Putting is all about the smallest of details. The club face, feet, left hand, right hand and about 12 other things all need to be in position with a relaxed stroke.
While the full swing is a complex move with tons of moving parts that happen at high speeds to generate power, putting is pretty simple. Whether it’s a four-foot putt or a 40-foot putt, there aren’t a ton of changes.
What’s great about putting is that technology can’t beat it. As golf courses become obsolete thanks to new driver technology and increased swing speeds, putting is still as challenging as ever.
As the great Ben Hogan once said, “There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air and the other on the ground.”
If Hogan had figured out putting like he did ball striking, he’d likely have twice as many wins. Today, I want to help you putt more consistently by understanding the correct ball position on the greens as it plays a pivotal role.
Ball Position When Putting
Learning how to putt is one of the fundamental skills in playing golf. In fact, Tiger Woods learned golf from the green back to the tee so if you want to score better than ever, master your putting!
Specifically, you want to dial in the fundamentals like ball position, eye position, and stance.
The ideal ball position for putting is in the front center of your stance. Some golfers like to think of drawing an imaginary line from their left ear so the ball is off your front foot.
When the ball is in the front-center position it makes it easy to strike the ball with a proper stroke. If the ball is too far forward in your stance, it’s easy to hit up on it or hit pulled left putts. This can also lead to a ball that bounces and usually ends up short of the hole.
If the ball is too far in the back of your stance, it’s easy to miss putts right. Not to mention can change the low point of your stroke and accidentally hit down on it. The ball can jump off the putter face and get off-line quickly.
Distance from Golf Ball
Now that you understand ball position in putting, you might still be wondering, “How far should you stand from the ball when putting?”
This is a good question as it’s another important aspect of putting. If you stand too close to the golf ball your target line will typically go left. If you stand too far away from the ball, it can change your stroke and miss putts right.
Ideally, your eyes should be directly over the ball or slightly underneath it.
Once you have the right ball position and eye position, don’t forget about your stance too.
Your putting stance should change based on the length of your putt. Shorter distance putts correlate to a more narrow stance while longer putts need a wider stance.
By adjusting your stance to the length of your putt, it will help you make a consistent, smooth putting stroke. If you have a narrow stance for a long putt, it’s easy to get some extra head or lower body “swaying” movement; neither of which you want in putting.
Try to keep your head as still as possible throughout the stroke. The same with your lower body to not change your path alignment or face.
Also, don’t forget about your weight distribution too. You want your weight 50/50 on both feet to ensure you bottom out in the correct position.
Arnold Palmer is a great example of this stance – his knees were pointed inward at address to ensure proper weight distribution. The more lower body stability, the better!
Your stroke is also a byproduct of your putting posture in creating a perfect pendulum stroke. The great putters like Brad Faxon (one of the best putters ever) and Jordan Speith use their arms and little else in their putting stroke. According to My TPI, the secret is in your hips.
“To get your shoulders nice and loose, use your hips. That’s right—your hips. As you settle into your stance, push your rear end out a bit.
Notice how this “unlocks” your hip joints and allows you to easily hinge your upper body toward the ball without hunching your back. The less you hunch, the softer your shoulders and arms will hang, freeing you up to make the ideal pendulum-style stroke.”
The final fundamental is your grip. There is no one way to grip the putter – some golfers like the claw or left-hand low, while others prefer a traditional grip.
Regardless of how you grip the putter, just make sure your grip pressure is consistent. If you squeeze the life out of your putter it’ll add extra tension in your arms and upper body. It should be a 5 out of 10 in terms of pressure.
Click here to learn more about different putting grips now.
FAQs About Putting Stance and Setup
Do you have more questions about putting to shoot lower scores? If so, keep reading our frequently asked questions and answers for even more putting tips.
Should your head be behind the ball when putting?
Your head should be over the golf ball and maybe slightly behind the ball. Think about it like this, if you dropped a golf ball from your nose, it should land on top of your putter head. Or, slightly inside so your eyes are underneath.
The main thing you don’t want is your eyes over the ball. This means you’re crowding the ball and leads to missing a lot of putts left.
But some players prefer their head laterally backward as well. Phil Mickelson once said this gives him a better angle to see the break of the putt. As always, experiment on the practice putting green to see what works best for you.
What are the best putting training aids?
To master distance control, get into the right position at impact, and get your ball started on the intended line use these training aids:
- Putting Tutor: This is a great training aid to help you understand the target line for each putt. Works for a right-handed golfer or left handed and used by PGA Tour players.
- EyeLine Golf Edge Putting Rail: This makes it feel like you’re putting on a railroad track and creates a perfect 70-degree angle for your putting stroke.
Should hands be in front of ball when putting?
Yes, you want your hands slightly ahead of the ball while putting. This is known as forward press in putting and helps create a great roll.
If your hands are behind the ball it means that your wrists were too active in the stroke. This leads to speed inconsistency on the greens and is not recommended.
Click here to learn more about forward press in putting.
What is the correct putter length?
The standard putter length for men is 35 inches but a lot of golfers would benefit from one that is shorter. In fact, most golfers should use 34-inch putters (unless you’re over six feet tall).
But there are other factors besides height to determine the ideal putter’s shaft length. How you like to stand over the ball and arm length for example play a big role in choosing your putter length. Click here to learn more about putter length now.
What is the secret to good putting?
I would say there are two easy secrets to great putting. The putter head you choose and the type of stroke you have aren’t the common denominators either.
If you go back in history you can see that great putters all have their own unique style. Jack Nicklaus was different from Tiger Woods who was different from Jordan Spieth. They all have their own style, routine, and tempo.
Two things they have in common is to accelerate through the putt and keep their head down long enough (aka no peeking).
Acceleration is one of the most important factors to hitting putts solidly. While keeping your head down ensures you hit the putt squarely and get the ball rolling on the right line. Regular practice on an indoor putting green doesn’t hurt either.
Also, I think most golfers would benefit from putting on the fringe and tightly mown areas a lot more too. Too often golfers use high lofted wedges in these situations and they are not the high percentage play. Using a ton of loft leads to inconsistency and lost shots around the green.
The general rule: if you can putt it (even if it’s not on the green), putt it! Click here to learn more about putting from off the green.
Should I look at the ball while putting?
Different players prefer different focus points while putting. Some golfers look a dimple on the ball to keep their head still while others look ahead of the ball.
To that same point others, like Greg Norman, prefer to look at the back of the golf balls. As “The Shark” said on his website, “When I putt I don’t just look at the whole ball, I look at the back of the ball. By focusing on the back, you help ensure that you’ll strike the ball from straight behind it, which in turn will encourage you to make the proper low back-and-through stroke. It is only this type of stroke that imparts a true roll to the ball.”
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s up to you to test out looking at different parts of the golf ball in practice to see which ones gives you the most confidence and best roll on the greens.
Final Thoughts on the Putting Stroke
Hopefully these putting tips will help you never three putt again (or at least minimize them). Putting is one of the most important parts of the game. If you want to start shooting lower scores fast, spend a majority of your time putting.
Master the fundamentals like grip, stance, and ball position to become automatic on the golf course. If you find yourself missing putts right or left, start by looking at your setup position – specifically ball position. It’s easy to accidentally get the ball too far up (which leads to left misses) or too far back (which leads to right misses).
If you have a great day on the greens, make sure to video your stroke after the round. This will give you a template to use in the future if you get a cold putter on the greens.
Want more help on the greens?
- Check out our best putting drills
- Learn about golf ball markings for better accuracy