Putting - A Natural Approach
Putting is the most personal part of anyone's game, but in order to become consistent at it, you need to get the fundamentals correct.
First of all, your set-up must feel comfortable, otherwise you are going to struggle to have any feel in your stroke. I stand quite tall when I address the ball but I make sure that mechanically, there are three things I need to have absolutely perfect.
First of all, my eyes need to be over the ball at the set-up, which helps me get the ball in the right position in my stance and also helps me to see the line clearly all I have to do is rotate my head to the left.
The second thing is to make sure my left forearm and the shaft of the putter form one line and that my wrists are in a neutral position but slightly ahead of the ball.
Once I am happy with that, all I need to do is concentrate with a gentle rocking motion to get the ball moving, keeping everything in the same position.
Some people suggest that you should putt from your shoulders. I feel it slightly differently, as I like to imagine a spot between my shoulder blades. That is where I feel that I putt from.
Lastly, I concentrate on having my elbows tucked in to my sides (and keeping them there). This helps me have the feeling of being 'connected' throughout, and again helps me to putt from my shoulder blade area.
Solid fundamentals at the set-up breed a consistent stroke
The more you practise getting these basics into place at the set up, the more easily you will find that you create a natural and consistent stroke that gets the ball rolling with topspin - i.e. 'end over end', hugging the green and keeping its line to the hole. That's what we spend our time practising to achieve.
Experience has taught me that if you have your eyes outside the line of the ball, you are going to have to guess at the line of the putt too many times. So keep an eye (!) on that aspect of your set up position.
I have also learned that if your wrists are positioned incorrectly at address you will struggle to swing the putter on a good line. If your wrists are too high, too pronounced, the likelihood is that you will take the putter back on a severely inside line and will then have to compensate to get
the putter head back to where it began. The opposite of this is that if you have your wrists too low, the tendency is to take the putter back too much outside the correct line.
The ideal stroke for most putts is a simple straight back and straight through motion, keeping the putter low to the ground all the way through. For me, the grip is the most important part in all this, and as you can see below I take the grip high in the palm of my left hand, so that the putter runs up the lifeline next to my thumb. The back of my left hand is flat, neutral and facing the target line, and while I feel relaxed, the left wrist is firm, which assures me that it won't break down during the stroke.
Get a routine going, and stick to it every time you size up a putt
Reading the lines of a putt is something you can only learn with experience and it all depends on the pace of the greens, which in turn will determine how much borrow you will need to make the putt.
Once I am used to the speed of the greens, my set¬up is again governed by the fundamentals that I have talked about. But before I step up to the ball, I take a good look at the putt from all angles, choose the line I want and then, as I settle into my pre-putt routine, I visualise the ball running into the hole.
We all have our preferences when it comes to reading long putts. Some players like to see the ball go over certain points in their minds eye on the way to the hole. However, I just see it as a ball going along one defined line - like a train track - all the way into the hole. My thinking is that you need to be 100% You positively that the ball is going in!
Finally, a couple of things about putters. It is a very personal choice in what style to choose and the best advice I can give you is find one you are comfortable with, then get it custom fitted to the way you stand naturally (i.e. adjust the length and lie to suit you). This will help you to eliminate bad set-up habits. The key is that you feel comfortable standing to the ball - and that, at the same time, those vital fundamentals are securely in place.
In summary, if you can take a natural stance, let your arms hang in a natural position in front of your body, then make a neutral grip, you are on the way to a successful stroke. All you have to do then is go out and practise to develop the consistency that wilt make you a winner. I hope that some of my thoughts will help.