As a beginner, it's tempting to spend most of your practice time working on the full swing. No doubt, that area requires a lot of attention.


The road to competent putting is short and simple, by comparison. Better yet, proficient putting will bring down your scores – and build your confidence – more quickly than any other skill. That's why many experts believe beginners should learn the game from the green back to the tee, not the other way around.

Average golfers lose far too many shots within five feet of the hole. Missing short putts not only hurts your score, it causes frustration that can carry over to the rest of your game.

The most common cause of missing from close range is a tentative stroke. Instead of making a smooth positive stroke, golfers often try to guide the ball into the cup, which creates tension in the hands, arms and shoulders. They either make a quick, jabby stroke or one that decelerates, with the putter slowing down as it approaches the ball.

Good putters, on the other hand, make a relaxed, accelerating stroke. Use these tips and you'll see immediate results on the green.

When gripping the club, the pressure in your hands should be about 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is extra-light, 10 extremely tight). Light to medium pressure alleviates tension.

When practicing short putts, concentrate on making a back-stroke that's shorter than your follow-through. This will force you to accelerate through the ball.

Moving your head too early throws the putter off line. When stroking a short putt, keep your eyes fixed on the point where the ball was until you hear it hit the hole (or you know it's rolled past).

Fundamentals are especially critical when putting near the hole. Master this simple aspect of golf and you'll be well ahead of the game.

Beginner Golf Tip – How to Make Your Short Putts

Beginner Golf Tip – How to Make Your Short Putts

Have you ever missed a short putt? That's a silly question – of course you have. All golfers have missed at least a few short putts, as this type of mistake is just part of the game. While you probably know that it happens to all golfers at one point or another, that knowledge doesn't make missing a short putt any less frustrating. When you see a short putt slide past the edge of the cup, it is all you can do to keep your temper in check. In fact, missed short putts might be the single most frustrating part of the game.

With that intro out of the way, the goal of this article is obvious – to help you make as many short putts as possible. We aren't going to aim for perfection here, because there is no such thing as perfection in golf. Even the top pros still miss short putts from time to time, and you will as well. Even with excellent technique and the right mental approach, the ball can always miss the cup. However, while perfection might be out of reach, improvement is not. Use the advice we provide in this article to work on your short putting performance and you may start to save strokes as soon as your very next round.

It is important to understand that making short putts is not only about physical technique. Make no mistake – physical technique is important, and we are going to touch on the key points later in this article. However, you have to have the right mindset if you are going to make your short ones time after time. We would argue that your mindset is actually more important than your technique once you get inside of five feet or so. If you have plenty of confidence and the right approach, you can knock in most of your short putts even if you don't have a perfect stroke.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Building a Solid Mechanical Foundation

Building a Solid Mechanical Foundation

As mentioned above, you are going to need the right mindset in order to make most of your short putts. Before we get into the mental side of this task, however, we are first going to make sure you have a solid stroke in place. The right technique for short putts is not complicated, but it will take some practice to dial it in perfectly. Once you are back out on the course, you should be able to draw confidence from the work you have put in on your technique during recent practice sessions.

The tips below should be considered essential keys when trying to lock in your short putting technique. Hit on all of these points and you will be in great shape moving forward.

  • Head perfectly still. You already know that this is a key to good putting, but we had to make it the first point on our list anyway. You simply aren't going to succeed consistently on short putts if you are moving your head during the stroke. The frustrating thing about this mistake from a golf instructor's perspective is the fact that it is completely preventable. You don't need to move your head during the stroke – so don't! The only reason the head moves is because the player is too impatient to wait just another second or two to find out how they have done. Teach yourself to keep your head still and your eyes down while sending the ball on its way. Looking up early isn't going to do anything to help the ball fall in the cup, so break this habit as soon as possible. Keeping your head still is the single most-powerful thing you can do from a technique perspective to improve your short putting.
  • Soft hands. This is another critical point that you need to follow if you are going to sink most of your short putts. It is easy to get tense when standing over a tricky short putt, and that tension may lead you to tighten up your grip for no reason. If you can avoid that temptation, you will have a much better chance to let the club swing freely back and through. It will be difficult to hit quality putts with a tight grip because you are going to have to force the club through the ball – it isn't going to swing freely as it should. Not only will this focus on soft hands help you when facing short putts, it will actually help you around the rest of the course as well. The only requirement is to hold onto the club tight enough to make sure it doesn't go flying out of your hands. After that, you are only doing more harm than good when you tighten your grip.
  • Flat left wrist. Many golfers overlook the importance of this fundamental when building their stroke. You should always do your best to maintain a flat left wrist while putting, but it is particularly important when putting from short range. It is not hard to control your speed when putting from five feet and in – meaning the main challenge is hitting your target line. If you hit the target line, it is almost certain the putt will go in. To hit your target time after time, you will want to keep your left wrist in a flat position from start to finish. Think about it this way – your left wrist is going to mirror the position of the putter face during the stroke. If your left wrist is steady and pointing toward the target, the face of the putter will be doing the same. As long as you are moving the club with your shoulders and not your hands, it should be pretty easy to keep that left wrist in a stable position.
  • No movement from the waist down. Without a doubt, this is the 'sneakiest' way to miss a short putt. Many golfers will be baffled when they miss a short putt, thinking they did everything right with their stroke. What they may not have noticed, however, is that they were moving all around in the lower body. They might have allowed their knees to straighten up, or they may have been swaying from side to side. Allowing your lower body to move around is a sure way to get in trouble during the stroke – even when you are only putting from a few feet from the hole. Set yourself up in a comfortable stance before starting your stroke, and then maintain that stance nicely until the stroke is complete. Once you get used to holding yourself still like this, you will wonder how you ever managed to putt any other way.

You don't really need to go any farther than the points above, at least from a mechanical perspective. If you can hit your putts with a steady head, a soft grip, a flat left wrist, and a quiet lower body, you can expect most of them to find the bottom of the cup. During your practice sessions, focus on these keys and hit plenty of solid putts to build your confidence. Knowing that you have a solid physical foundation in place, you can transition to working on your mental approach to this part of golf.

The Mental Challenge

The Mental Challenge

Why are short putts so difficult for golfers to handle mentally? At first blush, you would think that these putts would be the easiest thing you do all day on the course. There are no hazards which are going to get involved on a three-foot putt, and you don't even have to worry about embarrassing yourself by hitting a shank or some other ugly shot. The putt is either going to go in or it won't, and if it does miss, you'll almost certainly be able to tap in the next one without any trouble. When you look at it this way, it seems like there would be no trouble with the mental side of short putting.

You already know that isn't true, however. All golfers know the feeling of standing over a short putt while sweating it out. Even the easiest short putt can be trouble, and that trouble is only amplified when you are putting under pressure. If you think a three-footer on the first green is nerve wracking, just wait until you reach the last green with a chance to shoot a new personal best score. At that point, the challenge will be all about the pressure. The physical challenge is nothing to worry about at all – but when you add the pressure, suddenly you have a recipe for failure.

Your biggest obstacle when it comes to making the majority of your short putts is finding the right mindset. If you can get your mind to stay in the right place when facing short putts, you'll see mostly successful outcomes. It is when your mind starts to wander in a negative direction that you may run into trouble. This will be easier said than done, but you need to do your best to stay positive at all times when on the greens – and when on the rest of the course, for that matter.

So why is that so many golfers have trouble thinking positively when it comes to short putts? It is all a matter of expectation. In golf, and in life, your expectations often have a great impact on your emotions. So, for example, when facing a challenging approach shot over water, you know that there is a chance the shot won't go well. No one will blame you or laugh at you for failing on this kind of shot, because it is obviously difficult. You will have to hit a great shot to clear the water and land safely on the green, so there is no shame in failing.

The same cannot be said when facing a short putt. If you have only a flat three-footer remaining to secure your par, there is no reason to fail. This is not a difficult shot by most standards, and you should succeed the vast majority of the time. Missing the putt will not only mean adding a stroke to your score, but it will also mean dealing with the embarrassment of failing on such an easy attempt. The pressure that comes from knowing you should succeed in a given scenario is tremendous. In fact, many golfers make better strokes on difficult putts than they do on easy ones, as they aren't expecting much when they step up to a tough putt.

You are going to have to work hard to get over your concern about failing on easy shots. This is an issue which can not only affect you on the greens, but on other parts of the course as well. You might feel extra nervous when hitting an easy chip shot from just off the side of the green, or when hitting a short approach from the middle of the fairway. It is the easiest situations in golf which often bring about the greatest cases of nerves. Those who are able to fare well on their short putts don't necessarily eliminate the nerves from their game, but they are able to manage the nerves in a way that leads to positive results. In the next section, we will talk about how you can do just that.

Overcoming the Mental Hurdles

Overcoming the Mental Hurdles

By this point, you should have a very clear picture of the challenge you are facing when you walk up to a short putt. You are going to have to execute your stroke properly to send the ball in the proper direction, and you will have to manage your thinking as well. If either one of those two halves go missing, you are going to be in trouble.

To give yourself the best possible chance to succeed on the mental side of the equation, please review the advice below.

  • Get lost in the process. Rather than standing on the green and thinking about all the way in which a particular putt could go wrong, you would be better served to spend your time thinking about how to get the job done. Where are you going to aim the putt? How hard are you going to hit it? Make some clear decisions, perform a couple of quick practice strokes, and get on with the job. There is simply no sense in wasting time and energy thinking about negative results. Dedicate your mind completely to the task at hand and there won't be any time left to consider the consequences of a miss.
  • Don't watch other short putts. Some of the other players in your group are likely to miss short putts from time to time as the round wears on. To avoid the mental 'scars' that can come from seeing these misses, simply look away when those putts are being attempted. It helps to watch other players putt from longer range because you can learn about the slope of the green, but you don't need to gather such information when in close. Instead, just look down quickly when they are about to make the stroke, and think about your own game. No one will even know you weren't watching, and you won't have to deal with the loss of confidence that can come from seeing others fail.
  • Tell yourself that it's okay. One of the surprising ways in which you can get over your fears on short putts is to tell yourself that it is okay to miss. Many golfers are afraid to even think this way, but you will be pleasantly surprised when you discover the freedom that comes with this notion. When you realize that it's okay to miss a putt during a round of golf, you stop worrying so much about missing and instead you start thinking positively. Without the fear of a miss looming over your head, you can just get on with the job of making the putt - which you will likely do, more times than not.
  • Never do the math. If you are playing with two or three other people during your round, you will have a few moments to stand around on the green while the others are putting. This can be trouble, unfortunately, as it will give you time to do some quick math. As golfers, we have all done this math from time to time. If I make this putt, what will my score be for the round as a whole? Can I afford to miss and still be on track to reach my goal for the day? Nothing good is going to come of these kinds of thoughts. You will be putting undue pressure on yourself if you think about your overall score when you are preparing to hit a short putt. Keep these thoughts away and simply do your best in the moment. There is plenty of time after the round is over to do the math and see how you have fared.

Teaching yourself to think properly when dealing with short putts is more difficult than teaching yourself the right mechanics. To be honest, you could probably learn the right mechanics for short putting in just a couple of practice sessions – with a little more practice after that to make sure you can execute the stroke over and over again. However, it is going to take longer to put your mind in the right place. There will be setbacks along the way, so don't give up on yourself just because you slip back into some old habits. Stick with it, commit yourself to positive thinking on the greens, and expect great results in the future.

Some Final Short Putting Tips

Some Final Short Putting Tips

To wrap up this article on short putts, we wanted to leave you with a few final thoughts. These are random tips that just may help you elevate your performance in upcoming rounds.

  • Sometimes, it's not your fault. Golfers are notorious for blaming other things for their failures on the course. A player may blame another player for talking during their backswing, or they may say that the wind changed while their ball was in flight. Whatever the case, golfers are never short on excuses. Here's the thing though – sometimes, those excuses are legitimate. Some short putts are missed because of a bump in the green that kicked the ball off target. Those kinds of misses aren't your fault, and they shouldn't chip away at your confidence. If you miss a short putt and you know you made a good stroke, feel good about the attempt and chalk that one up to bad luck. Hopefully, you will get a good break sometime soon that will make up for your poor fortune in this case.
  • Don't freeze. When getting ready to hit a short putt, do your best to not stand over the ball too long before making the stroke. Freezing in your address position is not a good thing, no matter what kind of shot you are about to play. Go through your routine, take a moment to get set, and then get on with it.
  • Remember the makes. It is easy to remember your failures on short putts, but be sure to make note of the successes as well. When you make a particularly difficult short putt – such as a downhill three-footer which turns hard from one side to the other – congratulate yourself and use that success to boost your confidence.

Short putting will always be a stressful part of the game, but you don't have to let it overwhelm you. Build up your confidence by working on your technique, and take a positive attitude with you out onto the course. There will still be a few frustrating misses along the way, but you should be able to make the majority of your short putts with a combination of a positive attitude and a solid stroke. Good luck!