Off-season putting improvement

Last year, I put a ton of work in during the off-season in improving my ball striking. It really paid off and I’m hitting more fairways and greens than ever.

This year, I want to focus on putting, which is probably my weakest link right now.

I’m in the northeast US, so in another month or so won’t have access to a putting green. What drills, training aids, books, videos, or other resources can you recommend to work on putting without actually being on a green?


I’d recommend work on stroke consistency and stance. Get something like a practice mat and an eye mirror (a CD works well too). Hone your stroke with gates—tees work, just something so the head moves between them w/o hitting them—and a line on the mat, practicing to where the ball rolls consistently over that line every time.

Getting the speed down, is going to be a toughy. A long strip of carpet maybe?


We could not work on the speed control at home so, work on the direction.
I have firm carpeting in the family room and the hallway ( builder’s grade). Not perfect but good for directional practice.
No need for fancy equipment, lay down a coffee mug ( the handle laying on the side will hold it’s position). Putt from 5’-8’, concentrate on the direction between the aim and the putter path.
Link that aiming and directional control to the real putting surface when you get out to the practice green in the Spring. Lag putt from one end of the green to the edge of the other side without going over ( as one would lag a Q ball to the end of a pool table ). You’ll have the sense for the directional control then with the practice for the speed control; all is left would be put the putt on the correct line.
Reading the green is another art all by itself.


Speed control is pretty much out when practicing putting at home, but I like a few different drills. One is pushing the ball to a cup or target. This drill helps me tremendously as it gets me to make a shorter backstroke and better follow through.

I also use a Eyeline putting mirror/gate to make sure I set up properly as I tend to get my eyes to far inside the line. I will putt balls on a narrow thin metal yardstick as well.

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I use a putting mirror (Eyeline) and the putt-out putting trainer. If I’m going to be putting fir a while then I will use a mat as well. Like others have said, I’m not working on speed control other than hitting putts consistent distances. Mostly it is making sure I am setup properly and working on my stroke.


I’ve never used a putting mirror - is the point of it just making sure your eyes are over the ball?

I see some of them also have the tee gates built in.

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Most of us have two major issues on the putting surface.
-Aim; your perception of the target line in relation to how you see it ( vision + communication to the computer between the ears).
-And the speed control, after you have determined the line of putt ( not target line) figure in the contour of the surface ( topography) + the influence of surrounding elements ( mountain, body of water.
It is not that complicated and could be educated with practice and confirmation from practice.
Mirror is to help the alignment and aim. Especially with today’s greens and putting technique. Basically we’re putting on a smooth surface with a putting stroke mimic a push than a stroke.
I guess Augusta National was among one of the first to hold tournaments over smooth and fast putting surface and now every tournament has to have near perfect putting surface.
We used to putt on the green worse than some of the fairways.
Going back to the perception of putting line; almost all of us will have deteriorated vision with age, distance and depth perception. When that happens, we start to doubt and not trusting our judgement of determining the putting line. Doubt on the putting green will destroy a nice game and soon we’ll develop the Yips as the symptom is commonly known.
Practicing in front of mirror will help. Putting indoor will go one fold deeper to include the execution of the aiming.

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Everyone wants to improve their putting, especially the pro’s. Hogan and Knudson actually hated the fact they had to putt. The pros, and this is a pretty good ballpark figure only make 40ish% of their putts from 10ft and it gets worse from there. I’m not a pro, but I’d like to think I can putt like one. Key word is think. In reality… I’m not. First things first, how many putts do you leave short? I guarantee you won’t make many of those. How many from 10ft out can you regularly hit past the hole by 2ft? How are you at reading greens? The grass, the tilt, etc. You really can’t practice that at home, that requires work on the the practice greens. Here’s what I will tell you that worked to make me incrementally better in the off season. I bought one of those practice rugs with a hole in it. I started from from 1 foot out. I have said before, many times, when I went for my first actual lesson, I never hit a ball, we talked for a half hour about the game and expectations. Alot of of my initial discussions were about putting. Fully half of the game is putting. The other half is everything else…driving, iron play chipping etc. When I went for my first lesson hitting a ball, Mr. Bishop said put the damn clubs back in the trunk, bring 6 balls and a putter. And I filled holes starting from 1 foot out until I got to about 3 ft and found how hard that was to fill the holes just from that distance. The one “secret” he taught me, and as I aged, I lost more and more nerve… was to hit short putts with what he called vigor. Meaning don’t look at the front of the cup, look at the back of the cup. Hit those putts hard enough where the ball is hitting the back of the cup fairly hard. Do that with that practice rug. I will guarantee you when you get out on the course you will be a better putter. Everyone putts differently, you have to be comfortable, you can putt with your eyes over the ball, behind the ball, open stance, closed stance, 1000 different grips and putter lengths, First find out what you are comfortable with. Once you do that, stick with it, don’t alter it, don’t change it… I use a 37 in putter, I like standing more upright, I like a lighter putter head, offset…no lines, I find that to be a distraction, medium grip and I use a standard reverse overlap hand grip. … that’s me, it might not work for you. I mean for years Spieth, who I thought was a pretty good putter for a while, never looked at the ball on short putts (remember that) and he was pretty good. So my suggestions get fitted for something that works for you, find a stance and grip that works for you, buy a putter rug with a hole and start looking at the back of the cup on those 1,2,3,4,5 footers… get used to banging them home when you are level or uphill. Down hill, not so much…right (common sense) Good Luck and most of all try to have fun! Putting Rug


For those willing, and able, to spend some $$$ I can strongly recommend three things that have helped me a HUGE amount with improving my putting…

  1. ExPutt putting simulator

Like an indoor full swing sim but for putting. You get three modes - Practice, Challenge and Compete. Comes with a small mat and a camera that plugs into a TV to display various stroke metrics in Practice mode, or the virtual greens you’re putting on in the other modes - where you’re presented with breaking putts.

YES - simulated putting is weird but I found it to be great Winter practice!

  1. Blast Motion Golf sensor

Attaches to the butt end of your putter and thru an app on your smartphone displays various stroke metrics including face rotation back and through, backstroke and (forward) stroke lengths, tempo, etc … and you can track each stat over time.

Used with your indoor putting mat (or carpet as the case may be).

  1. AimPoint lessons (live or virtual)

I attended an in-person clinic and it made a huge, positive impact on my putting - I can more quickly and easily evaluate the slope/break off my putt and am stressing a whole lot less about “line” and am able to focus on speed / distance control.

The results are showing in fewer 3-putts and a lot more “easy” :wink: second putts.


I’m having troubles affording regular rounds anymore… Almost everywhere is $125-150 in season… so that kinda expensive stuff is done for me, plus at 63, I actually just play the game…hit and hope! I think about putting this way. I try very hard to read the tilt of the green, know when I can bang it and know when I can’t. You gotta learn to read the grass especially bermuda… the grain follows the sun and it will impact longer putts, not the short ones you hit a little harder. You are a really good baseball hitter if you only make 7 outs every 10 ABs. Same thing with putting… if you are 120 inches out aiming to a 4inch hole and you can nail 3 of them you are awesome. Here’s another little tidbit. Kinda like aiming for a bullseye in darts. Depending on the distance… Like from 20 ft, I draw a 2ft circle around the hole, the hole being a bullseye. That’s a 4 ft area! From 10ft it might be a 20 inch circle, hole being the bullseye. I’m actually hitting and practicing to 2 targets…one very small, one very large. See how hard it is to hit a 4ft circle from 20-25ft, or a 20inch circle from 10ft etc. If you do that and do that very well, one will find your 3 putts will decrease to under 2%. That is a guarantee. Maybe I was taught to think a little differently… and I’m always impressed by my teacher Mr. Bishop who played on the APGA. These guys all think on a different level … we play candyland and they are playing championship level chess. When I was taught, I always thought I could play on the Senior Tour if I worked at it… You have to have extraordinary physical talent. Soon enough you find that you don’t, I did find that, if you think properly especially on the greens, your scores will lower exponentially… which gave me the confidence and ability to be that much better when I have played against a like opponent in a match or stroke play tournament. When you see the pros traipsing around the greens lining up putts and it seems to take like 5 and 6 minutes b4 they pull a trigger… that’s chess…

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Anyone watch the end of the Fortinet? Talk about Golf and Flog! Homa does a Constantino Rocca with a no putt and Willet 3jacks from 3’ 7". This game is messed up. I have been playing my home course for 20 years now. They put a back left pin placement on the Par 3 8th hole we’ve never seen before this past Saturday…EVER. I played a 9i from 142 to the center of the green, left myself with about a 20’. I knew it was gonna break alot, and I thought I did well to give it a rap, played about 6ft of break, perfectly paced putt, I’m watching take that snap break I played for and said EZ PZ 2 putt… NOPE… ball came down, slowly trickled about 8" short of the cup and just kept trickling… ended up with a 15’ for par which I missed… I was smoking hot. Thank goodness on the next hole, I hit a 257yd drive, pin was front of green… played a 102yd GW to 15’ short and canned the putt for a 3. So instead of going 3-4, I went 4-3. That said, all I was thinking about that was 3 putt for 4 holes… talk about mind games. This is a game where you will screw the pooch! The most important thing you can do during a round is, stop living in the recent past. Wanna improve, learn how to have a really short memory… you gotta clear the mechanism, you have to practice having solid mental fortitude to play this game, especially using a putter! You know you’ve hit alot of practice putts, just be consistent with the routine and if you learn to lag properly, and leave yourself those under 3’ jobs, you are going to make 98% of those 2 putts… You have to realize… it’s a hard game sometimes and putting, when you get to like a 14 and below handicap makes it even harder! Basically saying, 1 more big thing to practice is having a real short memory. Like go into a ZEN!

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Hogan disliked putting, after the accident with the 20+ tons Greyhound bus which caused the lost of vision to his left eye. I’m guessing from the trauma of the impact with a bus. He loved to practice, including putting. There are stories of other golfers hearing him practice putting on wooden floor in the hotel room at night.
Try to putt with one eye half close or put a RX lense on one of the eye to disrupt the focus and depth perception. That will really screw up the putting.

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Thanks for the input all. I’ve got a putting mirror on order.
I think with me, putting is a lot more mental than physical. The harder I focus on the physical parts, the worse I’ve gotten. I’ve had a couple rounds lately where I hit 14 greens and shot 78. With even average putting I think I could regularly be threatening par or better.
I did ‘heads-up’ putting for a little while, and did pretty good with it, but after a couple really bad mis-hits, I lost my confidence in that.
The season is winding down, and I’ve probably only got a couple more outdoor rounds left, and here’s what I’m determined to try: you know when you lag one up to about two feet and then standing on one foot or straddling your partner’s line, you just rap it right it the middle of the hole every time? I’m really going to try to hit every putt like that. Take a look at the line, but don’t obsess over it, then just hit the ball, letting the wrists and hands be involved if they want to be, no thoughts about technique. It’s always amazing how when I’m just screwing around on the practice green, even hitting it with one hand, I can hit it in the hole, but when it “counts” and I’m trying, the results are so much worse. So I’m really going to try to hit every putt like it’s a two-foot “gimme” and see what happens.

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Although line is important, I think distance control will eventually help with the line where an improvement in line will not contribute as much as quickly. Why? Because every putt that requires you to determine the line, as opposed to a perfectly straight putt, still includes a distance calculation.

To make the point clearer, if you have a straight 10-foot putt and a 10-foot putt with two feet of break, the latter putt is longer, and both your distance calculation and stroke feel must take that into account. Hit the second putt way too short or way too long, and you’ll never have a real understanding of how well/poorly you may have calculated the break. The same principle applies to shorter and longer putts.

Until you know you can hit putts that go 10 feet, 20 feet, 5 feet, 35 feet, etc. on a flat surface when you need to, you’ll never get correct feedback about your green reading although you will hit some putts in the hole through happenstance. And when you get to really long putts, 40 feet and more, the ability to hit one at least roughly the needed distance will help reduce your three putts and maybe even improve other aspects of your game since you won’t feel the pressure to hit your approach or short game shots quite as close to make up for bad putting.

Once you can accomplish that level of speed control, you start to see how well/poorly you calculate line.

Doing the same thing on straight uphill and downhill inclines will then give you confidence that if you calculate a ten-foot putt with two feet of break as being roughly 14 feet (10 plus the two feet out and the two feet back in–an approximation since the exact mathematical calculation of the length of the parabola that a breaking putt represents shows that the actual length is slightly more than 14 feet), then you can hit, with a human margin for error, a putt the needed length.

Once you can judge distance control on flat and inclined surfaces, you can better assess the quality of your green reading skills, and make the necessary adjustments. By the way, you can also start to appreciate just how hard double breaking putts are since while you might be 20 feet from the hole, the ball will need to go much farther to get to the hole.

To give a plug for the website owner’s latest book, the kind of random practice that Jon talks about in that book is absolutely perfect for developing your distance control. I used that sequence of 10 feet, 20 feet, 5 feet, and 35 feet for exactly that reason. Hit four different putts in that kind of sequence or even from 2 feet, 7 feet, 1 foot, and 5 feet to adjust for space limitations, and see how distance control improves. Hitting 50 putts from 10 feet will not improve your control as well although it might be a good, initial way to test your mechanics. Hitting one putt from one distance and then moving to a random second, third, fourth, etc. distance with only one putt at each distance throughout your practice session will really test your ability to control the distance of your putting.

The short and cold days of winter are also a great time for doing a little research on your game. If you haven’t read Jon’s book yet, you should. Although there’s an awful lot that seems common sense, I’ve never read a golf book that brought all that common sense together in one place, and the concentration of what seems at first to be simplistic advice about your game really has had a benefit for me because it has made me realize that ignoring one piece of such advice might not mean much, but ignoring multiple pieces creates a cascading effect that can negatively affect your scoring by multiple strokes.

And, for a trifecta, check out two other books Jon mentions in his book: Mark Brodie’s Every Shot Counts and James Sieckmann’s Your Short Game Solution. The first will show you, by statistics, how putting can be overvalued as a part of the game. An eye opener for me was that by the time the pros get out to 15 feet, they’re making the putt only 23% of the time. That really brought home the point that while putting is important (obviously, any pro that does significantly better than 23% will have an edge on his fellow competitiors), we often judge our ability to putt by the TV highlights we see from pro tournaments where it seems everybody hits from 15 feet, ignoring the 77% of the time the pros miss. Brodie’s book made me realize a more attainable goal for my own putting–I should never miss a putt, including short and long, by more than a foot from 15 feet. Do that, and my fair share, although probably not 23%, will go in.

Sieckmann’s book is great for the short game, but I got the book because of Jon’s mention of the inspiration for a practice structure that he got from the book. I would agree with that assessment and add that Sieckmann’s insights into a high-performer’s outlook (his brother was a PGA Tour member who was great friends with Seve Ballesteros) finally gave me a more concrete idea of the kinds of things Bob Rotella has written about over the years.

All three books, through Amazon Kindle, will cost you less than a dozen Pro V1s and will give you a realistic approach to improving your game, no matter whether it’s putting, short game, driving, or iron play.


Curious, what did you do last off season to improve ?

Main thing I did was get a SkyTrak, with a makeshift portable setup in my garage. I had previously taken lessons and knew what I needed to work on, so the indoor setup just made it easy to put in a lot of work and groove my swing.

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First time using a putting mirror was eye-opening. I thought I was setting up with my eyes over the ball, but they were actually outside the ball. Need to do some tweaking now to account for right-eye dominance and how to see the line correctly.

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I worked on my short game during the last offseason. I’ve perhaps had as bad a short game as any golfer I’ve played with. I’m talking about the ability of a single-digit handicap golfer from tee to within 30 yards of the green matched with a short game that looks as if I’d never seen a wedge in my life. For many years, the odds were almost even that I would be significantly closer to the hole after using a wedge–regular chunks and blading either left me two inches ahead of my last shot or way behind the green and farther from the hole than where I started. I turned an awful lot of third shots that were just off the green on par 5s into triple bogeys. Add in a sidehill, downhill, or uphill lie and things only got worse.

When I’m hitting the ball well and hitting a lot of greens, the short game never has to help me. I’m very capable of shooting near par. But when I’m off, I’m way off. I could be 75 one day and 93 a week later, and almost all of it was attributable to a terrible short game.

As you can imagine, I had to tear the short game down completely and rebuild it. And my efforts paid off. On a recent trip to Scotland, I had a lot of typical Scottish short game shots and felt I hit all of them reasonably well. It’s no coincidence that on this trip, I played the best golf of the 15-20 trips I’ve made to Scotland and Ireland.

The three books I mentioned in my earlier post are the focus of my offseason this year although I’ll do some work on my putting as well. I always thought I was pretty good at strategy, but as noted with Jon’s book, my eyes were opened to a lot of common sense advice I’ve heard but inconsistently used. I’m finding that the combination of knowing shot dispersion for each of my approach clubs paired with picking smarter targets based on those dispersions really leads to more greens hit and lower scores. I’ve just started scratching the surface on the information presented in those three books and intend to give each a second (or third?!) reading over the winter.