Whether it’s dead straight or has some break, there’s something about long uphill putts that mess with golfers’ minds. Standing over the ball, I bet some of you hear a voice inside your head that says, Make sure you get it to the hole. Next thing you know, your normally calm, smooth motion with the putter becomes short, jabby and erratic. One putt stops 10 feet short thanks to poor contact. The next runs off the back of the green because you pounded it. Even worse, the ball never rolls on the line you intended because the face is open or closed at impact as a result of the labored swing. What gives? You’re letting these putts get you off your game. You think they require a stroke with extra effort. They don’t.
All you need to get the putt up the hill is more ball speed. And you shouldn’t create that speed by gripping the putter more tightly and slamming it into the back of the ball. That type of stroke makes it really difficult to control the interaction between the club and ball. Instead, create the necessary speed by getting into a stable address position—widening your stance a little helps—and making a longer (not harder) stroke. You’d be surprised how far the ball will roll if you lengthen your swing, but still hit the putt with the same force you would if it was a 10-footer on a flat part of the green. I want your pace with the putter to feel smooth and unhurried. Don’t worry, the ball isn’t going to get out of the way if you take a little longer to hit it.
If you’re still struggling with distance control and are looking for that one thing to help produce a better putt, pretend like you’re hitting a draw. No joke; if you visualize the swing you’d make to hit a draw, with the club coming from slightly inside the target line as it approaches the ball, you’ll make a stroke that reduces backspin and gets the ball rolling really well. Just make sure the putterhead is square to the start line by impact, and let it release as it strikes the ball. If you hold the face square, you’ll likely push the putt.
A way to help produce this draw-type stroke is to make one more alteration to your setup: Drop your trail shoulder (right for right-handers), so it’s a little lower than your lead shoulder. This will put some side bend into your address posture and give you the feeling you’re looking more down the target line. It’s a biomechanical shortcut to a shallow draw path that will put a better roll on the ball and help it reach the cup without trying to muscle it.
Trillium Rose, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, is located at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.
– with Ron Kaspriske