Your 2024 Putting Improvement Plan

A Practice Plan to Improve Your Ability to Read the Green, Start a Putt On Line, & Control Speed

A simple search online can lead you to dozens of ideas to work on your putting. What is different about this article? Well, for one, I have 12 years as a Collegiate Division I Coach, which entailed developing detailed practice sessions for all those on the team. Being able to break down ‘putting’ into 3 specific skills, and working on each skill, led to excellent results for my student-athletes.

For those of you out there that weren’t fortunate enough to play Division I golf, I hope that you find value in this plan. It is a perfect example of how great players practice and improve: by focusing on skill by skill. I would recommend picking one drill or game from each of the three skills below for each time you practice. By improving each of these distinct skills, you will improve your putting abilities.

The Putting Plan Skills:

Starting the Putt On Line

Speed Control

Reading the Green

Starting the Putt On Line

The first skill to highlight is being able to start your putt on your line of choice. This is a skill that even the best players in the world work on. When PGA or LPGA Tour players warm up before a round, they often use gate drills or putting aids to help them start the ball on line. Being able to have some confidence that you can start the putt where you want it to start takes away a lot of stress! It isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Do you know if you can start the putt on your line? Let’s test it out. If you can get 3 golf balls and two tees, and then walk off a 4′ putt. Create a ‘gate’ with the 2 tees about 1.5′ in front of your ball, between the ball and the cup. Ensure that the space is just right for the ball to roll through, but not too big that it can roll through the gate and miss the hole. Can you roll 3 putts through the gate into the hole in a row? If this is a challenge for you, this a good place to begin! If you get stuck on this drill, have a friend video your attempts and take note if you are hitting the left or right tee more times.

Take time in the setup of the gate drill. Professional golfers have their caddies set up their gates. They make sure the gates are spaced correctly and directly facing the target. Because Professional golfers play on very quick greens each week, it is imperative for them to be able to start the putt on their line. All they need to do is to get the putt rolling! If you are lucky enough to play on faster greens, this skill will make a huge difference in your scores. If you play on slower greens, it is still something to practice (especially for shorter putts!).

What are some other ways to practice starting your putt on line?
  • If you do not have a hole to putt to, you can use a penny or dime to help you with this skill. Place the coin a few feet in front of you and try to roll your putt over it. How many times in a row can you do this? (This is great for at-home practice if you have putting mat or the right height of carpet.)
  • There are many different training aids that are helpful. A few different ones are the Dave Pelz Putting Tutor, Putting Stick Golf Trainer, or the Perfect Practice Putting Gates. Most top Division I golfers have at least one of these aids they use regularly!

What is the time commitment?

10 minutes purely dedicated to the skill of starting your putt on line every single time you practice will make a difference. You do not need to spend consecutive hours on this skill for it to be of benefit to you. A little bit a lot is the key.

Speed Control

The next skill to tackle during your practice session is your speed control. ‘Touch’ and ‘feel’ can be learned. Being aware of your grip pressure is a good place to begin. If the ball is shooting off your putter face like a rocket; you will not be making very many putts. If you think about it, the hole becomes smaller the harder you hit your putt, as the firmly struck putt will not ‘die in’ the side of the hole.

How do you know if you have good speed on your putts? Here is a drill to try that I used to do with my teams: Take 5 balls, 5 tees and about 30 feet of space on a putting green. Walk from the hole out to 5′, 10′, 15′, 20′, 25′ and 30′ and drop a ball at each distance. Place a club about 3′ behind the hole. Can you get the ball to end up between the hole and the shaft of the club? By doing this ‘ladder drill’ you are able to see what your speed is like from 5′ to 30′. How many out of 5 can you get between the club and the hole? In the hole works fine too.

What are some other ways to practice your speed on the greens?
  • The towel drill is a good one! Take a small hand towel or golf towel and place it about 10-15 feet away. How many putts end up on that towel out of 5?
  • Some training aids that are helpful; Lag Putting Circles, Eyeline Stroke Meter, and the Perfect Putter System. The Eyeline device helps you monitor your putting stroke length. Matching stroke length and distance control improves this skill. The Perfect Putter System is pricey, but if you are determined to become a better putter, I strongly recommend it. It shows you the perfect roll of a putt. Being able to mimic the speed and watch putt after putt drop in is priceless.

Reading the Green

The third skill worth spending time on during your practice is green reading. Learning how to play enough break and trust your read over the putt is key to being a good putter. All the literature shows that most amateur golfers under-read their putts. This means that the ‘highest point’ of the putt isn’t high enough! Pairing a nice roll (speed) with starting the ball on (the correct) line, well, you will make more putts. Now, how to practice this skill.

Ways to practice green reading:

  • Spend time on a practice green with one ball going around to each hole, practicing different length putts and seeing how many you can 1 or 2 putt. Take the time to read each putt and count how many ended up below the hole, and how many ended up above the hole (if they didn’t go in!). Was the end result of the putt because of your speed or because of the line?
  • When you read a putt on the practice green, walk up to the ‘high point’ of the putt, and place a tee just inside it. When you putt, does your ball go right on the outside of the tee, and is it enough break? I find that it can take some practice to train your eyes and sense of feel to play enough break.

If you spend 10 minutes on each of these three skills; that is a game-changing putting practice over time. To become a great putter, you need to learn how to start your putts on the line you choose. You also need to be able to adjust your speed control and learn how to read a green properly. These skills will give you the tools you need.

Division I golfers practice 4 hours a day. Even if you don’t, you can still learn from what they do to shoot those amazing scores! Having a well-developed plan can help you practice smarter (not harder), and get the most out of your practice time.

Written by Emily Kuhfeld, Former D1 Golfer & Collegiate Head Golf Coach Logo