“There are many different styles in putting. From grips to stances to equipment, the list is quite varied, putting as a discipline seems to carry the idea that it is very personal. Although our style can be very individual all good putters have 3 things in common:
They can read putts well
They can hit the ball straight from good clubface alignment
They can hit the ball the right distance consistently
To some this may seem like an obvious statement to make, but in my experience golfers in general overate the standard of their putting and therefore don’t look to improve it. For those who do visit the practice putting green, their sessions are usually unstructured and not that productive. I don’t want to criticize any golfers unfairly but I think visiting the putting green on a reasonably regular basis for about 10 to 15 minutes can dramatically improve your ability to score better on the course, especially if you look at your putting in the following way:
First you work at the above skills one at a time, as individual tasks to start with. Work on them in reverse order i.e. Distance control, then straight putting and then green reading. This is the best way to build the platform for your putting style.
Some of distance control comes from how well we strike the ball, so place a tee peg either side of the putter (about 1cm either side of the toe & heel of the putter) as this will help you recognise if you are hitting the ball from the centre of the face (or sweetspot). Also try to feel whether you are making contact with middle of the ball
Don’t pick out any specific target or length, just hit the ball using a relaxed, natural, rhythmical pendulum stroke that has an automatic accelerated movement through impact. See if you can repeat the stroke (swing length and rhythm) consistently. The ball will be travelling the same distance each time, this will give you a benchmark to work with. Now alter the length of your stroke to hit the ball a different distance and see if you can repeat this keeping a good rhythm. This process will help you develop the skill of distance control without getting tied up in mechanics or directional restrictions.
Find a straight putt (no break) about 5 to 6 feet away from a hole. You have to first of all learn to aim the clubface square to the target line; you may need some assistance with this at first. If you have a friend with you, get them to go behind the line and check your clubface alignment. In a lot of cases to begin with this will not look right or feel normal, but this will confirm to you that you have been mis-aligning the face and then compensating during the stroke (this is probably one of the most common problems in club golfers putting styles). If you are on your own use a builders chalk line or a length of string tied to 2 pencils. (I would recommend this club face alignment be checked regularly by any golfer.)
I personally like to see golfers square up the feet, hips and shoulders in a putting stroke but I like them to be aligned with the putter face. Now it is a simple question of hitting a great number of putts to see if your style lets you return the putter face squarely to this alignment. If not, it may require you to alter the style a little but this is the purpose of structured practice; to help you make constructive alterations based on your results.
On a putting green it is the severity of the slopes and the speed the ball is travelling that curl the ball, unlike our full shots where it is the sidespin that is imparted on the ball that makes it curve in the air. Reading greens is really just assessing these slopes to find the aim point (or straight line) for our putter face to be aligned with.
A lot of the skill of green reading comes from observation and experience. The first thing you need to be able to find around the hole is where the fall-line is (The natural line of descent, between two points on a slope). I like to imagine the hole has been filled up with water and the cup is now overflowing. What direction the water flows out of the cup first will tell you where the fall line is. As previously mentioned this skill often takes a bit of experience and not even the best putters in the world can always get this right, but it is certainly something we could all pay more attention to.
Advanced PGA Professional Paul Thompson, November 2012