If you’re not actively trying to improve your putting, the chances of it improving without practice is slim to none.
The truth is, every player wants to get shoot lower scores, yet very small percentage actually spend time on practicing the things that matter. Instead of trying to bomb more drivers or hit more 7-irons on the range, you should become obsessed with your putting.
At a certain level, the number of fairways and greens you hit doesn’t really matter. Tiger and Phil are two of the winningest players on Tour yet they rarely hit the fairway compared to other players. They understand it’s all about scoring and specifically, holing putts when it counts.
As Tiger Woods said in his autobiography, How I Play Golf, “I’m at least as captivated by putting as I am the full swing. That’s why I practice putting so much.”
Luckily, this list of the best putting drills is a guaranteed way to help you improve dramatically on the greens.
Before we get into the best putting drills, it’s important to differentiate the ways you can practice putting. Here are the three main ways:
Before the round, the number one goal is to get accustomed to the speed of the greens. It’s not to try and drastically improve your putting stroke or make any big tweaks. With this type of practice, you shouldn’t even worry about making long putts.
Instead, the goal is about getting the speed and seeing as many short putts get into the hole as possible. This will help you build confidence before the round. Do your best to avoid any warm up three putts and instead focus on making putts.
Block practice is where you focus on your form and technique more than holing putts. In fact, a target isn’t even required with block practice. When you’re working on the fundamentals and mechanics, stay away from targets entirely.
Instead, focus on making the new moves that you are trying to ingrain. Because when you’re thinking about your stroke while putting to a hole, you are basically training yourself to miss putts. Take out “trying to make it” and focus on making the changes to help you become a better putter.
The last main type of practice is competitive practice and where the best putting drills come into play. With competitive practice, you have a goal in mind. You aren’t just mindlessly putting around!
No, instead you have a set drill and goal. This will help you focus and add a competitive feel to your session even if you’re doing it alone. If you want to step up the competitive level, recruit a golfing friend to join and maybe even add a friendly wager.
The great thing about competitive practice is that it requires a little more green reading than simple block practice or a pre-round warm up.
You’ll often see Tiger Woods doing this drill and has said it’s one of his favorites. By using your right hand (or dominant hand), you are training your stroke to be the same pace back and through.
This drill is great for improved stability in either hand and will help you become more aware of the putter face throughout the stroke. The goal is to learn more the feeling for how the putter face should release through the stroke.
No need to put towards a target on this drill. Simply use it on new greens or if you’re trying to reset your stroke after a few bad rounds.
The circle drill is a great drill used by one of the best players in the game, Phil Mickelson! This drill is all about developing confidence and consistency from the three-foot range.
If you can make 90% or more of your 3-footers, I promise your game will improve. You will feel more relaxed on long putts because you’ve trained your stroke for close range if you miss.
To get started…
- Place 10 balls in 3 ft in a circle around the hole.
- Putt each one into the hole. If you miss a putt, start over.
- Initially, set your target as 20-30 made putts in a row and then try for 50 or 75 or even 100.
Phil does this before each competitive round which is very impressive. Try to do this once a week to stay sharp with the putts that matter most.
This drill will help improve short putting under pressure and is great for competitive practice. Here’s how you can get started:
- Place 5 balls at 3-4-5-6-7 ft from the hole forming a straight line. Try to pick a putt that is relatively straight with little break.
- Start by putting the ball from 3ft and work your way back to 7ft.
- Try to make all 5 putts in a row. If you miss a putt, you have to start over.
Doing this drill during practice will help simulate pressure putts from short range and focus your attention on making them!
The clock drill will help you test your putting from six feet and in. Here’s how to get started:
- Insert tees into the putting green at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 feet intervals in four lines around the hole.
- Make one putt from each tee in a row. (i.e. Make all the two footers before going to the three footers)
- Then four, five, and six-footers. If you miss, start over or allow yourself to miss one from the five and six-foot range.
To help you find the perfect speed on mid-length putts, give this drill a shot. It’s used by a lot of Web.com and PGA Tour players to help them dial in speed on the new greens they play each week.
- Lay an alignment rod down 18” behind the hole.
- Using 10 balls, find a putt of 25-30 feet. Repeat this three times for a total of 30 putts using the scoring system below.
- Try to putt each ball at least enough to the hole but short enough to stay short of the alignment rod.
- Here’s how the scoring works:
- Hole the putt = 2 points
- Past the hole but short of the alignment rod = 1 point
- Past the alignment rod = -1 point
- Less than two feet short = 0 points
- More than two feet short = -1 point
Try to score 20 points or more per 30 putts. As you get better, adjust the score or change the difficulty of the putt.
While you want to get long putts close the hole, the goal is to never “lag it inside three feet”. This bad habit allows golfers to get lazy and not pick a specific target. This attitude for long putts will leave you with more 4-6 footers than you care to have in a given round.
Instead, use this lag putting drill to get closer for your second putt:
- To get started, pace off putts of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 ft from the hole (not all on the same line).
- Hit one putt from each location, until you get all five putts in a row within a 3-foot radius of the hole.
- If you fail to get a putt within 3-feet, start over.
For more tips on improving your lag putting, check out the putting speed article as well.
The next time you get to the course before you tee time, watch how most golfers warm up. My guess is that 99.9% of players start like this:
- Throw down 3-5 balls and start putting at the holes without hitting any previous putts to gauge speed.
- Try to make some long ones and even attempt putts that set them up for three putts.
- After five minutes they get bored, head to the bar, range or 1st tee. Sound familiar?
This is setting you up for failure on the course! Your goal before the round is one thing only, get confidence by nailing the speed of the greens.
Here are the best putting drills to set you up for success before you head to the 1st tee.
With this putting drill, the goal is to learn the speed of the greens without concerning yourself with direction or trying to make it. Instead of putting towards a cup, putt to the edge of the fringe from 20-30 feet in several directions. This drill will make sure you’re not focused on making it and hit putts from different directions.
Once you’ve got the speed down, start seeing the ball go into the cup. Don’t start practicing 15-30 footers which statistically, even PGA players rarely make. Instead, start making as many 3-footers as you can. I try to make at least 30 before my round.
Once you’ve seen the ball go into the hole for the short range, make sure you practice the mid-range putts. But instead of putting to a cup, hit to a tee. This smaller target will make you focus more and also emphasize speed, not trying to jar it in.
Hopefully, you now have the knowledge to no longer wander onto the putting green and not know how or what to practice. If you want to improve your game, at pretty much any level, focus on your putting more than anything else.
Use these competitive practice drills and new pre-round routines to set yourself up for success. I’m confident if you sub out some range time for putting practice, you’re going to shoot lower scores much more consistently. One last suggestion, find a good indoor putting green so that you can do some of these drills in your spare time at home.