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The Seven Deadly Sins of Putting
and How to Avoid Them
by Fran Davis

Click here to become really good at putting

The Seven Deadly Sins of Putting…
The Original Sin
Very few social golfers discover their putting potential but you can
avoid making the same mistake by believing that you can quickly
improve your putting and make it the strongest part of your game.
There is no doubt that you are capable of making that a reality and
you don’t need to employ the services of a sports psychologist, or
any other sports “guru”. All you need to do is think about this…
The reason that most amateur golfers do not putt nearly as well as
they could do, goes back to the way they first learnt to play golf.
For the vast majority of golf beginners the first priority is learning to
strike the ball with a club, normally a short iron. Once that skill has
been acquired the focus is on hitting the ball further and more
accurately on a consistent basis.
Putting is a low priority at this stage because from day one
everyone can do it reasonably well and, by comparison to ball

striking, it is a much easier process. It may take quite a few
attempts to get the ball in the hole but even as a complete novice
you don’t have air shots with your putter and you always move the
ball in the right direction each time you hit it. But if you can’t get
the ball from the tee to the green reasonably comfortably you would
never make it onto a golf course so learning to strike the ball with a
selection of different clubs is bound to be the starting point for
practice and lessons.
The problem however is that from the very first day that you
started to play golf you were mentally conditioned into believing
that devoting time and effort to improving your putting skill was not
as high a priority as the rest of your game, which was totally
reasonable... then. The mistake most amateurs make is in not
correcting that state of mind.
For the majority of social golfers, the putting ability you started with
on day one has only been increased by observation, tips from fellow
golfers and in some cases the occasional lesson, probably booked in
desperation after a few rounds of putting particularly badly! (All the
golf-teaching professionals I’ve spoken to say the same thing; the
number of requests they have for lessons devoted solely to putting,
are less than 1% of the total.)
So the chances are that, from when you first started to play golf,
your ball striking skills have improved dramatically but your putting
skills have been nowhere near developed to the same degree.
This is why most amateur golfers fail to maximize their putting
potential. There is a deeply ingrained belief in the back of your mind
that you’re as good a putter as you’re ever going to be but that’s
just not true.
Accept the fact that because of the mental baggage you are still
carrying from when you started to play golf you have never given
your putting the chance to make the most of your natural ability.
Physically there is nothing to prevent you from making putting the
most solid, reliable part of your game and what’s more you can
achieve this quickly and easily. All you need is a sharper focus on
ways to improve your accuracy and distance control, and belief in
FDR once said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there”. So,
believe that you can make putting the strongest part of your game
and you’re already way ahead of your fellow-golfers. Turning your
belief into reality is the easy bit.
Click here to become really good at putting

The Second Deadly Sin of Putting - Not Facing
the Facts
When you start to play golf, improving your putting skills is the poor
relation when compared to the time and effort you put in to
improving your ball striking and even the golf handicapping system
seems to support that position.
When golf course designers plan a course they ensure that the par
5 greens are reachable by a scratch golfer in three shots, a par 4 in
two shots and a par 3 in one shot. A scratch golfer, i.e. a zero
handicap, is expected to be capable of completing a par 5 hole in 5
shots (3 from tee to green and 2 putts), a par 4 hole using two
shots to the green plus two putts and a par 3 with one shot to the
green and two putts. So for a standard 18 hole, par 72 golf course a
scratch golfer should be able to get round in 72 strokes, 36 from
tee to green plus 36 putts.
An inexperienced golfer with a handicap of 100 gets 28 “extra”
shots to complete the same course. There is no guideline
suggesting how many of those extras are intended for tee to green
shots and how many for putts but the implication is that the
majority of these extra shots are to level the playing field for the
inexperienced golfer in helping to get to the greens. This is not
unreasonable since not nearly as much help should be needed in
holing putts on the vast majority of greens. After all, even as a
beginner you don’t lack the strength to make even the longest putt
and holing it depends on just two factors; identifying the correct
line from ball to cup and distance control. Of course, there’s plenty
that can go wrong mainly due to a lack of understanding of putting
fundamentals but most of these shortcomings can be cured at
home. For sure, learning to putt consistently well is a far less
daunting prospect than developing the skills needed to get the ball
from tee to green by making a number of quite different shots over
considerably different distances using clubs of differing lengths!
Even a mid-level golfer on a handicap of 18 (a shot per hole more
than a scratch golfer) could be expected to need most of those
extra shots to get onto the greens. The handicap reflects that a mid
level golfer is at a disadvantage against the skills of a scratch
golfer, whether in distance, accuracy, the deft touch around the

greens that all low handicappers have, mental attitude or a
combination of some or all these skills. But when it comes to
putting there is no reason why the 18-handicapper should have
much of a disadvantage and 36 putts per round is the most that
should be needed.
So from the time we start playing golf the “feeling” is that two putts
per hole, or maybe a little more in the early days, is a reasonable
expectation but the reality is very different. Most golfers are aware
that their putting lets them down too often but they don’t face the
facts of how many putts they take, on average, each round.
So now is the time to face the facts – always count your putts and
you’ll quickly see the opportunity you have to slash your scores.
Click here to become really good at putting

The Third Deadly Sin of Putting – Taking Your Putter
for Granted
However high or low your golf scores are, around 40% of your shots
are made with your putter. It is, by far, the most used club in your
bag but when was the last time you checked whether your putter
has got what it takes to be your best friend? Are you certain that it
is giving you the best possible chance to make well over a third of
the shots on your scorecard? The first question you should ask
yourself, and it’s a real biggie, is this…
Is my putter optimized to match my stroke?
Despite the huge variety of putter head designs, they fall into two
main categories to suit different putting strokes, of which there are
essentially two styles. The first is taking the putter back and
forward on a straight line, the other is to swing the putter from
inside to out and back inside again through a shallow arc.
Putters are weighted to be as square as possible at point of impact
according to your putting style. Face-balanced putters are intended
for golfers who prefer the straight back and through putting stroke
and toe-balanced putters are traditionally intended for golfers who
prefer the “arc” style of putting
If you’re not sure whether your putter is face-balanced or toe-

balanced just do this simple test. Place your middle finger under
your putter and adjust the position of the shaft until it balances on
your finger. If the clubface is facing upward, parallel to the ground,
then it is face-balanced. If the toe of your putter is facing towards
the ground, lower than the rest of the putter, then it is toebalanced. Most blade-style putters are toe-balanced and best suited
to the “arc” putting method whereas most mallet putters are face
balanced and designed to suit a straight back and through putting
Because the weighting of a putter is designed specifically for one or
other of these different styles of stroke, it really would be a sin to
be using a putter that’s working against the shape of the stroke you
are most comfortable with. Your style of putting is a personal choice
but it’s really important to use a putter that suits your stroke.
The second question you should ask yourself, and it’s also a real
biggie, is this…
Is my putter the right length for me?
If you have never checked, the chances are that it’s either too long
or too short. We are all different shapes and sizes and we each have
a stance that feels most comfortable. (It’s just the same as the pro
golfers on tour; Tiger Woods prefers a fairly upright stance but Jack
Nicklaus likes to crouch over the ball.)
That means that when you adopt your natural stance, the distance
between your hands and the ground is unique to you and your
putter length should match that. If it doesn’t, the base of your
putter is probably not lying perfectly flat on the green, which will
affect the accuracy of your putts. If you change your stance to
match your putter, apart from it being less comfortable and natural,
your view of the ball is not as good as it could be.
This is a no-brainer. Getting on for 40% of your strokes each time
you play, the opportunity to minimize mistakes and you’re not even
giving yourself a fair chance. (You may be one of those lucky few
whose standard shaft-length putter is a perfect fit but the odds
make that seriously unlikely.)
There is a very simple and inexpensive solution. First check whether
your putter is the optimum length for you by doing this simple test
at home. Set up as if you were going to address a ball but with no
putter in your hands. Let your arms just hang naturally and take a
few practice strokes as if you were holding a putter.
Without moving from that position get someone to place your putter
in your hands and mark with tape on the shaft where the top and

bottom of your hands now are. You’ll probably be surprised at the
If your hands are lower than they used to be make a mark one half
inch above the top tape. This is the length your putter should be. If
your hands are higher than they used to be make a mark one half
inch below the bottom tape. The measurement between there and
the bottom of the grip is the length by which your putter should be
Any pro-shop or golf store can make this adjustment for you for a
very modest cost but what a huge benefit!
Click here to become really good at putting

The Fourth Deadly Sin of Putting – Playing the
Wrong Ball
This is not about playing someone else’s golf ball by mistake but
routinely using a brand of ball that does not enhance your game.
In fairness, at first sight, it appears to be very difficult to work out
which ball is likely to be best for you because there is an
overwhelming amount of information including many myths and
misleading claims about the abilities of different golf balls to
transform your game.
Golf ball manufacturers quote all sorts of statistics about potential
driving distance off the tee, spin and controllability, even dimple
counts that affect the aerodynamic properties of the ball.
It is true that the way golf balls are constructed make some of them
better suited to certain swing styles and club-head that speeds than
others but the reality is that, for most golfers, the distance and shot
shape you achieve won’t change significantly irrespective of what
ball you choose to play. More importantly, even if did somewhat
improve your shape of shot or distance off the tee that is unlikely to
have a meaningful impact on your scores. When it comes to putting
however, your choice of golf ball can make a significant difference.
Golf ball manufacturers rarely, if ever, make claims about the
suitability of their balls for putting which is surprising given that
putts make up between forty and fifty percent of your scores. The

reason they don’t is because they know that the best ball for you is
the one that best suits your putting style and it’s a totally personal,
subjective choice. There is no right or wrong except that you should
choose a golf ball that feels best for you on the putting greens
because, without doubt, that is where it’s qualities will have the
biggest impact on your golf scores.
I learned an important lesson about the pro’s and cons of different
balls soon after I started playing golf. I had the good fortune to play
quite often with two very experienced golfers, Mike and Ted. Mike
had a handicap of 6, Ted played off 11 and they were both very
good at putting; in fact for both of them it was the strongest part of
their game. Coincidentally, they both used identical putters, a very
basic blade style, but their choice of ball couldn’t have been more
different. Mike always used a Titleist because he preferred it’s softer
feel but Ted always played with a solid feeling Top-Flite because he
could use a shorter putting stroke that he felt left less margin for
I realized that they were both right… they had each found the ball
that worked best for them on the putting green.
Shockingly, many experienced golfers just don’t realize how difficult
they are making it for themselves on the greens. You can’t possibly
putt consistently if you start out each round with a different type of
ball yet researchers for golf ball manufacturers, when asking golfers
which type of ball they play, frequently get the response “whatever
is in my bag.”
Making putting the strongest part of your game can be achieved
quite easily but finding the brand and model of golf ball that works
best for you is a key element and quickly fixed. Experiment a bit on
the practice green to compare the performance of different ball
types and once you have found the one you like best, take a leaf
from Mike and Ted’s book. Never use the wrong ball again.
Click here to become really good at putting

The Fifth Deadly Sin of Putting - Looking at the Ball
When You Are Putting

Yes you did read that right but I am not suggesting that you putt
with your eyes closed when you are playing golf.
One of the most frequent putting mistakes that amateurs make is to
concentrate on the ball during their putt. This has the effect of
encouraging head movement because the eyes tend to follow the
ball towards the hole during the putting stroke and, if you are righthanded, you will tend to slightly close your putter and miss the hole
to the left.
Obviously you need to look towards the hole while you are
assessing the slopes in the green and how that will affect the way
your ball is likely to break but once you have visualized the line and
speed of your putt, it’s worth copying Annika Sorenstam’s
technique. She was probably the greatest ever lady golfer and she
asked Dave Stockton for his advice on putting. (He was a former
Ryder Cup Captain, had won the PGA Championship twice and is
regarded as one of the best putters in the history of the game.)
He was quoted as saying: - “Here's one of the secrets I gave
Annika: You do not focus your eyes on the ball when you putt. You
pick a spot one-inch in front of the ball that you want the ball to roll
over, and that's where you look. My whole career, I knew whether
the ball was going into the hole within a split second after it left the
face of the putter, because if it went over that spot an inch in front
of the ball, it was going in the hole. Try it for the week, and I can all
but guarantee you'll putt better than you ever have”.
(Annika went on to become only woman to shoot 59 on the LPGA
Tour! She also won just about everything in sight and dominated
woman’s professional golf for many years before her retirement
from Tour golf in 2008 at the ripe old age of 38.)
So, once you have decided on the line of your putt, identify a point
just one inch in front of your ball on the line you have visualized.
Now set your ball down and adjust it so that the manufacturers
name, which is printed on the circumference of your ball, points
exactly towards your “one-inch” point.
(Alternatively you may find it is easier to line up accurately by
marking your balls in advance with a line along the circumference
just as Rory McIlroy and many other Tour golfers do. You can obtain
a ball-marking guide for a very modest cost from any golf store.)
Concentrate on your one-inch point, make your stroke, watch your
ball pass through that spot and keep your eyes focused on that
point. Provided that the ball rolls precisely over your one-inch spot

you know, without doubt, that you have started the ball out exactly
along the line you visualized. The other great benefit of this
technique is that all your concentration is now focused on being
accurate over just one inch and it will also help to keep your head
Click here to become really good at putting

The Sixth Deadly Sin of Putting – Not Having an
Open Mind
There is a huge amount advice and countless tips on how to read
greens, but much of it so complex that it’s likely to baffle rather
than enlighten you. Also, many of the authors imply that reading
greens well is an art form that can only be acquired by a chosen
few. Don’t believe them because that is absolute nonsense.
Reading greens is a skill that can be acquired without too much
difficulty by anyone. Without doubt, experience will help but only
provided you have a consistent way of measuring the slopes, or
breaks, of each green. If you don’t, you won’t have a consistent
way of selecting the best line for your putt and you will end up
relying only on “feel”, otherwise known as “hit and hope”.
There are many techniques for visualizing the slopes between your
ball and the hole so that you can determine the path you need to
select for a successful putt but one of the most simple and reliable
is called “plumb-bobbing”. This technique is frequently talked down
by a lot of teaching pro’s and self-professed experts but it is one
used by many Tour Pro’s including Angel Cabrera (winner of the
2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters) and also Ben Cranshaw who
is widely regarded as one of the consistently best putters on tour!
So if you haven’t tried this technique yet, forget any prejudices you
or your fellow golfers may have and give it a try. (Some people may
tell you that they’ve tried this and it didn’t work for them but that’s
almost certainly because the weren’t doing it correctly.)
Plumb-Bobbing is a technique that will allow you to see in which
direction the ball will break on it’s way to the hole and the target
line you need to select to compensate for that movement.

The first thing you need to be clear about, and you can do this right
now, is which of your eyes is dominant because you will always use
that eye to line up.
Hold a pencil upright in your fist with your arm straight out in front
of you and line up with some object, (a light switch or a picture or
mark on a wall), at least eight feet from you. Now close your right
eye and look through the left one then close the left one and look
through your right eye. One eye will have made the object you were
looking at appear to move while using the other eye made the
object stay still. The eye used when the object stayed still is your
dominant eye.
Now you know which eye is dominant here is how to plumb-bob a
Place yourself behind the ball in a direct line to the hole. Hold your
putter gently just beneath the grip using just your thumb and
forefinger. (This will balance your putter so that it is hanging
perpendicular to the ground.)
Your putter should now be in a straight line from your ball at the
bottom to the hole at the top. (You may need to move backwards a
bit for longer putts or crouch slightly for shorter ones to get the ball
and hole lined up at the bottom and top of your putter but you’ll
soon get the feel of this bit.
Now look through your dominant eye with your other one closed
and, unless the line is dead straight, you will clearly see the slope of
the green and where you need to aim to compensate.
Click here to become really good at putting

The Seventh Deadly Sin of Putting – Three-Putting
It’s just the worst feeling isn’t it? We’ve all done it all too often. You
get to the green in regulation, potentially a birdie opportunity, and
you end up three putting and snatching a defeat from the jaws of
victory. Or, just as bad, you finally make it to the green having
taken more shots than you normally need to and instead of at least
putting respectably, you three-putt and make a bad situation worse.
But you can avoid three-putting almost entirely. There are just two
causes of three putting, the line you choose from the ball to the
hole and your distance control, but which one is more important?

The line of the putt is obviously vital because the ball needs to go in
the direction of the hole to have any chance of getting in, BUT the
speed of the putt is the most important factor by far.
Top coach to the Pro’s, Butch Harmon, said during a TV
commentary about a crucial putt at a top tournament, “This is a
really good lesson for amateur golfers; they mainly don’t pay
enough attention to distance control but it’s actually more important
to get that right first time than the absolute line of the putt”.
That’s really great advice and the reason he made that point is clear
when you think about it. If your first putt is only fractionally off line
and even shaves the edge of the hole but ends up six feet past it,
you are still facing a challenging second putt. Likewise if your ball is
perfectly on line from the first putt but runs out of steam six feet
before it gets to the hole you’re again facing a challenging second
putt which could easily end up needing a third putt to get down.
Also, leaving the ball well short of the cup or racing it far too long
damages your confidence which makes the next putt that more
difficult again. You’re almost setting yourself up for a three-putt, or
By contrast, your line could be off by a foot, right or left of the hole,
but if you have the speed of the putt right, the ball will end up no
further than one foot from the cup. Even if your line is two foot off
you will still have a much easier second putt which you’ll approach
full of confidence because you got so close with your first putt.
There are several ways, all of them simple, to get very accurate
with your distance control but one that really works quickly is this.
Find a practice green that ideally is flat and put down 3 similar balls
about 20 feet from the hole. The object is just to get each of them
as close to the hole as possible so don’t worry too much about the
line, it’s the distance that is key.
By your 3rd ball you’ll probably be getting quite close because your
mind is registering the result of each putt and automatically guiding
your speed for the next one. Once you leave at least two of the
balls within no more than a couple of feet of the target, repeat the
exercise from about 15 feet. And so on but mix it up a bit between
short and longer distances.
You’ll find that you’ll get good at this quite quickly and subconsciously you will know how firmly to strike the ball to get it close
to the hole for any distance. You can make this a bit of fun by doing
this practice with a friend and making it a mini-competition.
(Whoever gets nearest to the hole gets to choose the next hole or
distance to putt from). Just be sure to putt all 3 balls one after the

other when it’s your turn so that your sub-conscious mind gets the
opportunity to make the mental adjustment for each one. If you
can’t find a flat practice green, find a flat area on it and use a tee
peg as a target but always be aware of other golfers so that your
practice doesn’t hold them up.
Click here to become really good at putting  
Copyright Fran Davis 2013

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