If you are new to golf in 2023, the temptation is probably to reach for the driver. However, there's more to the game than just hitting the ball as far as possible. In the videos and article below, Golf Monthly Top 50 Coach Gary Alliss shares his top putting tips that will help beginners learn how to get the ball in the hole.
First things first, you've got to establish a good set-up position. Drift astray here and the not even the best putters on the market will be able to save you.
Ideally, you want to make contact slightly on the upstroke and this is made easier with a ball position that is a fraction forward of middle, roughly in line with your left eye (for right-handers). Check by bringing the putter up to your left eye as I demonstrate in the video above, or by dropping a ball from your left eye and seeing where it lands. Adjust accordingly until it becomes second nature.
This will encourage more solid contact and a better roll, which will help you start the ball online and learn how to judge distance. If you notice the ball tends to jump off the putter face, always revert back to the ball position first and foremost.
Now that you've decided to dedicate more time to your putting, you need to make sure you get the most out of it. One thing I see beginners struggle to grasp is the stroke length. The backstroke is often longer than the follow-through, causing the putter to decelerate through impact and making it hard to gauge the distance.
A simple and easy way fix that will hone a better stroke can be yours with just a couple of tees. At address, place one just outside your right foot and the other around double that length outside your left foot, as I have in the video above.
Hit some putts swinging up to these tee pegs on the way back and through. It doesn't have to be to a hole as you're just focusing on technique here. This will help you develop a better and more efficient putting stroke.
Rock the shoulders
One of the keys to putting is that the club is controlled by a rock of the shoulders and not by a flick of the wrists or a separation of the arms and the body. In order to keep the arms, shoulders and wrists in unison, you should try practising with something tucked under both arms, such as an alignment stick or a towel.
By simply rocking the shoulders, the stick or towel will stay in position, allowing your body to move as a cohesive unit for more consistency.
Know your stroke
Identifying the type of stroke you have will also help you work out how to choose a putter that is suited to your game. A great way to do this is to put two tees in the ground about four feet apart, and either balance an alignment stick on top of them or tie a piece of string around them.
Place your putter underneath this line and make some practice strokes. It will be very clear to see whether your stroke tracks straight back and through, or if it has a slight arc or strong arc.
The result will highlight whether you need a toe-hang or face-balanced putter, or something in between. If you have a straight-back-and-through stroke, a face-balanced putter would be best; if you have a stroke with a slight arc, you're better with a mid-hang putter; and those with a strong arc will benefit from a toe-down putter.
If you've done this test and you're still unsure, ask a PGA pro to help you find a make and model best suited to your game.
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Location: Various (south coast)
Gary began his PGA training at Trevose, where, in 1983, he became head professional. In 2005, he joined The Belfry, where he managed a team of 35 PGA professionals. He's travelled the world several times over, working extensively in Slovakia, Ghana and Israel, and from January 2022 he will be will be taking over his father's position as patron of England and Wales Blind Golf Society.
Sound fundamentals. Aim and alignment, grip where the hands work together; good posture to promote balance; and set a sound swing plane. The game is about moving the ball forwards. The ball doesn't know who's holding the stick - all it knows and reacts to is impact. Get impact correct consistently and you can play golf quite well.
Greatest teaching influence:
My grandad, Percy. He taught me to play and a great deal of what I learned from him in the 1950s I still tell pupils today. And John Jacobs and Alex Hay, both of whom delivered the message in simple language. They were excellent demonstrators and wonderfully articulate.
Greatest success story:
A lady (Valerie Stock) came to me fearing she'd never see her husband during their retirement if she didn't learn to play. She booked two lessons per week for three months, but she just couldn't hit a ball. Suddenly she stopped coming. Four weeks later, and after practising in her garden, she rebooked - and sure enough she could play. Before we could progress, she emigrated. Three years later, Valerie walked into the golf shop and told me she was playing off 19, saying everything I told her just took a long time to process!
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