A lot is often made about the great putters and their beautiful putting strokes. While it is true that some of the all-time greats had repeatable putting strokes, there are other qualities they possessed which allowed them to make putts. To me, these players were great because of their ability to read the amount of break on each putt, aim toward that spot and most importantly control the speed on those breaking putts.
In all my years of playing golf, I have yet to see a putt with break miss on the low side of the hole and then go back up the slope and into the hole. It would defy gravity! We hear TV analysts refer to missing on the low side of the hole as the ‘amateur side’. While the label is a bit harsh to the community of amateurs, the point they are trying to make is that professionals realize the ball can only enter on the high side of the hole. With that knowledge, professionals play enough break in each putt so if their putt doesn’t go in, it will roll by the hole on the high side.
What do I mean in referring to the low and high sides of a putt? Let’s take a putt which moves from right to left, for example. The high side would be the right half of the cup. As the ball rolls from right to left, it will enter the right side of the hole, or what we refer to as the high side because it is higher up the slope than the left side.
High Side Putting Drill
To illustrate what I mean, here is a drill that I practice. In the video below, I use a flagstick, but you can use a set of golf clubs or alignment rods in the same way.
Find a breaking putt and lay the flagstick, clubs or rods down on the low side of the hole. Play 3 putts from the same location with the goal of making them, but if you miss the goal is to have the ball come to rest on the flag. Any putt that either strikes the flagstick short of the hole, or comes up short of the hole never had a chance to go in.
The idea here is to give your putt a chance of going in. That will only happen if your putt reaches the hole or goes by the hole on the high side. The best putters will either hole the putt, or—should they miss—get their ball to either strike the flagstick behind the hole or come to rest on the flag.
Reading the right amount of break, aiming, and playing the putt with the correct speed are the qualities of a great putter. Spend some time on this drill and see if it doesn’t change your mindset and visualization when playing breaking putts.
Chandler Withington is Hazeltine’s Head Golf Professional. Prior to leading golf operations at Hazeltine, Withington was on the golf staff of Merion, Seminole Golf Club, and other highly regarded clubs. Withington is a historian of the game, and values the life lessons learned on the course.
Topics: Golf Tips