The Best Putting Drills & Tips (The Ultimate Guide)
Welcome. I’m Ian Allen and in today’s Ultimate Guide, we’re taking a look at the best golf putting drills and tips I use to improve my golf. I’m going to share with you various ways to practice your game that will improve your confidence and lower your scores on the green.
These putting drills and tips have been gathered together over the last year. I have used all of them to improve my confidence on the greens, reduce my anxiety and help manage the pressure. All resulting in me maintaining a putting average close to the top twenty professionals on the PGA tour.
Over the last 20 rounds of golf, I have achieved 1.75 putts/hole. The top 10 PGA players in Putting Averages, hit 1.73 putts/hole. For me this means that if there’s one part of my game I believe I’m at my best in, it’s putting.
Now I want to help you feel the same way. Just think how much better your scores would be if you could stop 3 putting. Or perhaps you would like to hole more 5’ putts for a par or birdie.
How realistic are your expectations about making putts?
Before I get started with the putting drills. Let’s talk about how your putting compares to a PGA Tour Professional. And the expectations that go with it. To begin with, let’s do a test.
- Place an object on the ground that will represent the hole.
- Now take one step away from the object. Look at it and write down what percentage of putts you think you would make from this distance. For this exercise I am assuming 1 stride is approximately 3 feet.
- Next write down what you think an average PGA Tour Professional would make from this distance.
- Now do the same from 6 feet, 9 feet, 12 feet and 15 feet.
Once you have done this, let’s compare them to actual PGA Tour statistics.
Generally when doing this, the higher handicap golfer will actually have a higher expectation of makes than a lower handicap player. Yet both groups will have a higher expectation of makes than the Tour average.
I believe that part of the high expectation is due to how putting is portrayed during television coverage. Sometimes the coverage is quick cuts from green to green showing players making putts and moving up the leaderboard.
The coverage is skewed towards showing made putts, not missed putts. This misleads the viewers into thinking Tour Professionals make a much higher percentage of putts than they actually do.
But short game performance has an impact too.
Think about this for a moment. Are you not scoring well because you are putting poorly, or are you are not hitting the ball close enough to realistically make putts?
Looking at the stats above, if you are leaving your chip shots 9 feet from the hole, rather than 6 feet. Then you are 30% more likely to drop a shot.
Improving your short game skills may cause you to look differently at how your putting skills measure up. For a PGA Pro, the point at which making a putt becomes 50/50, is 7 feet 10 inches.
If you’re not finishing your short game shots to within 8 feet of the hole, you’re not likely to make the following putt, even if you were a PGA Tour Player. Working on your short game in conjunction to improving your putting practice, will certainly improve your scores.
Anyone Can Putt Like a Pro
The best thing about putting versus the full golf swing, is that there are fewer moving parts. You don’t have to manage a club that is travelling at almost 100mph, and therefore it’s simply less demanding physically.
The art of putting is about consistency of setup, a feel for ‘pace’ and finally, yet most importantly, confidence in your ability.
Because I have made a huge difference to my own putting. I truly believe anyone can. And that’s why I also believe that even if you can’t drive the ball 300+ yards, or hit a 9 iron 160 yards, anyone can putt like a professional.
So before we get to the various drills to become a better putter. Let’s take a look at the basic tips that will help you sink more putts and lower your scores.
9 great putting tips that will improve your game
Get your pace right
I have watched many players on the practice green. They turn up ready for a match or social round. And once on the green, they simply drop a couple of balls and proceed to hit the first one long and the second one short.
If you are to improve your game, you have to be able to improve your approach to putting. It’s a game within a game.
Rather than simply knock two balls around the practice green. Drop four balls 3 feet apart starting from 10 feet from the hole. Now putt the first one, then the second and so on. Try to get a feel for how much harder you are striking the ball.
If you lose the ‘Feel’ for the weight of the putter. Then turn it upside down and swing it by the head. After a few swings, turn it back over and you will immediately feel the weight of the club again. Making the next putt easier.
Try to sink every putt
Do you try to hole every putt? You should be.
If you’ve been shooting at any point in your life you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Aim Small, Miss Small!” What does it really mean though? And how does precision shooting apply to putting?
There’s really two components to this phrase, the point of aim and the definition of the target at distance. The idea is fairly simple and I’ve found it to be quite true in both real world shooting and putting.
In shooting, it’s easiest to see with novice shooters. If you hand them a pistol, rifle, whatever, and tell them to shoot the target they will. The rounds will often land all over the target. If you tell them to pick a small area, as in aim at the right eye of the bad guy…the rounds group tighter. Aim small, miss small!
In short game practice or putting we hear the same advice all the time. Get the ball within 3 foot of the hole. Yet in my experience, if you aim at such a big target, you tend to miss more than hit it.
Mentally, when imagining the circle around the hole. We automatically focus on the boundary of that circle. And as we are only trying to get the ball to that boundary, we can, more often than not, have a tendency to leave the ball short of this line.
By changing our focus from, “I don’t want to leave it short”, to actually getting the ball past the cup. We are more likely to get closer, and at times, even sink those long putts. Remember a short putt NEVER goes in, yet a long putt ALWAYS has a chance to drop!
Make any adjustments before your stroke, not during.
This sounds like common sense, yet how often have you felt like you should re-address the ball. Only to continue the stroke and try to manipulate the putter half way through?
The putting stroke can be as short as six inches in length. So it is clear that you don’t have much time to compensate for a bad setup. In fact, when you’re putting from 3 feet, your putting stroke is so short, you just have no time for adjustments at all.
Take your time when you set up to the ball. Make sure that you are comfortable. Rely on your pre-shot routine and by the time you start the stroke, you will be 90% of the way to sinking each putt.
Visualise the ball dropping into the hole
Another tip that sounds like common sense. Yet a higher percentage of golfers have an expectation of missing the hole, than actually sinking their putt.
Once you have read the line of the putt. Visualise the ball running long it. Imagine the ball following the line. Imagine the pace that the ball has and see it dropping in the hole.
Now once you are over the ball. Visualise the ball running along the line once again. Now take your stroke.
Pick a spot on the back of the ball.
Research in the early 90’s discovered that professional golfers controlled their vision in a different way to novice golfers. During the alignment phase. When taking a stance over the ball. Professionals tended to make quick, fixation shifts between the hole and the ball. These fixations were focused on the centre of the hole and then on the back of the ball.
In contrast, novice golfers had less structured fixations. They looked in a variety of
locations around the hole or on the green. And then either behind the ball or on the club head itself.
The study also found that professionals also had differing visual control during the actual swing.
Professionals kept their eyes steady on the back of the ball for about 2 seconds prior to initiating the backswing. They then maintained this fixation throughout the swing
until contact with the ball. Once the ball had been struck the eyes remained steady in the same location for about 300‐500ms. This strategy is known as the ‘Quiet Eye’.
Golfers who adopt the ‘Quiet Eye’ technique, are found to sink more putts, and make smaller misses.
Care less and reduce the pressure
Pressure and anxiety are scorecard killers in golf. So before they strike, you need a strategy to manage them.
Pressure is caused by an unrealistic expectation of one’s performance. And by understanding how you can, do and should perform throughout your game, you can easily lower your anxiety and hence the pressure you place upon yourself.
Earlier on in this article I told you that a PGA professional will make 43% of putts from 8 feet. In simplistic form, that’s only 4 in every 10 putts.
With this in mind, I approach everything outside of 5 feet, with little expectation of the ball going in. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to get it in. I do. I still visualise the ball rolling along the line I have picked, and dropping in the cup. I just don’t beat myself up about it if it doesn’t drop.
Playing your round with realistic expectations of your own game. Will lower your anxiety levels tremendously. Unfortunately for many, they aren’t prepared to have a cold hard look at their game. So continue to punish themselves unnecessarily.
Practice for success
I am a big proponent of regularly practicing inside 8 feet. By doing this I am more confident when out on the course. And if you think about it, how many shots would you save if you could sink a lot of putts from 8 feet?
If there is a regular distance that you seem to fail converting you putts from. Then go to the practice green and, well, practice.
Have a regular routine
With your full swing, your putting routine needs to be consistent. It is the routine that anchors your mind and body and removes all the distractions around us.
Anxiety and pressure are the two things that increase our susceptibility to distractions. So using a pre-shot routine helps quiet the mind and also, quiet the eyes.
A pre-shot routine is also helpful if you have to work on something specific within your stroke or set up. Including these checks and feelings is a very important part of any pre-shot routine.
So next time you are on the practice green. Think about what you need to get right, decide how to address it and then work in into your routine.
Mark your ball
This is one change that really made a difference to my putting.
With a normal shot, face angle dictates probably 80% of ball direction. Yet when putting, this percentage increases to almost 98%. So getting your putter square to your ball is crucially important.
I never used to have a line on my ball. Like many I used to simply put a dot or initial my ball before play. However when practicing I used to use a ball that had two coloured halves.
The reason for this was to help me see how well I was hitting the ball. If I stuck it with a slightly open or closed face, then I could clearly see the ball wobble. I began to think that I should use something similar whilst playing.
I now put a line around half of the ball. I use a simple but effective marking tool which was cheap, but has lasted me very well.
Like a sniper scope, the line on my ball identifies my target line and shows me the way. I line my putter face up with it and I don’t have to think too much about anything other than a nice simple stroke.
The line also informs me how I struck the ball. If it rolls end over end. Then even if I miss the putt, I know that I put a good stroke on the ball.
If I missed the putt and the line was wobbling, well at least I know that I am responsible.
My Ultimate Putting Drills to Improve Technique and Confidence
Having the ability to remain calm is key to having a consistent and controlled putting stroke. So it is important to be able to recreate the feelings and sensations you have on the golf course, during all your practice sessions. Otherwise there is no benefit to you spending hours practicing on the range or putting green.
Each of the following drills has two versions. The first will concentrate simply on technique. Either improving your pace or direction. The second version however, is designed to pile on the pressure by attaching a high value consequence to the exercise. Where failure to complete it means doing it all over again! These second drills are simple but brutal, you have been warned.
The Lag Putting Drill
Here is a statistic for you. From 30’ the a PGA Professional, will lag their Putts, on average, to within 2 feet 4 inches of the hole. Then from here they will make 99.4% of these putts. Getting the right ‘Pace’ on your putts is crucial if you’re going to shave strokes off your score. And this drill is perfect for doing just that. Plus it is easy!
For this drill you don’t need a hole. Just an area of green will do. If you are finding that you’re having trouble with putts that break in a certain direction, then set it up to work with those.
Here’s how it perform this putting drill;
- Place several tees in the ground 4’ apart. Normally you will need perhaps 5 positions.
- Using 3 balls. Make a putt to every other tee. Your aim being to finish the putt next to the tee your aiming at. By changing the tee that you’re aiming at, your brain will have to recalibrate the strength of putt.
- If you are finding it easy to get 3 balls up by the tee. Then start using 2 balls. Eventually as you get better you will be using 1 ball, and getting it next to the tee almost every time.
The Box Drill
To Improve Technique and Control Pressure
PGA Tour players – THE BEST GOLFERS IN THE WORLD – make nearly 30 percent more putts from 3 feet compared to 6 feet.
That means if these players hit all 18 greens and lag each putt to 6 feet instead of 3 feet, they’ll basically three-putt five or six times instead of zero. (In other words, they’ll miss nearly one-third of their putts from 6 feet compared to virtually none from 3 feet). The point is that even the world’s best would three-putt often if they didn’t lag it close. So we can see how important, solid lag putting is to lowering your scores.
Clearly 100% of short putts never go in the hole. So you need to ensure every putt reaches the hole. Or if it misses, that it rolls no further than 3’ past. This putting drill is designed to train your technique to achieve just that.
Here’s how it works;
- Create a 3’ square box around the hole. Ensuring that the front of the box is level with the front edge of the hole. I use elasticated lanyards from my TeeClaw Training System, which allows the ball to roll over unhindered. If you don’t have this training aid, which is great by the way; You can use tees to mark out the boundaries. another alternative is to place a towel on the green and use that.
- Next place 4 tees in a row across the back of the box.
- Now place a tee in the ground 10’ from the front edge of the hole. It doesn’t matter if the line of the putt is straight, or if there is movement left to right. However, you may want to practice the putts from this distance which you are having the most issues with.
- Now take 5 balls and putt each one into the box.
- If you hole a ball you get to remove it and place it on a tee at the back.
- Should you leave any putts short. Then remove a ball from one of the tees.
- Perform the drill until you have all the tees full of balls and you hole the last one. The last one is the real pressure putt.
The aim of the exercise is to train yourself to putt each ball with enough pace to reach the hole, without going too far past or landing outside the box because you have miss read the line.
The benefit of having the balls on the tees at the back, is to create performance based pressure. Not only will you feel pressure if you leave two consecutive putts short, having to remove 2 balls from the back tees. You will also feel the pressure with the last ball.
The Box and Ladder Drill
Similar in principle to the exercise above, the ‘Box and Ladder Putting Drill conditions your ability to manage pace from random lengths.
If you haven’t already, I suggest you read the article on ‘Blocked vs Random Practice’ which I wrote some time ago. This explains in more detail how our minds learns a new technique.
The box and ladder putting drill is great for those of us that are very inconsistent with our putting pace. I will often perform this drill after I have completed the standard box drill from above.
Here’s how it works;
- As before, create a 3’ square box around the hole. Ensuring that the front of the box is level with the front edge of the hole. Again I use elasticated lanyards from my TeeClaw Training System but you can either use tees to mark out the boundaries, clubs or alignment sticks.
- Now place a line of tees in the ground at 10’, 15’, 20’, 25’ and 30’ from the front of the box.
- Now take 5 balls and starting at the closest tee, putt each one into the box.
- If you leave any short, stop, collect the balls you have putted and start again from that distance.
- Once you have managed to get all 5 balls in the box. Move onto the next distance and perform the drill again.
- To complete the drill, you must get all 5 balls within the box at each distance.
Advanced Level Box and Ladder Putting Drill
If you want to make this drill advanced. Then do as follows;
- Place a ball at each of the distances.
- Starting from any tee, putt the ball. If it reaches the box you can move onto the next distance.
- If you miss the box, then you must go back to the very beginning.
- Keep doing this until you have completed the drill.
Competitive Box and Ladder Putting Drill
If you would like to turn this drill into a pre-round or post-round competitive match, then take note;
- Each player has 3 lives.
- Run the drill as normal until everyone is dead.
- The one that lasts until then end is obviously the winner.
Money has exchanged hands over this drill and it is a great game to play over a post round beer as every player can compete regardless of their handicap.
The Merry-Go-Round Putting Drill
To Improve Technique
Also known as the ‘clock drill’, the Merry-Go-Round drill is the staple putting drill that will improve your technique. This will increase your confidence and ultimately, lower your score on the greens.
Here’s how to set it up;
- Starting at 3’, place three tees 1’ apart.
- You can create 4 rows at 90 degrees to each other. Or if you want a real challenge, you can have 5 or even six rows. All must be equidistant around the hole.
- Start from any tee you wish, and once you have made a putt from that position, remove the tee and go to the next one.
- The aim is to remove all the tees in as fewer strokes as possible.
- Record your score each time you perform this drill, and see how much better you are doing over time.
The Merry-Go-Mad Putting Drill
to Improve Confidence under Pressure
This is the next step up on the Merry-Go-Round drill. This will ultimately test your ability to control yourself under pressure. And trust me, it will pile on the pressure.
Here’s how it works;
- Set up the same as before, although I recommend only 4 rows to begin with.
- You only have 3 balls, each one representing a ‘life’.
- Starting from the 3’ tee, make a putt.
- If you hole the putt, you can move on to the 4’ tee and so one. However if you miss it, you lose a life.
- Once you have run out of lives, you MUST go back to the very beginning and start again.
- Finishing the drill with only three balls is hard at first, but perfectly possible by the average player with a little extra practice.
- As you get better you may choose to give yourself only 2 lives. And if you really want to be a putting Jedi, then use just 1 ball.
Standard Gate & Mirror Drill
Technique & Confidence
Regardless of your handicap level. This drill should be the mainstay of anyone’s putting practice. It will help you add consistency into your putting, whilst improving your tempo.
Here’s how it works;
- Set up a 3’ putt. It can be either an easy straight putt or have some slight movement on it. You need to be recreating the putts that make you feel the most uncomfortable.
- Now set up a putting mirror. On mine there are 3 widths of ‘Gate’ available. Starting at the widest setting, putt until you reach 20 in a row.
- Now reduce the ‘Gate’ width and repeat. Again until you consistently hole 20 putts in a row.
- Finally reduce the ‘Gate’ to its narrowest setting and go for as many as you can.
Track your scores so that you have something to look back on that shows you how much you have improved.
The High Score Gate Drill
To Improve Confidence
A simple yet highly effective drill that will improve your technique through ‘Blocked’ practice principles. By performing this drill you will gain confidence in your ability to start your ball online and hole those knee-wobbling short putts.
Here’s how it works;
- Set up a 3’ putt. It can be either an easy straight putt or have some slight movement on it. Yet don’t make it difficult. We are looking to improve our confidence in the art of putting. If you choose a putt with some movement on it, then ensure that you have practiced this putt previously, so you’re not going into this cold.
- Using 2 tees, create a ‘gate’ that is just wider than your putter head. This will ensure that you are presenting a square face at impact.
- The objective now is to putt as many consecutive balls as you can.
Tiger Woods would perform this drill and get to 100 putts before he would finish. However, getting to 50 is more than adequate.
Putting Stick Drill
To Improve Technique
For this drill you can use any thin, long and flat object. Many use a steel ruler, the putting sword or the putting Tee Square. All of which can be found in my article on the best golf training aids.
Here’s how it works;
- Using your ‘Putting Ruler’. Set up a reasonably easy putt of about 4’ or 5’ in length.
- The aim of this drill is to train you to hit the ball squarely at impact. This will send the ball along the ‘Putting Ruler’ and into the hole.
- If the ball is struck with an open or closed face. Then the ball will obviously fall off the side of the aid, indicating your error.
This is a simple ‘Block’ practice drill that will improve your technique with the putter.
Putting Drills & Tips Summary
Golf is hard, there is no doubt about that. Some would say it’s because we’re trying to hit a small ball into a tiny target with bent bats.
For me, I would say golf is hard because it is not one game, but a culmination of several that all take a slightly different discipline.
On the one hand you have to be able to hit the ball cleanly and consistently with clubs that vary in length. You have to hit various distances. You have to be able to read slopes and conditions, which over the course of a 4 hour round can change dramatically. And then you have to be able to make many decisions whilst you manage your way around the course. Each stroke changing the landscape and making you react. Something which is almost impossible to plan for.
Yet the main discipline you have to master above all else. Is the mental side of the game. And nowhere more so than on the greens.
No matter what your ability, by working on each of these drills will increase your mental strength and your ability to handle pressure. Whilst practice doesn’t make perfect, it does make it familiar.
I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this article and if you did, please stick around and read some more…..