How To Improve Your Close-Range Putting

How To Improve Your Close-Range Putting

It’s happened to us all.

You’ve nailed your approach shot. Within three feet of the hole.

Now you’re on a birdie (or eagle) putt.

You line up, putt, and watch as the ball drifts off to the side.

It’s as deflating as it gets.

But if you’re experiencing this a bit more than you’d like to admit, there are probably a couple of things you’re doing that, with a bit of work, can drastically improve your short-game putting.

So let’s get started.

Why do you struggle with short putts?

You might think missing short putts is an issue with your technique. And it is to a certain point.

But often the main reason you’re missing short putts is because of your attitude.

Many of us look at a short putt and think it’s a given that we’re going to make it.

Of course we are.

How can we miss when we’re this close?

And because we’re too relaxed we don’t put the same care into the shot and little errors come into the stroke.

Think about it.

When you’re 10 feet away you take the time to examine the path between the ball and the hole. You look for deviations and divots. You take a couple of practice strokes.

When you’re three feet away it’s too easy to just step up and swing.

So, let’s stop the laid-back attitude to short putts and give them the attention they need.

Then let’s look at some issues with your technique that can get your short putts lasered in more consistently.

1 - Line up the putter face

You might think your putter face doesn’t carry much influence in really short putts.

The truth is, your putter face is the biggest determining factor in where your ball will travel.

Whatever direction your putter’s face is lined up, the ball will instantly travel in that direction on impact.

If the face isn’t lined up with the hole, the ball isn’t heading towards it. Even on short putts, this can be enough for the ball to skim past the hole.

Pro tip: Even though it’s a short putt, take a second to step behind the ball and line your putter face up once you’ve examined the ball from this angle.

Seeing where the ball is going to travel from an alternate angle will help you make minor adjustments to your putter face position before you swing.

2 - Perfect your grip before you swing

Details matter more in the short game when you’re going for precision over power.

Even the smallest deviation can have big negative results.

And when it comes to putting, your grip can seriously help or hinder the result.

Too tight and your muscles will stiffen up, resulting in a putting stroke that’s more jerky than smooth (this is common when you’ve missed a few sitters in the round). The only thing we can say here is to take a breath and relax.

On the other hand, if your grip is too loose, the putter face could move during the swing.

Our best advice is to take a couple of practice swings before any putt and judge whether your movement is too rigid or too loose.

Then you can adjust accordingly when it comes to the putt.

Pro tip: Take a practice putt using different levels of pressure in your grip before taking your shot.

Eventually, you’ll find a firmness that works for your swing and one that doesn’t leave the club too loose or too solid.

3 - Don’t look for the ball too soon

They say you shouldn’t lift your head too soon when hitting a drive.

The same is true for all other types of golf shots, including short putts.

Looking for the ball before you’ve struck it could be a deadly mistake.

Moving your head too soon could change your shoulder position mid-stroke, throwing your club head out of alignment, and resulting in a poor putt.

And yes, this will impact the outcome of a short putt.

Even if the hole is a couple of feet away, depending on how much your club face changes position it could throw your ball off just enough.

The best thing is to keep your eye on the ball until you hear the club hit it and wait a second longer before looking for the ball.

Your scores will thank you for it.

Pro tip: If you find looking for the ball too soon is a habit you’re struggling to break, spend more time on practice greens. 

Try lining up multiple putts and hitting them all in succession without looking where the ball has ended up at all.

It might sound odd, but practice strokes like these are a great way to programme your body to keep your head down.

4 - Read all your short putts

We’ve talked about how complacency in your short game is a recipe for disaster.

Before setting up your putt, take a step behind the ball and spend some time properly reading the green. Just as you would if it was a 20-footer.

You could spot a slight incline or decline, or differences in the texture of the grass that you didn’t see straight away. All of which could affect the direction your ball goes.

They say patience is key, and nothing could be truer when you’re on what you believe to be your last shot of the hole.

And what about things like distance control? Just because the ball doesn't have far to travel doesn't mean you shouldn't take your power into account. 

Read, analyse, and adjust. Once you’re confident you’ve taken everything in your environment into account, take your shot with confidence. You'll be landing more short putts before you know it.

Pro tip: When reading your putt, take a moment to examine the ground directly surrounding your ball.

It’s possible your golf ball’s shadow could be blocking your view of a course-changing element like a stray stone or loose grass.

5 - Check your backswing

Your swing through the shot is, of course, the motion that carries your ball into the hole.

But that doesn’t mean your backswing is any less important.

In fact, your backswing has a huge effect on whether or not the ball goes where you want it to. Because an uneven backswing could throw your shot completely out of sync.

A backswing that doesn’t follow the same line as your shot won’t produce a straight putt. Neither will a backswing that travels back at too much of an upward angle.

Your putting backswing should look like a short pendulum - a simple back-and-forth motion, there’s no need to overthink it.

A great way to check the line of your putt along the backswing and follow through is to use the famous gate putting drill used by Tiger Woods.

Place a tee above and below your ball, with just enough room for your putter to fit through.

The aim is to not let your putter catch the tees as you putt - an indicator of a straight putting line.

Pro tip: If you want a closer look at Tiger’s tee gate putting drill, head to YouTube. There’s plenty of footage of the man himself walking you through what to do.

Is your putter the problem? Check out Clarkes Golf.

Alongside all of the above, there’s a chance you could do with a putter upgrade.

If you’ve had your putter for a long time, there could be some issues with clubface damage, or perhaps the weight has shifted and it’s throwing you off.

A new putter could give your short game the boost you’ve been looking for. At Clarkes Golf, we’re home to brand new putters from the biggest and best brand names in Golf, all at incredible prices.

So check out our collection of golf putters here. Or head down to Clarkes Golf in Rainford, if you’d like to try out a new putter in person.