The best putters tend to keep their whole approach to the stroke relatively simple. And the best way to do that is to take second-guessing out of the equation and be a bit more instinctive than normal.
Now, when I say instinctive, I don’t necessarily mean reactionary; it’s more about generating greater trust in yourself. It allows you to have confidence in the process you are following so that you can pull the trigger a lot quicker.
The best putters constantly demonstrate that it is so important to gather information when you are putting, whether that’s through green reading or trying to work out pace.
Some of the best putters don’t necessarily take a ‘proper’ stroke or do things that, traditionally, you’re supposedly meant to do when you are putting.
Brandt Snedeker’s style, for example, is very much club down and over it, almost right away. Some guys aren’t as confident on the greens and will back off, then realign themselves, look at the hole again, then fidget. There isn’t a confidence or commitment that surrounds their action. Whereas a good putter, which Brandt certainly is, will almost always follow a three-stage process: align the ball, align the body, and bang.
That’s the way I like to approach putting. It’s simple, and it’s effective.
A lot of what you should try to do on the putting green is remove doubt. Any kind of doubt about what you’re trying to achieve with the putter needs to go. To grow your confidence, you need to remove any chance of second-guessing.
My advice is to set yourself three very simple stages to go through every single time you’re on the putting green. If anything, the following three tips should actually speed up your pre-shot routine because you’re taking out the guesswork and the hesitation.
1. You should always mark a line on the ball, as this allows you to align the line on the ball with where you want the ball to start (your target). That should become second nature. Once you’ve done it, trust it.
2. From there, simply align your putter to the line on the ball and set-up making sure the putterface is square to the ball.
What you see with a lot of poor putters is that they have a look at the hole then try to line their body up to the hole, but when you’re trying to line yourself up against something that’s in the distance - around ten feet away - it’s quite difficult to get all those components aligned correctly.
If you align the ball first, then the putterface, it is also easier to make sure you are square on for the putt.
3. Pull the trigger. Once you’ve aligned yourself, there’s nothing left to think about other than executing the shot. Just pull the trigger. Working out pace comes from feel, practice, and your own intuition, and you should have worked that out long before you’ve started your pre-shot routine.