Updated: May 20, 2021
Putting should be easy! When compared to other athletic tasks such as Lionel Messi dribbling through an entire team at full speed, or Naomi Osaka hitting a 120+ MPH ace, putting is clearly a simple endeavour.
Yet when we are struggling with putting, this simple task can seem hopelessly complex! We have all seen, and likely have been, the person who is overthinking things on the greens yet not making putts.
At the end of the day though, we only need three skills to be great putters. In fact, if we did all these things perfectly on a green with no bumps/imperfections, we would make every single putt that we hit.
The three essential skills to be a great putter are (in order of importance):
Speed control (hitting the putt with the desired force)
Green reading (correctly assessing the slope and speed of the green, and to a lesser extent wind and grain direction)
Directional control (hitting the desired start line)
Yes, I know; these three skills are glaringly obvious. However, they are the first thing I look to when I am helping a client with their putting or when I am struggling with putting in my own game. Many golfers quickly get lost in the weeds when struggling with putting and assume that they need a technical overhaul to their stroke. You do not want to fall into this trap! Instead, be a bit more systematic.
First, work through the three essential skills one by one to determine what is your greatest priority (or priorities) to improve. Then, make an improvement plan that is reasonable for you to follow - there is no sense making a plan that you won't be able to execute. Then, get to work and execute your improvement plan! Your plan may include technical improvements, and it may not. However, that should not be the first place your brain immediately goes.
In the upcoming weeks, I will do a deeper dive into each of the three essential skills of putting, highlighting the importance of the skill, helping you assess if it is a strength or weakness in your own game, and giving tips on how you can improve each skill. My hope is that with the knowledge of what is essential to great putting and what isn't, putting will again seem simple to you.