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During golf lessons I teach that when putting you can use all sorts of ball positions, grips, and stances and still be a good putter. It’s a lot like hitting a baseball. If you’ve ever seen a professional baseball game, you probably noticed that every hitter has his own approach to hitting the ball, including his own stance, position in the batter’s box, and “pre-swing” routine. But if you really looked closer, you would have probably seen that there are certain key fundamentals every good hitter does well that make him a good hitter. So it is with putting.

Below is a short golf instruction session on putting, perhaps the single most important influences on your golf scores. In this article on golf tips, I highlight five keys putting fundamentals common to all good putters. If you want to improve your putting, and thereby lower your golf handicap, you must execute these fundamentals well, regardless of whatever else you do while on the green. Otherwise, you’ll muddle along as just an average putter and just an average golfer.

1. Keep Your Eyes Directly Over the Ball
If you ask a good putter what the secret is to putting well, chances he or she will tell you that it’s the set up. And one of the keys to adopting the right set up is maintaining your eyes directly over the ball. When you position your eyes directly over the ball you know for sure that you’re aiming directly down the target line. It also helps you keep the putter low to the ground and square to the target. And it helps keep your weight centered on the balls of your feet, which eliminates any tendency to rock backward during the shot.
2. Use an Inside To Square Swing Path
Many successful putters use an inside to square swing path, once they’ve squared off their stance. An open stance encourages the putter’s blade to cut across the ball through impact. That puts side-spin on the ball instead of topspin, causing you to miss putts left, if you are a right-handed putter. An open stance also makes it harder to hit a ball solidly on longer putts. A square stance, on the other hand, encourages an inside-to-square swing path-a better swing path. It also encourages a pendulum like swing and helps keep the blade of the putter square to the hole longer.
3. Follow Through Long and Low
Another common fundamental to good putting is using a follow-through that’s long and low. With a short follow-through, your stroke feels stunted and abrupt. This in turn encourages you to follow through with more of a “hit” at impact, creating the feeling of chipping the ball instead of putting it. However, if you keep your arms comfortably bent, you can easily extend your stroke down the target line with little effort. That means you can follow through more on putts, maybe as much as 15 inches on a putt or more. Hence the ball rolls more smoothly and bounces much less. From a short range you can be sure the ball won’t bounce unpredictably off the club. Following-through long and low also helps you determine the right pace on faster greens.
4. Change Backswing Stroke, Not Tempo
There are certain elements of putting that are all too often ignored in golf lessons but that are nonetheless important. Tempo is one of them. The surface texture of the putting green doesn’t matter as much as maintaining the same swing tempo while putting. The same is true of stroke length. If you’re going to improve your putting, you need to learn what tempo (stroke speed) best suits you, and then stick to it. Trying to produce different tempos to match different surfaces is extremely difficult. It’s better to vary the length of your backswing, then the tempo at which your swing the sputter. Learning to maintain the same tempo while varying the length of your stroke will increase your consistency and confidence when putting.
5. Speed Determines the Line
Pace and fluidity, like tempo, are sometimes ignored in golf instruction sessions on putting. The teacher and student are often far more concerned about the mechanics of the putting stroke that these elements. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Both pace and fluidity are critical in determining the line of your putt. Knowing your own tendencies also helps you compute the line. If you’re normally an aggressive person, allow less line for your break, than if you are a lag putter. And vice versa. Once you’ve decided on the direction of your putt, point the ball’s trademark down the desired target line. This will give you confidence that the blade is square to the target line.

These five steps on putting all seem to be common elements that good putters excel at. You need to work on them to become a good putter and a player with a single-digit golf handicap. But they’re not the only ones. So keep your eyes and ears open. Try to pick up other golf tips on putting that can help become more than just an average putter and golfer.
By Jack Moorehouse. He is the author of the best-selling book “How To Break 80 And Shoot Like The Pros.” He is NOT a golf pro, rather a working man that has helped thousands of golfers from all seven continents lower their handicap immediately. He has a free weekly newsletter with the latest golf tips, golf lessons and golf instruction.