Have you ever noticed how professional golfers hold their finish when putting, sometimes for several seconds after the ball has left the club? The great Jack Nicklaus was famous for this, staring down the ball as it tracked toward the hole, his putter rock-solid in its final position.
The pros aren't posing on their putts. Holding the finish helps keep your body still throughout the stroke as the arms and shoulders control the blade. It ensures that your head stays steady, too, an overlooked key to good putting.
While maintaining the finish position seems easy enough, it can prove difficult for some golfers. There's a temptation to peek as the ball leaves the blade, especially on short putts, which causes the shoulders to rise prematurely.
If your putter tends to wander after impact, or if you come up quickly out of your stance, practice holding the finish until the ball reaches the hole from close range; on longer attempts, wait until the ball is halfway home before releasing your finish. Maintain your address posture throughout.
As an added bonus, this technique keeps your eyes watching the ball for the length of a putt, providing feedback on the greens' speed and break.
Hold the Finish to Improve Your Putting
As you already know, you need to make more putts if you want to shoot lower scores. While that is breaking news to no one, it is still important to keep in mind the importance of putting as you strive to play better golf. You can stand on the driving range for as long as you like working on your swing technique, but better ball striking will only get you so far. At some point, the ball has to be knocked into the hole, and it is your putting stroke that is going to be required to complete that task more often than not. If you can roll good putts on a consistent basis, you should be able to post scores you are happy with – even if your ball striking remains a work in progress.
One of the best things you can do to improve your putting is to hold your finish steady while the ball rolls toward the hole. We know what you are thinking at this point – why does it matter if I hold my finish? If the ball is already on its way, how could holding my finish have anything to do with the outcome of the putt? Well, it all comes down to what happens leading up to impact. If you are committed mentally to holding your finish nicely, you will be more likely to do everything else right prior to striking the ball. Think of your finish position as evidence that tells the story of the stroke you have made – a good finish position usually points to a good stroke, and a bad finish position points to trouble.
The finish position of your putting stroke is one of those small details in the game of golf that is easy to overlook – but it is important nonetheless. In fact, the game is full of these kinds of small details, and they make up the majority of what you need to be concerned with during your day to day practice. If you can nail all of the little points along the way, the big parts of your game will likely fall into place without much trouble. So, while the finish position of your putting stroke might seem like a minute detail, it actually can be considered a building block toward a much improved game.
Before we get into the specifics of your putting finish position and how it can impact your performance, we should quickly highlight the need to simply practice putting in general. Most amateur golfers overlook the need to hit practice putts on a regular basis, instead walking straight past the putting green on their way to the driving range. You don't get better at putting just by accident – you only improve if you commit to practicing this part of your game regularly. Take time out of each and every practice session to work on your putting technique and you will start to see results in the very near future.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play (or at least putt) left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as needed.
Why You Should Hold Your Finish
You always should have a good idea of why it is that you need to do something in your game before you actually do it. There is nothing wrong with following the directions of an instructor, but instruction has more meaning when you get the 'why' behind the 'what'. With that in mind, the following three points highlight why it is important to hold your finish after you strike a putt.
- Keep your head in place. You certainly know already that you are supposed to keep your head still while putting. That is true – and it is also true that holding your finish position after the ball has been struck will help you to keep your head down successfully time after time. If you get into the habit of pulling up out of your finish position almost immediately after you hit a putt, you might start to let that habit leak into earlier portions of your stroke – until you reach the point where you are looking up before the ball has even been touched by the putter. By prioritizing the seemingly simple point of keeping your finish position in place after you hit the ball, you will make sure that you keep your head down all throughout the stroke until the ball is well on its way to the cup.
- Make better contact. Holding your finish requires that you keep everything down and through the stroke – including your head, arms, hands, shoulders, and more. Also, to hold your finish properly, you will have to keep your lower body stable. All of these things add up to giving you a much better chance to make solid contact when you impact the ball. Hitting the ball on the center of the putter face might seem like a relatively easy thing to do, but it is actually a bigger challenge than you may understand. Focus on your finish position and it will instantly become much easier to find the middle of the putter face when making a stroke.
- See the ball roll. This is an overlooked element of putting by many amateur golfers, but it is extremely important if you want to avoid three putting. As your ball is rolling toward the hole, you should be watching it carefully – even if you already know it isn't going to go in. Why? Because you can use the information you gather from watching the ball roll to decide how you are going to approach the next putt. For example, if the first putt runs three feet by the cup, you will have seen exactly how the ball is going to break on that part of the green, so you can use that info to aim your comebacker. If you had looked away in disgust while the ball was rolling, you would have no idea what to expect for your next putt and you may wind up missing it as well. Hold your finish, watch the ball roll all the way until it comes to a rest, and you will have a much better chance to get off the green in just two strokes.
There may be more than just these three reasons why you should hold your finish after hitting a putt, but the list above should be enough motivation for you to work on this point during your next practice session. Holding your finish position doesn't take any extra effort or talent, but it can pay off in a big way when it comes to holing as many putts as possible.
Finding a Good Finish Position
You are probably very familiar with what a good finish position looks like in the full swing, however you might not be as clear when it comes to putting. In the full swing, you will want to see your weight over onto your left foot, your chest turned toward the target, and your hands high in the air as the club is wrapped around your back. Of course, none of those points are going to apply in any way to your putting finish position. Instead, you will have an entirely different set of points to look for when confirming that you have held your finish nicely.
When you are ready to head out to the practice putting green to work on your finish position, check yourself for the points included in the list below –
- Great balance. Perhaps more important than anything else on this list is the fact that you need to be balanced in your finish position. Of course, you should have started off nicely balanced before making your stroke, so you should simply be holding your body in position while the putter moves back and through. There should be no lower body movement at all while you are putting, and the only upper body movement should be a rocking of your shoulders and the resulting swing of your arms. Everything else needs to be stable and steady from start to finish. When the putter stops moving, check your balance to make sure you are still in a good position. As long as you feel like your weight has remained evenly distributed between your two feet, you can assume you have done a good job.
- Head down. If balance is the number one objective in your finish position, keeping your head down comes in a close second. In fact, these two things are closely related – if you keep your head down, you should be able to stay on balance, and vice versa. Not only should you work on keeping your head down through the putting stroke and into the finish, but you should also keep your eyes down as well. Hold your eyes down onto the green for a moment after you have struck the putt before you allow them to track the ball as it rolls. You can't do anything to help the ball fall in once it leaves your club, so there is no reason to look up immediately. It will take some discipline to keep your head and eyes down as you arrive at the finish of your stroke, but that discipline will be rewarded as you start to make more putts.
- Steady wrists. One of the keys to watch for in your finish position is quiet wrists. Your wrists should be stable throughout the stroke as you use your shoulders to rock the club back and through, and that stability should continue even as you arrive at the finish. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers allow their wrists to give in one direction or another during the stroke, and the putter is then turned open or closed as a result. Don't make this mistake. Keep your hands and wrists quiet from the start of the stroke through to the finish and hold them that way as the ball rolls toward the cup.
- Putter head low to the ground. This is a point that ties in nicely with some of the other points above. When the putter has stopped moving, take a look to see where the putter head is in relation to the ground. Ideally, the putter head will be low to the turf – an indication that you have not pulled up out of the stroke prematurely. Also, if you are able to keep the putter head down, it will be an indication that your hands have stayed out of the action successfully. The putter head is going to come up slightly away from the ground naturally as your shoulders swing through toward the target, but if the club gets too far up away from the turf you will want to investigate your stroke for signs of trouble.
- Decent follow through. The length of the follow through that you use on your putts will depend on the length of the putt itself, but the putter head should always be at least a few inches beyond the original position of the ball. If you find that you are stopping your stroke immediately after making contact, you are likely decelerating the stroke – which can lead to a number of various problems. Keep the putter moving aggressively through the hitting area, even on short or fast putts. If you need to take distance off of the putt, do so by shortening up the backstroke rather than the forward stroke.
You should now have a good picture of what the finish position should look like when you hold steady after you putt. Don't just make this something that you do on the practice green – you should hold your finish position after each stroke you make, no matter what the circumstances may be. The finish position is just as important when putting as it is when hitting a full shot, so stick with your fundamentals and keep yourself in position to work toward more and more made putts in future rounds.
Many golfers get wrapped up in the line of their putts while out on the course. They will crouch behind the ball from both sides, look around for sprinkler heads and drains for clues as to the slope, and they may even crawl down into a bunker to get a better look. While it is certainly important to pick out the right line, you should not forget about speed control as a crucial part of the putting process. It is often the golfer who controls their speed best throughout the day that comes out on top, as good speed leads to a lack of three putts and at least the occasional make.
When you commit yourself to holding your putting finish position, you will have a great chance to control your speed nicely. Speed control requires not only having a good read in your mind when you stand over the ball, but it also requires you to make contact on the sweet spot of the putter as frequently as possible. When you swing the putter, you are doing so while expecting to make good contact. The size of your swing is based on a clean hit – meaning that any miss-hit putt is likely to come up well short of the target (especially on a long putt). Many three putts are created from a miss-hit first putt that leaves a long second from at least several feet away. Avoiding three putt greens is one of the keys to good scoring, so having the ability to hit the ball cleanly with your putter time and time again is of obvious importance.
Understanding the importance of speed control should give you even more motivation to work on holding your finish position after you strike a putt. Holding your finish will keep your body down in a good position over the ball, meaning it will be much easier to find the center of the putter over and over again. This one fundamental alone isn't going to automatically lead you to making good contact, but it certainly is a nice way to start. When you combine a stable finish position with good mechanics throughout the rest of your motion, you will be well on your way toward consistent speed control putt after putt.
Dealing with the Pressure
There is no way around it – putting well under pressure is hard to do. Golf as a whole is a game that gets much more difficult when the pressure is on, and that certainly applies on the putting green. When you are feeling nervous about the result of a putt, your hands may shake slightly, you might not have a great feel for the grip at address, and you may be tempted to look up early to see if the ball is on the right track. No matter how pressure happens to manifest itself in your putting stroke, the result is likely to be a decreased number of makes when the heat is on.
One of the best ways to handle putting pressure is to focus on your fundamentals, such as holding your finish position. By holding your position after the ball has been struck, you can make sure that you are staying nicely balanced and your head is staying down as it should. While this is a good start, it isn't necessarily going to be enough to help you make putts under pressure. So, in addition to holding your finish position, the following list includes a few other points to focus on when you start to feel your nerves kick in on the green.
- Keep your grip pressure light. The first thing that usually happens when you get nervous on the greens is your grip pressure tightens up. When your grip gets too tight, you lose feel for the putter and you will likely have trouble controlling your speed successfully. So, when you are getting ready to hit a big putt, take a moment to remove your hands from the grip, shake them out, and put them back into position. Simply by being aware of the importance of this point you should be able to avoid having grip pressure stand in your way when trying to sink a crucial putt.
- Escape for a moment. Sometimes, you can concentrate so hard on making a putt that you wind up putting even more pressure on yourself than was already there in the first place. To help your mind relax, try looking off in the distance while someone else is putting so you can take your mind somewhere else for a moment. Think about something that makes you happy, and forget all about trying to make this next putt. Even if you only take a mental break for a few seconds, that may be enough to help you relax and perform at your best.
- Think back to your practice sessions. Spending time on the practice putting green is not only helpful in terms of refining your stroke mechanics, but it can also help you build confidence which can be used when you get into a tough spot. If you are facing a challenging putt that you really need to make, think back to some putts you made during practice to convince yourself that you can do it again while out on the course. Confidence is everything when you are trying to perform under pressure – build up that confidence in practice and then cash it in when it matters most.
Holding your finish position after striking a putt is an important fundamental within the short game. If you would like to make more putts – and of course you would – be sure to spend some time working on your ability to hold your finish after you send the ball on its way toward the hole. Even though the ball is gone by the time you reach the finish, there is a still a lot to be gained from focusing on this part of your stroke. Good luck and putt well!