroke simple when you use this technique. Once the line has been picked out and you are ready to hit the putt, switch your focus to your left wrist and keep it there throughout the putting motion. As long as you keep your left wrist flat and firm, you will have a great chance to start the ball precisely on the line that you selected. You won't run the risk of cluttering up your mind with technical thoughts when you focus on the left wrist because it is a simple and straightforward way to putt. Take the back of your left wrist toward the hole and let the rest take care of itself.
In addition to keeping your physical technique simple, you should keep your preparation for each putt simple as well. Have you ever played with someone who took three minutes to read a short putt from every possible angle, only to miss it anyway? In reality, you aren't going to gain anything from taking long periods of time to read your putts. Of course, you shouldn't rush either – make sure you get a good look at the putt from both behind your ball and behind the hole. However, once those reads have been made, pick a line and roll the ball. If you take longer than necessary to read your putts, you are only going to cause confusion and doubt in your mind. Going with your first instinct is generally the best way to play the game.
There is one other benefit to keeping your putting game simple – you will have more fun. Golf is supposed to be fun, after all, and you aren't likely to have fun if you are stressing out over every single detail on the greens. By keeping your putting stroke simple and taking a basic approach to reading the greens, you will be able to enjoy the experience far more than if your mind was working in overdrive to dissect every last little piece of the process.
Defeat the Yips
Whether you know it or not, the yips live in the left wrist. When you are putting well and keeping your left wrist firm, the yips will remain hidden and they won't affect your short putting. However, if you allow that left wrist to soften up through impact, the yips can ruin your day. Missing short putts due to the yips is one of the most frustrating experiences that you can have on a golf course, so you should do everything in your power to keep them at bay. Fortunately, it is quite simple – keep your left wrist firm and flat and you shouldn't have any trouble popping in the vast majority of your short putts.
One of the best ways to avoid ever having to deal with the yips is to understand exactly how they work. When a player is fighting the yips, the physical mistake is usually the left wrist cupping just prior to impact. Basically, that means that the hands have stopped moving toward the target, so the hands have to take over the job of pushing the putter head through the ball. As a result, the putter face is moved off target, and the ball is either pushed or pulled past the hole. Often, as the yips get worse, the player will start to speed up their stroke as they are nervous about the outcome of the putt, which will only make the problem harder to solve. In the worst cases, the yips can completely ruin a putting stroke to the point where the player will have to start over completely.
Now that you know what the yips look like, however, you should be able to avoid getting to that point. As soon as you start to notice signs of the yips becoming a problem in your putting stroke, you can revert back to the basic fundamentals of putting until you have successfully eliminated any developing issues.
So how do you know when the yips might be taking root in your stroke? Watch for the following signs –
- Missing short putts badly. Everyone misses short putts from time to time, so hitting a couple of three or four footers that squeak by the edge of the hole shouldn't be cause for concern. However, if you are missing badly from short range, there may be something more serious going on in your stroke. You never want to overreact to a single bad putt, or even a couple of bad putts, but you do need to take action if a pattern begins to develop.
- Lacking confidence. Your mind has a way of knowing that something isn't right in your technique. If you are lacking confidence when you stand over your short putts, it could be because your brain knows that your technique has gotten off track. Don't ignore this drop in confidence – instead, head to the practice putting green to work on your stroke and make sure you aren't allowing the position of your left wrist to deteriorate at impact.
- Pressure problems. Are you making most of your short putts, only to see them miss the hole when they matter the most? Poor short putting under pressure is a classic feature of the yips. When you start to feel nervous is when you need your fundamentals the most, so focus in on using your left wrist to steady the stroke and keep the club head accelerating all the way through the ball. Remember, your hands should be moving through impact, with your left wrist leading the way.
Just like any other technique problem in your golf game, it will only get harder to fix the yips the longer you let them go. If you can catch this problem before it really becomes a major issue, you may only need to go through a practice session or two to get back on track. If you allow it to go unchecked, however, it could be months before you get back to putting your best.
The best way to learn how to use your left wrist to control the putting stroke is simply to keep your right hand off the club altogether. Not on the course, obviously, but during your practice sessions. By practice putting with just your left hand on the club, you will be forced to use proper technique with your left wrist. Once you have spent some time hitting a few one-handed putts, you can go back to putting two-handed – and you will likely be amazed at the improvement that you have made.
To get started with a one-handed practice session, drop a few golf balls within a couple feet of a hole on the practice green. At first, you should be hitting putts of just two or three feet until you get the hang of this drill. Take your grip by putting both hands on the club as usual, then simply drop your right hand off of the grip and put it behind your back or in your pocket. While focusing on the position of your left wrist, knock a few putts into the hole. Be sure to follow all of the other usual putting fundamentals while doing this drill, such as keeping your eyes on the ball and keeping your lower body still. After you have gotten the hang of putting one-handed from short range, go ahead and back up to eight or ten feet away from the cup.
While this is a great drill to help you learn how to keep your left wrist firm, you shouldn't try putting from long range while using just one hand. Without your right hand on the putter to steady the club head, your technique will actually break down from long distance and you will do more harm than good. Limit yourself to putts of around twenty feet at the longest, and most of your time should be spent from inside of ten feet. If you wish to work on your putting from longer range, go ahead and put your other hand back on the club.
It shouldn't take very long while completing a one-handed practice session for you to realize that the key to controlling the putter through impact is to keep your left wrist moving toward the hole. If your left wrist stops, the putter will have to be released by your left hand, and the ball will roll off line. If you are consistently knocking three foot putts right into the back of the hole while just using your left hand, you should feel confident that your mechanics are in a good place. This doesn't have to be just a one-time practice drill, either – you can even incorporate this simple drill into your pre-round routine. When done correctly one-handed practice putting is a great way to build confidence in your putting mechanics before you walk to the first tee.
Putting is difficult, but there is no reason to make it more complicated than it has to be. If you want to make more putts, you need to learn how to control the movement and position of your left wrist. By using a flat and firm left wrist, you should be able to roll the ball on line time and time again. Also, this technique will make it much easier to hit your putts on the sweet spot of the putter. Use the one-handed putting drill, along with the rest of the advice contained above, and you will be well on your way to making big improvements on the greens.