You've heard the phrase "drive for show, putt for dough." This phrase has never been more exemplified than the recent rise of Jordan Spieth to the top of the golfing world. Spieth is currently ranked 75th on the PGA Tour in driving distance, and yet he is the #1 ranked player in the world.
Jordan is far from his best tee to green - his final day at this year's Master's can attest to that - yet he continued to sink every putt he saw inside 10 feet. I decided to take a look into Spieth's technique to see if I could learn some putting tips that would help me become a better putter.
Tip #1: Look at the hole on short putts
The first thing that stood out to me as I researched Spieth's putting technique is that he looks directly at the hole as he's putting on short putts (inside 5 feet).
Here is a video showing his technique and the reasoning behind it by the all time great putter, Brad Faxon. His theory behind this is to be more target-oriented. For example, when you throw a ball at a target, you are always looking directly at the target you're aimed at.
Tip #2: Take your hands out of the putt
The next thing I noticed about Jordan Spieth's putting is that he uses the increasingly popular left hand low or cross-handed putting grip. This technique allows the player to even up their shoulders and use the bottom hand of the grip to guide the stroke in a fluid manner.
Here is a great video explaining Jordan Spieth's cross-handed grip that gives him that beautiful stroke.
The cross-handed grip isn't necessary to follow the spirit of this advice, but the analyst in the video, Clay Ballard of Top Speed Golf, suggests that this technique can help "lock" your left hand in place if you have a tendency to let your wrists get too loose in the middle of your putting stroke. The goal is to align the putt properly from the beginning, then stay true to your putting line by not breaking your wrists and turning the club head before impact.
Tip #3: Enjoy your practice
Jordan Spieth's putting style is innovative and creative, but it's nothing without his intense dedication perfecting his putting stroke. Yes, you have to put in the time, but it's also about practicing the right way and reinforcing good habits. It's also important to not only improve your putting stroke, but enjoy yourself in the process. That's why we like the idea of introducing little games and competitions into your putting practice routine. In a story for Golf Digest, Spieth spelled out two games he loves to use when he practices.
One is a 'sharpshooting' challenge requiring you to roll your putt through a ball-sized gap between two quarters. This encourages laser-sharp targeting accuracy, and Spieth uses it as his warmup to get locked in for rounds.
He also describes a game of 'leapfrog," where you try to roll each putt less than 6 inches past the previous one, and predict whether or not you were successful before the ball stops rolling. The constant change in distance, along with the requirement to judge the quality of each putt as soon as you hit it, is a great way to develop that ever-elusive sense of feel that allows you to drop putts exactly where you want them.
(Check out the link to read Spieth's scoring system for these games - you can turn them into a challenge to beat your own personal record, something I find keeps me motivated during practice sessions.)
Being solid off the tee is important, but don't forget to practice your short game, with a focus on putting and especially short putting. So many strokes are lost when a poor chip sabotages an up-and-down, or a dinky 4-footer scoots past the hole.
Being solid on putts inside 4 feet will not only save par putts, but it will also give you the confidence to get those birdie putts to the hole without worrying about 3-putting.