How to Putt a Golf Ball: Tips & Drills to Sink More Putts

Man putting a golf ball

When it comes to the mechanics of how to putt a golf ball, it’s rather simple. Hit the ball with the putter and put it in the hole. Easy enough, right?

If putting is so easy, why do so many golfers struggle when they get on the green?

Amateur golfers are so worried about how they look off the tee they often forget to practice putting. Ever wondered why that guy you played with that couldn’t hit the ball more than 200 yards off the tee still found a way to beat you? It always comes down to putting!

The saying goes, “Drive for Show, Putt for Dough,” and it’s true. If you cannot sink putts, you’ll watch your score balloon, even if you hit the middle of every fairway and you make every green in regulation.

The mechanics of how to putt a golf ball may seem simple, but it’s one of the hardest parts of the game to master. Putting is so important, yet most amateurs spend more time hitting balls on the range than practicing on the putting green.

If you want to lower your scores and really impress your regular foursome, learn how to putt a golf ball with these tips and drills for sinking more putts.

7 Tips for How to Putt a Golf Ball

1. A Pendulum Swing

Some will disagree, but most professional golfers and teachers agree, using a pendulum swing with the putter is best. Imagine your hand meet the putter with the grip of your choice and form a pendulum on a grandfather clock. Your putting stroke should match how a pendulum swings.

When you take your setup position for putting, your arms should form a “V” going down to your grip. That “V” should remain throughout the entire stroke and the motion should be even and smooth through the golf ball.

2. The Hole is a Clock

Too many amateur golfers don’t know how to properly look at the hole when they putt. They will line up and picture the putt going two or three inches outside the cup. More often than not, that’s where the ball will end up because that’s what they visualized.

Instead of looking at a putt and imagining it going outside the hole, turn the hole into a clock face. Then, imagine the ball going into the hole at a certain time, such as eight o’clock.

When you visualize the line of your putt and it ends at a certain time on the hole clock you’ve created in your mind, you are actually visualizing the putt going into the hole.

3. Look at the Hole Before You Putt

One of the best tips for how to putt a golf ball is based on what happens when you turn off a light in your home. Have you ever noticed, through the pitch-black darkness, you can still see the light for a few seconds after you turn it off?

The same is true when you’re putting on a golf course. When you approach putting, do all the things you’d normally do before you actually take the stroke and hit the ball. Right before you finally hit the putt, look at the hole, and then back to the ball and take your stroke.

Your mind will still be able to picture the hole and you’ll be able to sink more putts by using this putting tip.

4. The Proper Word is “Roll”

Amateur golfers often talk about hitting a putt instead of rolling a putt. Unlike all the other strokes you take in golf, you need to roll, not hit.

This is even more important on longer putts, as learning how to roll putts will help you control your distance better. You want to keep the putter head low to the ground after making impact and the putt should roll towards the hole.

You should never try to hit up on the ball when putting. If you hit up on the ball, it will actually hop making it much harder to control.

5. Choose a Spot 1 to 3 Feet in Front of the Ball

Many amateur golfers choose a line and they have no idea how to hit that line when they putt. Instead of choosing a line by seeing the putt starting one foot to the left of the cup or three ball lengths outside the cup, choose a spot one to three feet in front of the ball.

Figure out your line and choose the spot you need the ball to roll over that’s just one to three feet in front of the ball. It can be a small brown spot, a fragment of a leaf, or a piece of grass that’s darker than the others. Concentrate on rolling the ball over this spot and you’ll learn how to putt a golf ball on the right line more often.

6. Read Putts from All Angles

Amateurs also make a huge mistake when reading putts and it costs them. Many golfers don’t take the time to look at putts from all angles.

It’s best to walk in a circle from where you marked your ball, to the behind the hole, and back on the other side of the hole. Stop at a few points to read the putt and get a better idea of the terrain of the green.

Yes, it takes time and you may have to start the process while someone in your group is still chipping up or is working on getting their own putt ready. If you get into a groove with reading putts from at least a few angles instead of just from behind the ball, you’ll see the proper line better and sink more putts.

7. Head Down Until the Putt is Halfway There

Sometimes, you can start to pull or push putts because your head is moving too much at impact. While you want your head to follow through on a regular golf shot, it should stay still and never move on a putt.

Keep your head down until the putt has made it about halfway to the cup and you’ll hit more putts on your intended line.

6 Drills for How to Putt a Golf Ball

1. Free Throws

No, you don’t need to get a basketball and hit the court at the park to learn how to putt a golf ball better. You need to do putting free throws.

Good basketball players will shoot hundreds of free throws for practice. They will make 85% or more of these shots and it’s considered one of the easiest shots in the game.

For golfers, a free throw is a drill you can use to watch more putts go into the hole and really work on your mechanics. Set up about six feet from the hole and choose a putt that’s as close to straight as you can get.

Now, you want to focus on hitting the putt so it goes into the hole as often as possible. A good golfer will sink a very high percentage of these putts and this drill will help build confidence, along with a good putting stroke.

2. The Barrier Drill

A very popular putting drill, the barrier drill is performed by putting a golf tee into the ground on both sides of your putter. Then, you simply hit putts with the ball in between the tees.

The tees act as a barrier ensuring you cannot hit the putt properly without a consistent stroke through the tees. If you’re off at all, you’ll hit the tee instead of just the ball. This drill will help you create a more consistent putting stroke and it can be done with the free throw drill.

3. The Long Follow Through Drill

Some golfers struggle to finish through the ball when putting. They get to the moment of impact and the putter is slowing down, which causes many putts to be left short.

You know what they say, “Golfers sink exactly 0% of the putts they leave short.” You don’t want to leave putts short and this drill will help you give more putts a chance to go in the hole.

Start by choosing a putt about 12 to 15 feet from the hole. Then, place a tee about six inches behind your putter when you set up to hit the putt.

Take the putter back to the tee and follow-through about twice or three times as far as you took the putter back. Your stroke should be about twice as long after the ball (or more) than it is back.

You may have to adjust the tee a bit, depending on the putt. The goal is to hit putts with an exaggerated follow-through to learn how to accelerate through the putt instead of slowing down at the moment of impact.

4. Putt to a Tee

The cup may seem small and it can be hard to make putts go into the cup when it seems small. You can make the cup seem much larger by putting to a tee.

Instead of rolling practice putts to a hole on the practice green, choose a spot and place a tee in the ground. Now, set golf balls at three feet, six feet, nine feet, and 12 feet. If you have the room, do this from four sides of the tee.

Putt these balls to the tee and try to hit it. The smaller target makes you more accurate and if you perform this drill enough, you’ll start to see the cup on the course as much larger and easier to hit.

5. The Speed Drill

One of the reasons so many golfers end up with three putts is speed. They don’t know how to properly judge the speed of the greens and they leave longer putts short or hit them a mile past the hole.

The speed drill is a great choice for warming up before a round of golf. It will help you get a sense of how the greens are rolling and give you better judgement on the speed of your putts.

Take three or four golf balls and choose an area where you can hit at least a 30-foot putt. You don’t need an actual cup for this drill. Instead, you can choose a spot on the green or put a tee in the ground to mark the spot.

Hit the first ball and try to get it as close to the spot as possible. Now hit the second ball and try to get it as close to the first golf ball without going past it. Keep doing this until you’ve hit all four balls.

You can do this in reverse, as well. After hitting the first putt, instead of trying to leave the second putt short of the first one, try to hit it past the first ball, while keeping it as close to the first ball as possible.

This drill will help you get a good sense of how long your putting stroke needs to be on long putts. It’s a great drill to do before hitting the links and will often help you see and feel the speed of the greens much better.

6. Three-Foot Gimmie Drill

One of the worst things amateur golfers do is give each other short putts when it really doesn’t matter. This sets a precedent that every three-foot putt must go into the hole.

When these amateurs are playing in leagues or in tournaments where they have to putt out, they often miss at least one of these short putts. Why do they miss these short putts? They haven’t practiced a three-foot putt in ages.

The three-food gimmie drill fixes this and it’s a great confidence builder. Good golfers will do this drill, or a variation, before every round.

Take four golf balls and set them up around the hole like the points of a compass at three feet from the hole. Take the time to go through your normal routine for putting with each and hit the putts to the hole. Repeat this drill a few times and watch the putts go into the hole.

With these tips and drills, you’ll learn how to putt a golf ball more accurately on the course. The putter is the most used golf club by every golfer. Spend more time practicing your putts and you’ll see your scores start to come down.