How To Practice Putting - Drills To Sharpen Up On The Greens

PGA pro Kevan Whitson shares some excellent tips and drills that will have you putting better than ever this year

A Scotty Cameron putter lining up a ball on the 16th green at Royal Troon
(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

There are many ways to go about improving on the greens and numerous putting drills you can use to work on your stroke. Ultimately, it comes down to your ability to judge both speed and line. Match the two and you’ll hole more putts and bring your handicap down - it’s as simple as that. 

Arccos data shows that a 12-handicapper is more likely to three-putt from 15ft than they are to hole out, yet it remains a neglected part of the game. So, here are my tips on how to practice putting…

Start by finding the pace

Speed is everything - just watch the pros. It’s obviously important to know how to read greens and to be able to start your putt on the correct line, but without the ball rolling the correct speed it’s unlikely to go in.

Learning how to improve your putting feel is a good place to start. Don’t focus on holing putts straight away, simply hit a few from various ranges. You can set up a sem-circle of tees like below if you wish but you needn’t get bogged down by the exact distance. The important thing is to make sure you’re hitting some mid and long-range putts.

A semi-circle of tees and three golf balls on the 13th green at Royal Troon

(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

At this point, you’re just getting a feel for your stroke, almost playing a psychological game: what does it feel like? How’s it rolling? How fast are the greens? By getting an idea of the speed, you’re going to be in much better shape by the time you strike your first ‘meaningful’ putt.

If you do want an added challenge, try putting ‘fringe to fringe’, stopping a few balls as close as possible to one another.

How to practise break

Once you have a better understanding of the pace of the greens, introduce a few more variations to your putting practice. Specifically, identify part of the green where you get can more of a feel for the slopes and breaks. Vary the slopes, so you can hit a few putts from the flat, as well as uphill and downhill ones.

Find a spot where you can practise some left-to-right and right-to-left putts. Remember, on faster greens the ball will break more, especially as it slows down. It’s a good idea to get used to watching the ball run past the hole if it doesn’t drop, so you get a good look at what it's going to do on the way back.

Use drills

We’re all guilty, at times, of not structuring our practice sessions. Drills can give us more of a focus and a sense of purpose; they also help to get the competitive juices flowing, even if we’re just competing against ourselves - plus they can create a bit of pressure, which is going to help when you’re stood over an important putt in a competition.

Here are a few of my favourite drills you may want to incorporate into your practice sessions...

Tee gates

A golfer putting between two tees on the 16th green at Royal Troon

(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

To work on those short, breaking putts, set up a series of tee gates around a hole. This will help you focus on the start line, and removes the temptation to look at the hole. Now you’ll have confidence from short range, whether straight or otherwise.

‘Flamingo drill’

This is one of the best short putting tips. Lift your left leg of the ground and hit some putts from 10ft and in. By doing this, you will develop and improve your stability - a key factor in holing out more consistently from close range. Using the ‘flamingo drill’ will also help you to make more solid contact and prevent the hands from becoming too active.

Stroke check

A golfer hitting a putt on the 18th green at Royal Troon

(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

Here’s another popular drill. To set it up, place an alignment stick on the ground parallel to where you're aiming. (If you want to take it a step further, you can place two clubs or alignment sticks on tee pegs to create a channel to putt down.) If you make a poor stroke - either too much on the inside or too much outside - you’ll be able to tell straight away. 

It will also help you work out what type of stroke you have, whether it tracks straight back and through, or has a slight or strong arc. This is one of the best putting tips for beginners especially, so you don't get started on the wrong foot.

Hand action


Stick a tee peg on top of your grip with a piece of Blu Tack. If your hands are too active, the tee peg will poke your forearms. Used in practice, it’s a good way to make sure you’re not developing any bad habits with your hands.

Kevan Whitson
Top 50 Coach

Location: Royal County Down Golf Club

Kevan began his professional career as assistant to George Yuille at the Royal Burgess Golfing Society. After a short spell at Harburn, he moved to Turnhouse, where he has fond memories of delivering 50 lessons a week to mixed ability golfers and helping with a very successful junior coaching programme. In 2009, he received the prestigious PGA of Europe 5-Star Professional Award, and more recently was awarded Master Professional status from the PGA. He's now Head Professional at Royal County Down, where he's currently helping senior golfers to roll back the years.

Teaching philosophy:

Look to improve all areas of a golfer's game, helping the golf swing to be more efficient, and encouraging them to enjoy every club in the bag, think better, react better and play better.

Students learn best when...

They assume responsibility for their own performance, only seeking information to allow them to progress the skills that belong to them. Understanding their own personality and how that affects their decision making and performance through personal triggers - this makes receiving technical instruction more relevant to them as an individual.

Advice for practice:

Wear out your wedges! Get out on the golf course as much as possible, recreating a competitive environment.