Dave Stockton and sons have received lots of recognition recently with their students’ improved putting statistics. This was also true of Stan Utley and Dave Pelz within the last couple of decades.

What is the best way to putt? Should you stroke “straight back and straight through” (Pelz), “let the putter move in an arc” (Utley), or “move the putter inside to down the line” (Stockton)?

While each of these methods is technically correct and works for those who commit to using them, how do we explain the wide variance in successful putting techniques on the tours?

Billy Mayfair made millions with a “slice” putting stroke, while Bobby Locke came from South Africa and conquered the PGA Tour in the 1950’s with a “hook stroke.”

Gary Player won the career Grand Slam putting with a pronounced  closed stance, yet Jack Nicklaus won 18 professional majors and the career Grand Slam putting from an open stance. There are certain “imperatives” in putting on which almost all great teachers agree. Number one, you must learn to hit the ball in the center of the putter face; that is the only way to produce consistent speed control, which equals accurate distance.

If you can’t roll the ball a consistent distance, then you can’t predict an accurate break/borrow. Number two, you must learn to control the face of the putter so that it is square to your intended line at impact on every stroke. If you can’t hit the ball where you are aiming, only luck will allow you to make putts. Finally, you must be able to “read” the green/putting surface accurately to predict how much the putt will break at the appropriate speed.

Numbers one and two can be practiced anywhere – spend ten minutes a day putting at a table leg in your home/office from three feet. Use face tape (available at retail outlets or on the internet under golf training aids) to monitor center contact. Keep a log of how many putts hit the table leg to monitor squareness of your putter face at impact.

The only way to really practice reading greens/putting surfaces is to spend time on the greens/putting surfaces. This means that you should find a practice putting green that you can use as often as possible, and daily if feasible. Focus on these three imperatives, practice them diligently, and you will see your putting statistics improve.

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