All golfers - even the best in the world - lose confidence in their putter now and then.
It's a helpless feeling. One minute, you feel comfortable over the ball. The next, even the simplest uphill, three-footer feels like a hit and hope. How can you find your way back? We could just tell you to hit it closer to the hole but that would be cheating. Shotlink data and countless studies by putting guru Dave Pelz have proven that the shorter the putt, the higher the percentages it will find the cup.
Putting under pressure might be the hardest skill in golf, but who doesn't want the chance to drain the do-or-die putt to win a heated match? Justin Leonard knows the feeling.
Want to be the hero of your weekend foursome? We offer 10 ways to start rolling the rock again:
Take a lesson
Do we really need to explain this one? An extra set of trained eyes could help figure out why you're out of sorts. Maybe it's an alignment issue or it's just plain mental.
Both Tiger Woods and McIlroy have worked with putting guru Dave Stockton in the past. Woods has also leaned on friend Steve Stricker for advice. Lately, he's turned to Matt Killen. Even the greatest clutch putter of all time realizes the more input from various experts the better. Paying somebody to guide you out of the darkness could be the easiest way forward.
What's your trick for breaking out of a putting slump? Let us know in the comments below.
Change your grip or stanceDustin Johnson shows off his traditional putting grip during the 2020 TaylorMade Driving Relief Supported By UnitedHealth Group on May 17, 2020 at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesPhil Mickelson shows off his version of the Claw grip during the third round of the 2012 BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesPutting grips come in all shapes and styles, like this one by Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark during the third round of the 2018 Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, Turkey. Stuart Franklin/Getty ImagesJeunghun Wang of Korea uses an arm lock putting grip during the third round of the 2018 Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, Turkey. Stuart Franklin/Getty ImagesRory McIlory putts cross-handed, also known as 'left hand low', during the 2016 World Golf Championship Cadillac Championship on the Blue Monster at the Trump National Doral Miami. David Cannon/Getty Images
Changing the grip or stance would seem like a bit of a last resort, but golfers will do anything to unlock the mind and free up the stroke. Pros who change grips like they change socks are too numerous to count. Phil Mickelson has bounced back and forth the past couple years between the claw and a traditional grip. Cross handed. Split handed. Palm to palm. Arm lock (still legal, BTW). They're all options for tinkerers.
If you thought Michelle Wie's bending stance looked painful, you should have seen the pose used by a random golfer I met during a trip to Colorado a few years ago. He looked like he was sitting on the toilet. He was so embarassed about his stance that he wouldn't let me take a photo or video, but he swore by its results. I'm not sure it was worth it.
Analyze your tendencies
When someone says you missed "on the pro side", that's the best compliment he or she can give for a putt that doesn't drop. Most golfers, especially amateurs, miss putts below the hole, meaning they don't read enough break on the greens. If you miss on the pro (high) side, you're generally being more aggressive in the stroke - i.e. the ball isn't losing speed and dropping to the low side of the hole - so that's a good thing.
Start keeping track of how often you're leaving putts short or missing on the low side. Compensating for your tendencies by hitting the ball harder, reading more break, etc. could lead to a whole new approach that's beneficial on the scorecard.
Practice at home
Unless you live really close to the clubhouse of your home course, practice putting isn't easy to fit into a weekly routine. Thank goodness for new products like the Perfect Practice Putting Mat, which is already being used by more than 100 LPGA Tour and PGA Tour pros, including World No. 1 Dustin Johnson. The mat comes in three sizes (standard is 9 1/2 feet long by 15 inches wide), so it can easily fit into any room, man cave or office. It rolls anywhere from 10 to 14 on the Stimpmeter depending on the underlying surface. With alignment lines and two holes, one regulation size and one smaller, you can dial in your stroke day or night.
There is a more expensive route: paying to have a synthetic green built in your backyard. If money is no object, go big on an entire short-game complex like Dave Pelz.
Put a line on your ball
Drawing a line on your ball with a Sharpie used to be the sure sign of a serious golfer. Now, many brand manufacturers are doing it for you. The Callaway Chrome Soft Triple Track does it best, but I also recently got a dozen personalized Titleist ProV1x from golfballs.com that featured a nice directional line, along with my Twitter handle. Balls like the ones pictured above are easy to line up properly.
Positioning the aiming line along the intended line of the putt could help with the focus and attention to detail you've been lacking on the greens. You'll still miss putts and misread greens, but you're likely increasing your odds of pouring more in.
The eyes have it
Conventional thinking says the ball should be lined up directly below your eyes while putting. We all know golf is an unconventional sport.
Even the pros vary wildly on how they use their eyes. Sergio Garcia putted with his eyes closed in winning the 2020 Sanderson Farms. During the 2020 Charles Schwab Cup Championship a month later, PGA Tour Champions player Paul Broadhurst finished as runner-up by putting while looking at the hole, a technique Jordan Spieth has used in the past.
Just last weekend, Viktor Hovland closed his eyes to get a feel for the slope of the green in his feet before putting to win the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico. Could putting eyes wide shut work for you?
Buy a new putter
If you're that desperate, it might be time to start experimenting with new putters with the intent to buy. I putt only with a mallet. I need the big head to feel like I'm bashing the ball. Many golfers prefer only a blade. Modern putters from Tour Edge (pictured above), TaylorMade (check out the Spider!) and Scotty Cameron come in all sorts of other odd shapes.
Then there's even more variety if you want to branch out into the long broom-stick putters. Anchoring isn't legal anymore, but that hasn't stopped Adam Scott and Bernhard Langer from still using long putters. I can't figure them out. Maybe you can.
Get a putter fitting
Just like you should be fit for your clubs, so, too, should you be fit for your putter. Putters come in various lengths (of the shaft), styles (of the head) and even lofts (on the face). All of these can determine how well the ball rolls.
Most putter fittings occur indoors at large superstores, resort teaching academies or places like GolfTEC or Club Champion, which uses SAM (Science & Motion) PuttLab technology. That way fitters can control the variables, like speed of the greens and break, and log video of your putting stroke and the purity of your roll.
My last putter fitting at Sea Island a few years ago was pretty humbling. I consider myself a solid putter, but the data showed how inconsistent my strike was. I learned a lot that day. You will too. Be forewarned. Paying for a fitting usually leads to the next piece of advice on this list.
Practice drills on the putting green
For a true grinder (which I'm not), you can build your stroke back up again by practicing drills on the putting green, either before/after rounds or even on off days. I've shared my favorite putting drill with two beginners I've been mentoring. Pictured above, it's as simple as sticking tee "gates" into the green, which force your ball and putter to avoid hitting either one. It puts the stroke on the proper plane. There's so many others like 'Around the World' - placing 6-8 balls in a circle around the hole and trying to make them all. Google putting drills to get your fill.
Keep the flag in
If one good thing can come out of the pandemic, it's this: Putting with the flag in becomes universally accepted. I've preferred this method ever since it became legal in 2019. It seems to help me with depth perception. Sure, one out of every thousand putts might hit the stick and stay out, but if the ball was rolling that fast to begin with, it likely wasn't dropping anyway.