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How to Putt In Golf [Guide for Beginners] Basic Tips

You can’t score well in golf if you don’t putt well. This is because you take about half of your total strokes on the putting green.

Unfortunately putting can be complicated for a beginner due to the many variations of putting techniques.

I wrote this article to outline the basic process of putting. I’ll also give you some basic putting techniques to use as a baseline as you try things out.

Towards the end we’ll cover my favorite putting tips and the best ways to practice to improve your putting.

The Basic Putting Process

The putting process begins once your ball reaches the green.

 Putting is all about rolling the ball along the ground rather than striking it into the air as far as possible. Therefore, putting requires a different process than regular golf shots.

The basic putting process is:

  1. Mark your ball on the green
  2. Read your putt
  3. Putt the ball
  4. If you miss the hole, repeat the steps

Mark Your Ball on the Green

Once your ball is at rest on the green you are allowed to mark your ball and pick it up. [1

You want to mark your ball so that it is out of the way for your playing partners to putt. 

A coin makes a perfect ball marker but you can use anything small and flat. 

To mark your ball, place the coin directly behind your ball while facing the hole. 

marked golf ball

Once you’ve placed your marker down you are free to pick up the ball and clean it if needed. Even a small amount of mud on your ball can greatly affect the roll of your putt so you definitely want to give it a quick cleaning.

When you are ready to putt, place the ball back in the exact same position in front of your marker and then pick up your marker.

Read Your Putt

Read your putt by trying to determine how fast or slow the ball will roll and which direction it will turn.

You should take in a variety of factors we will discuss in depth below and then decide where to aim. 

Reading greens takes experience and the more you play golf the better feel you will have for what the putt will do.

Putt the Ball

You’ve marked your ball, read your putt and decided where to aim, now it’s time to put your ball down and stroke it in. 

Ideally, your putting stroke will start the ball rolling straight down your intended line.  If you’ve got the correct speed as well you will make the putt!

Consistently starting the ball on the correct line is easier said than done. Later on in this guide we will discuss some of the different techniques in more detail.

Repeat the Process

If you missed your putt you just repeat this process over again until you hole out.

It’s important to note that the player furthest from the hole should putt first. The order of play should continue with whoever is furthest away after each player’s turn. 

Try to read your putt while you are waiting your turn. Once it’s your turn you will be ready to line up and knock it in.

If you miss your putt but are just a few inches away from the hole, go ahead and tap it in quickly. There’s no sense in marking your ball and waiting your turn when you are that close and it’s important to keep your group playing at an appropriate pace.

How to Read Greens

Although green reading is simple physics, it feels more like an art than a science. Every player will eventually find their own method for green reading but here we will go over some of the best practices.

Start by looking over the whole green as you approach it. Where is the highest point and where is the lowest point? This will give you a sense of the overall slope.

Now approach your ball from behind and take a look at the putt. Crouch down and look closely at the slope of the green between your ball and hole.

Will the ball roll uphill or downhill? Will it roll left to right or right to left?

Uphill putts need more speed and will stop rolling much sooner. Uphill putts also will break less because you must roll them faster to get the ball to the hole.

Downhill putts will roll slowly and therefore will have more time to break.

Now move behind the hole and look back toward your ball. Then move again to look from the side. Do you see anything different from any of these angles?

I often don’t realize how severe a slope is until I look at it from different angles.

Try visualizing the ball rolling into the hole. What side of the cup will the ball enter from? Try  using a clock system around the hole with 6 o’clock being straight in. 

For breaking putts try to find the high point of the putt. This is the point where the ball will start to turn and roll down the slope. 

Align your ball using any markings or lines of text (or draw your own line on the ball) and aim at the high point. Take a few practice strokes just to the side of your ball and try to feel the stroke you need to start the ball with the right speed.

Long Putts

If you have an especially long putt the ball may break two or more times in different directions. 

For longer putts you may want to break the putt into three sections. Pay especially close attention to the section near the hole as this is when your ball will be rolling slowest and could break the most.

Review each section and visualize how the ball will roll through each one. Then focus on the first few feet of your putt and get the ball started on the correct line.

The longer the putt the more likely you will need to start the ball in a different direction than the hole.

Reading Grain

Reading the grain (the direction the grass is growing) on the putting green is important on certain types of grass like bermuda. The direction of the grain can influence how the ball will roll just like the slope can.

The ball will tend to break more “with the grain” and less “against the grain”.

Fortunately there are a couple of tricks to easily find the grain direction.

1. Take a look at the hole. One side of the hole will have a nice clean edge and the opposite side will have a more rough, rounded edge. In that case the grain direction is towards the rough edge.

grain direction
The clean edge is on the left and the rough edge is on the right.

2. Take a look at the color of the whole green. Some sections may be darker green and others lighter green. A darker section means you are looking against the grain and a lighter section means you are looking with the grain.

Example: The area nearest you is dark but right before the hole it turns to a lighter shade. That means the first section will be slower but the lighter section near the hole will be faster. In other words, the ball will roll out more once it reaches that lighter area.

Putting Setup

From this point forward it’s important to understand that there are plenty of different ways to putt in golf. There’s debate about almost every part of a putting setup and especially a putting stroke. 

What matters most in putting is that you can consistently start the ball on the correct line with your intended speed. Use the recommendations in this article as a baseline to start from. When learning how to putt, try things out and see what works best for you.

Putting Stance

  1. Stand next to your ball with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  2. The ball should be between your feet in the middle or slightly closer to your front foot. 
  3. Let your knees bend comfortably and bend forward at the hips
  4. Bend forward enough so that your arms hang down freely and your eyes are directly over your ball.

If your eyes are not directly over your ball your view of the path may be slightly skewed. This is because you are looking from an angle rather than straight down the line.

You can test this by holding a second golf ball between your eyes, getting into your stance, and then dropping the ball between your eyes. It should land right on top of your ball on the ground or very close to it.

You can also purchase a putting mirror which gives you instant feedback by lining up your eyes with the lines on the mirror.

Putting Grip

There is no correct way to grip the putter but there are several popular methods you should try when learning how to putt.

Traditional Grip

The traditional grip is very close to the same grip you would use on your irons and driver. Your weak hand holds the putter with your thumb down the front of the grip. Then your dominant hand is placed just below your weak hand overlapping your thumb.

Left Hand Low (Right hand low for left handers)

This grip uses your weak hand on the low end of the putter instead.

The Claw or The Saw Grip

Use your weak hand to hold the grip like normal. With your knuckles facing away from your body, gently hold the low end of the grip with your dominant hand. 

Arm Lock Grip

The arm lock grip requires an extended putter and grip. The extended putter shaft runs up along the inside of the lead forearm and is held in place by the dominant hand on the other side. This essentially makes the putter shaft a straight extension of the lead arm with no possible wrist movement.

All of the non-traditional grips are generally attempting to “quiet” the hands and wrists in the stroke. 

Alignment

As mentioned before, it’s a great idea to use a line on your ball to line up your intended starting line. Since most putters now have a line on the top of the club head you can use that to line up your club face.

Your feet, knees, hips and shoulders should be lined up parallel to the line on your ball and putter head. This means you are lined up square and shouldn’t have to make any extra compensation with your putting stroke to start the ball on line.

To be fair, many of the best putters of all time do not line up completely square to their putts. They might line up with their body open or closed to compensate for a stroke that isn’t square but is more natural or repeatable for them.

Again – find what works for you!

The Putting Stroke

An important concept to remember is that your putting stroke should “roll” the ball, not hit it. 

Ideally, your stroke should start the ball rolling immediately with minimal skidding or bouncing after contact with the putter face. And of course it should start the ball consistently on line.

Backstroke and Through-stroke

Putting is easier when you minimize the moving parts in your stroke. 

Beginners often use their wrists and arms to swing the putter while better players almost always keep their wrists and arms fairly locked. The better players will use their shoulders to make a putting stroke.

Think of your arms connecting to your putter and making a pendulum that rocks back and forth.

It’s much easier to make a smooth, controlled stroke using your bigger muscles (shoulders) than your smaller muscles (wrists and hands).

Path

There are two schools of thought on the putting stroke. The straight back and straight through method and the arc.

The straight back and straight through putting stroke is exactly that. Take your putter head back straight and your follow through should be straight as well.

With the arc method the putter head curves to the inside, returns to square at impact, and the follow through will turn inside again. 

Try both methods but pay close attention to the club face at impact. You’ll want to use the method that keeps your club face square at impact the most consistently. 

Acceleration

Again, two main methods here.

Many people use a shorter backstroke that accelerates through the putt. Others use an equal backstroke and follow through that seems like equal speed.

The important thing here is that nobody that putts well has a stroke that decelerates. 

Deceleration often happens by mistake when you take too long of backstroke and then panic and try to slow it down so you don’t blow it past the hole.

To combat this try taking several practice strokes near your ball while looking at the hole. This will help you get a feel for the right stroke to reach the hole.

Putting Tips

  1. Don’t watch your ball roll.

This is my personal favorite putting tip. Believe it or not, watching the ball roll can cause your head to move slightly and affect the putter face at impact. Instead, keep your eyes locked on the ball or a blade of grass throughout the entire stroke and listen for the ball to drop in the hole.

Try it and you will feel the difference right away.

  1. Don’t aim outside the hole on short putts.

Most of the time you can be very aggressive on short putts inside of five feet. The more speed you give a putt the less time it has to break. In most cases you can take the break right out of a short putt by being aggressive. If you miss, you don’t want a five footer coming back but you shouldn’t be playing it to die right at the hole on a four footer.

  1. Don’t worry about making your long putts.

The probability of making putts outside of 20ft is so low for amateurs (and even professionals) it should not be the goal. A better goal is to reduce your three putts by lagging your long puts to within 3ft of the hole. 

By changing your focus to just getting it close, you’re more likely to get your speed right and setup an easy two putt for yourself. You can find even more putting tips here.

How to Practice Putting

Your putting practice should focused on one of two categories: stroke or speed.

Practicing your stroke means you are focusing on starting the ball on your intended start line every time with a true roll. A true roll means that your face was square at impact and the ball is rolling straight “end over end” without any sidespin.

There are a number of ways to practice starting the ball on line.

  1. Practice putting over a straight line.

Putt down a flat metal yard stick. See if you can get the ball to roll all the way to the end without falling off the side. You can also use an indoor putting mat with straight lines on it. The high tech version of this is to use a launch monitor that can give you feedback in the form of ball and club data.

  1. Use a training aid like putting gates or a putting tutor.

You can make your own putting gate by sticking two tees in the ground about 3 ft in front of your ball. If you’re indoors try using two sleeves of balls to make your putting gate.

  1. Draw a line on your ball and keep it straight while rolling.

If your stroke starts the ball correctly the line will roll end over end. If it doesn’t the line will appear to wobble while it rolls. 

Practicing your speed is equally important, if not more than practicing your stroke. Becoming a great lag putter is one of the best ways to lower your scores.

Here are a few speed drills:

  1. The ladder drill

Pick a hole or drop a head cover 40-50ft away and putt to it. Try to get your next putt as close to your first ball as possible without going past it. Repeat until you get to about 10ft in front of you. If any of your balls go past your previous ball you have to start all over. See how many putts you can take for this drill and try to beat your record next time you practice.

  1. 9 Hole

Pick 9 different putts from at least 20ft on your practice green. Each putt is par 2. Try to hole out all 9 in 18 strokes. This has the bonus of adding some real pressure on your short putts. It’s important to treat each putt as you would on the course. Take the time to read the putts and go through your routine.

You can find more putting drills here.

This is a lot of information to digest but it will help you to think about putting in the main points that we covered: green reading, setup, and stroke.

Your setup and stroke should be repeatable for you and start the ball on line consistently.

Make sure your practice sessions include both stroke and speed focus. The more you play the better you will become at reading greens!

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AUTHOR
Bobby Heckeroth
Bobby is the founder of FriendlyGolfer.com and is of course an avid golfer. He created the site after building a golf simulator in his garage and developing a passion for the technology that’s helped his game.

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