It’s said, “the closer you get to the hole, the better you should be,” and it’s true. However, many people tense up when they reach the green, knowing putting is just as much an art as it is a science. And while that 4.25” diameter hole has not changed in size in over a century, there are many times it still seems too small for comfort!
The problem is often that we don’t give putting the proper attention it deserves in practice. While it may be too tempting to head to the range and groove the swing or smash drivers over the fences, golfers often forget that putting often accounts for nearly half of your total strokes in a round. So, without focused, intentional, and pressure-inducing practice on the putting green, chances are you’ll continue to see more lip-outs than you’d like.
Try one, or several, of these putting drills in practice next time so you can start finding the bottom of the cup in fewer putts and lower your scoring average quicker than any swing training aid or an expensive new set of irons.
#1 – The Clock Putting Drill
This one harps on the “the closer, the better” mantra by forcing more and more putts to be made the closer you get to the hole. For set-up, place four tees or markers (your greenskeeper will thank you for using something shorter and skinnier than a tee) at 3 feet, 4 feet, 5 feet, and 6 feet in order, counter-clockwise, and equidistant around the hole to practice four different breaking putts.
Move counter-clockwise around the hole in this fashion:
- Beginning at the “12 o’clock” putt (the 3-footer), make 12 putts
- Moving to the “9 o’clock” putt (the 4-footer), make 9 putts
- Moving to the “6 o’clock” putt (the 5-footer), make 6 putts
- Moving to the “3 o’clock” putt (the 6-footer), make 3 putts
This putting drill is easily adjusted for the level of challenge desired. You can require the putts at each station to be made in a row, or even all 30 putts in a row, with a miss sending you back to the beginning, or go in reverse order, requiring the drill to begin at 3 o’clock and 6 feet. Either way, you’re going to wind up making a lot of short putts!
#2 – Square Impact Stick Training
No, this is not some sort of new-fangled karate move or martial arts practice. It’s actually a very straightforward drill that not only provides instant feedback but it can be done with a household item, requiring no investment and minimal set-up.
Using a flat, metal, meterstick, simply place the stick about 6 feet away from a hole and aimed down your intended target line. Place the ball at the very end of the stick and putt away! The goal should be fairly obvious… keep the ball on the stick until it rolls off the end and eventually into the hole. With the small lift of the meter stick bringing the ball above the surface of the putting green, it requires a very square face at impact to not veer off the tracks, literally. While frustrating at first, challenge yourself to see how many you can make in a row!
#3 – Putter Pull Back Drill
This drill is a great way to add pressure to your putting practice and hopefully reduce the number of times you run into a dreaded 3-putt. This is a drill best played against a partner. The main stipulation of this drill is that when your (or your competitor’s in partner play) ball doesn’t finish within a putter’s grip distance from the hole on the first putt, there is a penalty of “pulling back” the ball an entire putter’s length from the position of the ball after that first putt. This drill targets not only speed control in lagging putts to within the putter grip’s length but also the ability to make comeback putts, which most often will fall in the 3-4 foot range on putts requiring a pullback.
For this drill, choose 9 different putts at varying breaks and hole locations. Begin with a 10ft putt, then a 20ft putt, then a 30ft putt, and continue this in rotation. As mentioned above, if your first putt lies outside your putter grip’s length (no cheating, standard putter grip lengths only here), you’ll place your putter on the ground starting at your ball and pull it back, placing it at the other end of the putter. Keep track of your score and work to eliminate those 3-putts by setting goals according to your skill level.
Want more pressure? Play against a friend as a stroke play match with lowest score in the end winning or make it match play! For further variation and difficulty, make it a requirement to get the first putt to the hole, or face pullback, regardless of the distance of the remaining putt. You can also make the pullback a requirement on every putt until one is holed out.
#4 – The Spiral Putting Drill
Want to increase the number of birdies on the scorecard and reduce the number of bogeys? A better question might be, who doesn’t? With the spiral putting drill, the focus is on mid-range putts that people are often expecting to make often. These mid-range putts are essential to going low or salvaging poor play with a respectable score. This drill requires golfers to combine every skill of putting: speed, line, and reading the green in order to sink putts.
Place 10 tees or markers around the same hole in a spiral formation. Start by placing a tee at 3 feet, sidestep a foot or two, place another tee at 4 feet, sidestep again, placing a tee at 5 feet; continue this pattern until you’ve placed your 10th tee at 12 feet. Once you’re done setting up, you should notice the spiral formation you’ve created, forcing practice of different breaks and speeds as you move through the drill. Your first putt (3-foot location) is for par, and the second putt (4-foot location) is for birdie; alternate this pattern, giving yourself 5 birdie chances and 5 par-saving putts. Keep track of score and work to finish under par!
After completing this drill a few times you’ll be seeing many more red numbers and par saves out on the golf course.
#5 – 3 Point Putting Practice
This drill tests three critical elements required to make a putt: green-reading, correct speed, and starting the ball on line. If just one of these three is missing, it’s a struggle to make putts consistently.
The 3 Point Putting Drill uses five balls, two ball markers or coins, and two tees. To begin, choose a 15-foot putt and stick a tee in the ground as your starting point. Take one of the balls and place it to the side of the tee you’ll be putting from (it’s very important to putt all balls from the same spot). Now read the putt and create a “gate” (using the ball markers) for the balls to roll through halfway between your starting putt and the hole. The gate should be just slightly wider than a putter head in width. This gate can be moved at any time, should you feel it needs adjustments. Lastly, place a tee 3 feet beyond the front edge of the hole on the line your ball will roll out to, if it should miss (this is the “speed zone”). You’ll putt all 5 balls keeping track of your score using the below point structure.
- 1 point if the ball rolls through the gate
- 1 point for the ball finishing in the ‘speed zone’ OR
- 2 points for a made putt (because it does not have the opportunity to roll past the hole into the speed zone if it’s made)
* A perfect score is 15 points in 5 putts
Starting a practice session with this drill is a great way to identify weak points in your putting. Did you start the ball on line by rolling it through the gate? Did you struggle to get to, or keep your missed putts within, the “speed zone”? Was your green reading the issue? Once you’ve reviewed your performance, refer back to another drill that targets the specific area of weakness and come back to this drill to reassess and track progress over time. Read our putting tips or how to putt for beginners if you’re really struggling.
As always, you can adjust any of these drills to your level of skill or desired challenge by making the putts shorter and easier or longer and harder. It’s important to enjoy your practice, but also to make it difficult enough that you stay engaged and elevate your game to the next level with every session.