putt hands ahead of ball

If you ever take a lesson on putting, the instructor will assess how solidly you strike the ball before analyzing your stroke. Why? As with full-swing shots from the tee or fairway, hitting the ball on the sweet spot is the No. 1 key to good putting.

Among amateur golfers, a high percentage of missed putts come up short, often because they're struck poorly. Missing the center of the blade can also cause the ball to roll off line while exacerbating a push or pull.

If you tend to strike putts toward the toe, heel or bottom of the clubface, here's the good news: Compared with the full swing, the putting stroke's compact, low-speed dynamics mean consistently solid contact is a much easier proposition. Here are a few ways to improve your ballstriking with the putter:

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  • Hands ahead of the ball: As with the irons and chips shots, the hands should be slightly forward at address, leaning the shaft toward the target.
  • Stay down until ball is gone: It's hard to resist the temptation to look up in the hopes of seeing your ball dive into the hole. Peeking early, however, can pull the putter up and offline. Keep your eyes on the ball's spot for a second or two after it's left the putter face.
  • Keep the left (lead) wrist flat: Many golfers allow their right hand to overtake the left during the stroke, cupping the left wrist and closing the blade. Focus on keeping the left wrist flat or firm throughout the stroke.
  • Practice without a target: When you're too target-conscious, the stroke becomes rigid. Find a section of the practice green with no cups, and practice stroking the ball randomly without aiming at anything. This will free up your action, giving you a feeling of fluidity that carries over to your actual attempts.

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Hitting Putter Sweet Spot Crucial to Good Putting?

Hitting Putter Sweet Spot Crucial to Good Putting?

When you think about hitting the sweet spot in golf, you usually think about your full swing clubs. Most likely, you think about your driver, as that is the club with the greatest distance potential when you strike the ball just right. While it is great to hit the sweet spot when swinging a driver, it is actually just as important to do so with your putter. If you want to make putts on a consistent basis – and of course you do – one of your main jobs is to find the center of the putter face time after time at impact.

Hitting the sweet spot when putting is important for the same reasons that you want to hit the sweet spot with your full swing. For one thing, the most efficient transfer of energy from the club to the ball is going to occur when you make contact on the center of the face. When you are hitting a driver, you want an efficient transfer of energy because you want to maximize distance. Of course, you aren't worried about power when putting, but you do want that efficiency for another reason. With a clean strike and predictable transfer of energy from the club to the ball, you will be able to anticipate how far the ball is going to roll with impressive accuracy. If you were to miss the sweet spot, the roll of the ball would not be so predictable and your putts would often come up short of the target.

In addition to predicting the distance each putt will roll, striking the sweet spot makes it more likely that you will hit your target line. On off-center hits, the putter is going to twist – at least slightly – at impact. That twisting has the potential to send the ball in the wrong direction. When you feel the ball come off the sweet spot, you can be confident that you've at least gotten close to your intended line. This is no guarantee of a make, of course, but it is a good start.

In this article, we are going to be focused on one goal – helping you find the sweet spot of your putter more frequently. If you can hit more of your putts on the sweet spot, more of them are going to drop into the cup. It really is that simple. There are other skills to master on the greens, such as green reading and the ability to focus, but everything starts with the ability to put the sweet spot of the putter on the back of the ball time after time. We hope the information provided in this article will help you do just that.

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.

The Building Blocks of Success

The Building Blocks of Success

The job of contacting the ball on the sweet spot of your putter face begins well before the putter ever goes in motion. There are a number of 'building blocks' that you should monitor while getting ready to putt, as these keys are going to largely determine your success or failure. The putting stroke is a short action, meaning there isn't much time at all to make up for mistakes you made at address. Get everything right before the stroke begins and you'll have a much easier time finding the sweet spot at impact.

The list below highlights some of the key building blocks that you'll want to focus on while creating your stance.

  • Feet outside shoulder width apart. It seems to be common advice that you should set your feet shoulder width apart when putting, but we don't think that goes quite far enough. For most golfers, it is best to set the feet just outside of shoulder width apart, to promote a more stable base. You don't want your body to be swaying from side to side as you swing the putter, and a stable base is going to go a long way toward preventing that mistake. If necessary, ask a friend to evaluate your stance on the putting green so you can determine the exact position of your feet when standing over the ball. There is certainly some room for personal preference on this point, so experiment with placing your feet at various widths until you find a position that works nicely for you.
  • Chin up away from your chest. This is a point that surprises some golfers, but it is important nonetheless. When you settle in over the ball, make sure your chin is up away from your chest, in order to clear a path for your shoulders to swing freely back and through. Many golfers, thinking that they are supposed to 'keep their head down' while putting, will push their chin right down into their chest when taking a stance. Don't make this mistake, as it is going to inhibit your ability to rock your shoulders. You can still keep your eyes down on the ball, of course, while your chin is up. This tip will also do good things for your posture, as picking your chin up is going to help you avoid the kind of hunched position that gives so many players trouble.
  • Flex in your knees. This is another important lower body key. At address, be sure to add plenty of flex to your knees in order to stabilize your lower body. It is tempting to stand over the ball with your legs straight – after all, it's not like you are going to be making a big rotation during the stroke – but it is still important to bend your knees. Again, just as was the case with the width of your stance, this is a point that is all about stability. You'll feel more stable over the ball when you move your feet farther apart, and that should only mean good things for your performance.
  • A comfortable grip. The last key we need to touch on here is the importance of holding onto the club in a comfortable manner. When putting, there are a variety of different ways to hold the club, many of which can lead to great results. In fact, you might even be able to invent your own grip – it doesn't matter how it looks, as long as it gets great results. Feel free to experiment with different grips until you come across something that feels natural and allows the ball to roll beautifully off the putter face. Of course, you do need to make sure that your chosen grip is allowed within the rules of the game.

If you do things properly ahead of time, you are going to make your job much easier once the stroke actually starts. Of course, there is still plenty of work to do, and you are going to have to swing the putter nicely back and through if you hope to achieve a positive outcome. However, with a solid stance on your side, you'll at least be headed in the right direction. Take some time to work on the finer points of your putting stance and your game will be better for the effort.

Acceleration is Key

Acceleration is Key

You already know that tempo is an important piece of the puzzle when hitting full shots. This is yet another place where the full swing and the putting stroke overlap. It is just as important to have great tempo when putting as when making a full swing. Specifically, you need to make sure the putter is accelerating through the ball on the way through impact in order to strike a solid putt. If you decelerate instead, it will not only be tough to hit the sweet spot of the putter face, it will also be difficult to judge your distance correctly.

It is easy enough to say that you are going to accelerate the putter through the hitting area, but it is another thing to actually make that happen. There are a number of issues which can get in your way on this point, which is why so many golfers have trouble accelerating successfully. Let's take a look at some of the common causes of putter deceleration.

  • Making a big backstroke. If you swing the putter back too far, you'll be forced to decelerate on the way through in order to reduce the amount of energy transferred to the ball. A long backstroke with an accelerating forward stroke is a recipe for a powerful putt. This is a pattern that catches a lot of amateur golfers – they make a long backstroke on a short putt, and are then forced to slow things up on the way through as a result. Don't fall into this trap. Keep your backstroke relatively short, and allow the putter to pick up speed nicely as it moves toward the target.
  • Getting nervous. Quite simply, sometimes your nerves will get in the way of making a great stroke. As you start to swing forward toward the ball, something in the back of your mind will tell you to slow down and your hands will respond. Needless to say, you are going to need to take this kind of fear out of your putting game if you are going to be successful. There are a couple of steps you can take to move away from this issue. First, you can spend a lot of time practicing your putting stroke. As you continue to practice, you will gain more and more confidence in your ability to roll the ball the right distance. Also, you can be sure to have a clear target and plan in mind before you step up to hit your putt. If you stand over the ball while still unsure of your plan, that indecision may lead to a decelerating stroke. Take time before you establish your stance to select both an ideal speed and a target line, and then be fully committed to those decisions while swinging the putter.
  • Moving your eyes early. This classic putting mistake can not only cause your putter to swing off line, but it can also cause you to decelerate through the ball. It is going to be tempting to move your eyes early, of course, because you'll want to know if the putt is going to hit your line and head toward the cup. However, if you look up early – even just barely – the putter may slow down. When that happens, you'll not only leave the putt short in most cases, but you'll also miss your target line most of the time. It sounds like a simple key, and you've heard it many times, but there are few things you can do that are more important than keeping your eyes on the ball all the way through the putting action.

If you want to hit the sweet spot on your putter time after time – and you do – making sure you accelerate correctly through the ball is key. Without acceleration, it is going to be difficult to deliver the middle of the putter to the ball with any degree of consistency. You might get there on some occasions, but other times you'll miss out toward the toe or in near the heel. Keep the tips above in mind as you practice and it should get easier to avoid the dreaded deceleration.