You just hit a great iron shot or chipped it close. Now you’ve got two feet left. Curiously, your opponent isn’t saying boo. So you go up to tap it in, draw the putter back and . . . Oh no! Power lip-out.

We’ve all done it, a lot. The real problem is, most golfers have an unspoken pact with their mates that they don’t have to make short putts. Everybody sweeps them away. Then when they get in a tournament they’re looking at these two-footers thinking, Oh man, I could miss that. Plus, there’s often a lot of foot traffic around the cup, causing marks and bumps. More food for nervous thought.

So here’s what you need to do when you face a testy short putt:

  • First, be aware of making a good stroke. Don’t just walk up and swipe at the ball.
  • Second, read the slope and align your putterface carefully. Even two-footers can break enough to miss.
  • Third, keep your head still until well after the ball is gone. Most short misses happen because the player wants to see the ball fall into the cup or tries to steer it in. Last, don’t be too careful. Stick with your normal putting routine and put a firm, confident stroke on it.

Tell yourself Finish it off!
To make short putts, practise committing to your target. Try this drill: (1) Find a flat two-footer on the practice green, and stick a tee in the far edge of the cup.
(2) Address the ball, and aim your putterface at the tee. Be very precise. Even have a friend check it. (3) After a while, take the tee away and pick a target, like a blade of grass, on the back of the cup. Stroke to that spot. On the course, tell yourself something positive, like Finish it off!

This happened on tour…
Coming to the 72nd hole of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship, I.K. Kim had made birdie putts on 16 and 17 for a one-stroke lead. On the 18th green, she rolled her birdie putt to within 12 inches. The tournament was over, until she lipped out. “It was so short, I didn’t really read the putt,” Kim said. “I felt like I was rushing. You have to read the putt, no matter what.” Kim lost on the first hole of sudden-death to Sun Young Yoo.

Curing Faults

Jim McLean is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional.