Is there anything worse than an icy cold putter?
There’s nothing like hitting it pure from tee to green, only to struggle on the greens. Even good players can only survive this for so long before a cold putter infects your long game too.
Confidence is a fragile thing in golf and without it on the greens, good luck scoring low (or consistently). If you’re a lot of golfers you likely miss to one side of the hole most of the time.
If you have a consistent miss, right or left, there is probably something going wrong before you even putt. Today, we’re going to make it easy to diagnose these issues, self-correct, and start putting Tiger-like confidence on the greens.
If you’ve ever asked, “Why do I miss putts to the left?”… then this article is for you. Keep reading to learn how to make more putts and some of the most common reasons you’re missing on the left side.
Pulling Putts Left
Missing putts that you should make is so frustrating but something all golfers deal with.
Before getting into seven of the most common reasons you’re pulling putt lefts, let’s first reset your expectations. I’ve found that most golfers “think” they should make all kinds of putts but in reality, even the PGA Tour guys miss a lot of putts.
Here are the make rates from different distances in the 2021 season:
- 4 feet: 92.19%
- 5 feet: 81.49%
- 6 feet: 70.34%
- 7 feet: 61.64%
- 8 feet: 52.94%
- 10-15 feet: 30%
- 20-25 feet: 12%
- Over 25 feet: 5%
If you’re like most golfers, chances are these stats shock you!
They only made a little over half of putts from eight feet, yet most average golfers beat themselves up when they miss inside 10 feet. Needless to say, resetting your expectations of what you “should” make is a good mental reframe before getting into some common putting issues.
1. Alignment Issues
Now that we’ve reset expectations, let’s talk about the first reason you’re likely missing putts left – alignment. I’d argue that your alignment in both the full swing and putting is the most important factor when it comes to playing consistently. Without proper alignment, you’re setting yourself up for failure before you’ve ever taken the putter or club back on your swing.
If you’re set up squarely to your target, you are much more likely to make a good stroke. Ironically, if you aren’t square and aimed right or left, your mind realizes (usually mid stroke). Then, it tries to course correct by pushing or pulling putts.
Don’t forget, the mind is a wildly powerful tool that can operate in a split second. This is why you need to check your aim before adjusting anything else. Too many golfers look for swing or putting fixes before looking at alignment which can only compound the problem.
Instead, start by having a friend record your stroke to check your alignment. Do this on the putting green from several distances (5, 10, and 30 feet). Chances are you’ll be shocked at your feet and shoulder alignment if you’re consistently missing left.
It’s easy to accidentally setup open and think you’re pulling putts when in reality, you’re hitting it dead straight. Always check your putting alignment before making any adjustments to your putting grip, stroke, or anything else.
While most golfers think of alignment as your feet, hip, and shoulder line, don’t forget about eye alignment. Your eyes play a crucial role in your setup and one of the reasons why putting mirrors are one of the most popular training aids.
Unfortunately, our minds can trick us and sabotage our putting due to poor eye alignment. It’s best to have your eyes over the golf ball or slightly underneath. If you’re standing too close to the ball, your eyes can get over it too much and skew your vision.
Anytime I notice that I’m missing on the left side, I always check my eye alignment. If you’re crowding the ball it’s easy to take the putter outside which leads to pulled putts.
To check your eye alignment, invest in the Back to Basics Putting Mirror. This is 10X better than most mirrors as it’s larger and has a shoulder alignment line too. Plus, a built-in putting track to make a perfect putting stroke.
2. Green Reading
Once your alignment is adjusted, it’s time to look at another component of putting that has nothing to do with your stroke – green reading. Like alignment, if your green reading is off, you’re going to miss a lot of putts; because even a perfect stroke won’t make up for a poor read.
Green reading is simple but complex at the same time. Sometimes we make it harder on ourselves and overthink the read which leads to a lot of doubt and indecision.
My biggest tip for green reading is to trust your gut.
Your gut instinct on how a putt will break is typically the right one. If you walk up, mark your ball, and instantly see it going left to right, go with it!
The biggest problem I see (and have personally experienced) is seeing the break, then second guessing with a second read. This leads to standing over a putt with doubt, indecision, and usually a timid stroke.
Instead, go with your first instinct and try to make every single putt. In the book Putting Out of Your Mind, Dr. Bob Rotella says that every putt is a green light putt. Whether you’re two feet or 20 feet, you should try to make every putt.
While you won’t make much outside of 10 feet (as the PGA Tour stats showed), it’ll help you hit a better putt and have a shorter next putt. When you try to “lag it up” vs. trying to make it you might have bigger misses and more 3-jacks.
So trust your gut and try to make every putt to give yourself the best chance!
3. Ball Position
The third thing to evaluate before your stroke is your ball position. Similar to alignment and poor green reading, having the right ball position for putting is crucial.
If the ball is too far back or too far forward in your stance you’ll likely add/remove loft. Since a putter only has 2-3 degrees of loft to begin with, even the smallest mistake can make a big issue. Specifically, the ball tends to hop if you add/remove loft which can mess with the roll and end up short a lot of times.
The ideal ball position for putting is in the front center of your stance.
I won’t get overly specific as every player is different with their stroke, forward press, and putter loft. All of these factors also play a big role in getting the ball rolling smoothly from the start.
4. Ball off the Heel
Another issue that has nothing to do with your putting stroke is how you line up the ball with the putter. A lot of times you might think the ball is in the middle of the face but it’s actually off the heel if you’re missing left. And it might be aimed off the toe if you’re missing right.
In your alignment video from the first step, make sure to check the ball is set up in the middle of your putter. If you have a 2-ball putter (or something similar) this is easy to see as the balls should line up.
Newer putters have much more alignment than older ones which should fix this issue quickly. I remember my first TaylorMade Spider putter had no alignment and when I got a newer one my putting changed overnight.
Your putter plays a big role in setting you up for success to make sure it has plenty of built in alignment. Don’t make golf harder by playing with inferior equipment!
If you’re in need of a new flat stick, here are our best recommendations for each style of putter:
5. Pulling Putts
If you’re missing putts left and your alignment, green reading, and ball position are good, it’s time to look at your stroke. If you’re pulling putts left despite perfect aim, it’s usually from an outside takeaway.
While you can have different takeaways with your full swing (inside vs. outside) it’s nearly impossible with putting. All great putters either take the putter back nearly square (straight back, straight through) or inside to outside. Since putters have toe hang, it makes it easy to square the putter at impact and get the ball rolling well.
Unfortunately, a lot of everyday golfers take it back outside which leads to pulling putts. It’s nearly impossible to take the putter back outside then course correct on the way to impact. This is more of a “yippy” move and not a free flowing stroke.
If you bought the putting mirror from above, this can help. The Back to Basics Putting Mirror has a built-in putting track that shows you the ideal putter path.
Another good training aid to check your stroke is the Eyeline Golf Edge Putting Plane Rail. This training aid acts like bumpers in a bowling alley lane to help you improve your backswing.
The reason it’s so effective is because it matches your putter lie angle. As they said online, “70° is the lie angle of most putters. Your putter will travel like it was built to – slightly inside the line and return squarely to the ball with ease.”
Consistently using this on the practice putting green will help you retrain your stroke and stop pulling putts left! Plus, it works at home with an indoor putting green on the golf course.
6. Eyes Follow the Ball
While a lot of us say “I peaked” and look too early with putting this lead to missing putts right. However, if your eyes follow the ball (vs. raising your head too early), this can lead to missing on the left side.
You want to keep your head and eyes down to complete your putting stroke. Don’t look up too early and follow the ball with your eyes or you’ll likely miss a ton left.
The goal is to find the “glow” after you’ve hit the putt. Tiger and other golf books have talked about how the ball leaves a sort of reflection on the grass after you hit a putt. Try to “see the glow” before raising your eyes and head to get the putt rolling on the right line.
7. Overactive Right Hand
The final reason you might miss a lot of putts to the left is an overly active right hand. Anytime your right hand has too much motion, it leads to a lot of pulling thanks to a closed putter face. This typically happens when your grip is too weak and the putter head rotates left.
Instead, try to roll the right hand (assuming you’re a right-handed golfer) more underneath the grip. This will put the left hand back into a dominant position and steer the putter face. If you’re getting “flippy” check your right hand position immediately.
Anytime I experience this issue in practice I hit a few putts with the claw grip. This essentially removes the right hand entirely from the putting stroke and lets the left guide the putter face toward the target line. The claw is a great grip for fast greens too.
You can also do some putting drills and only hit putts with your left hand. This is a good way to feel the putter back in the dominant hand and remind yourself that the right shouldn’t do much. Less is more when it comes to right hand movement in your putting stroke.
Next Steps: Create A Putting Routine
Whether you’re missing putts left, right, short, or long, you need a routine. A pre-shot putting routine will transform your confidence on the greens and make a better stroke on each putt. It’s one of the few things that all good players have in common and something you can start doing today.
Think about it, most average golfers walk up to a putt and are more worried about 3-putting than making it. A lot of golfers don’t get clear about the read ahead of time and stand over the putt with doubt, worry, and fear. This kind of negative thinking will never lead to good performance on the greens.
This is why you need to create a pre-shot routine on the greens too. A good putting routine will help you:
- Speed up pace of play
- Create a system to read putts
- Stand over each putt with confidence
- Force you to pick a target on the hole or apex
- Automate your thinking to eliminate negative thoughts
- Get the ball to the hole more often. It’s better to have the ball past the hole vs. short so you can “give it a chance.”
The sooner you can create a routine, the better to help you stop pulling your putts!
FAQs About Pulling Your Putts
Do you have more questions about how to make more putts and shoot lower scores every round? If so, keep reading to learn more now.
How do I stop my 3-foot putts from missing?
The make rate from 3-feet on the PGA Tour is close to 99% so this is an area you want to fix asap. The more automatic you can become from 3-feet, the easier it is to shoot lower scores every round.
Here are seven tips to start making more short putts:
- Buy an indoor practice green
- Maintain grip pressure with your through stroke
- Spend 70% of your practice time on putts inside three feet
- When you play golf make sure to hole out more putts (no gimmies)
- Always accelerate through the putt. Take a shorter backswing to accelerate vs. decelerating like so many golfers do.
- Keep your head down. From short range try to hear the putt drop in the cup vs. see it go in with your eyes. This will keep your head still and make a better stroke.
- Rarely give the hole away; meaning, don’t aim outside the hole on short putts. Aim inside the hole and hit it with speed to take away the break and make it a straight putt.
What putter do I need if I miss left?
If you need a new club head, skip the face balanced style.
Paul Wood, the VP of engineering at Ping Golf, recommends skipping a face balanced putter. In a Golf.com interview he said, “If you miss left more often than right, opt for a toe-balanced putter. The reason? Toe-weighted putters tend to stay open through impact, while face-balanced models tend to close.
Don’t forget, using the right putter has a big impact on your putting. If you’re really struggling to figure out which putter to use for your stroke, invest in a putter fitting. It’s cheaper than a driver or club fitting and can help you buy with confidence.
Why do I miss all my putts right?
If you’re missing putts right you likely have the exact opposite issues of missing to the left. Click here to read our full guide to stop missing putts right.
Also, don’t forget to check out the Putting Tutor by Dave Pelz. Use it with varying distances, whether it’s a short putt or long putt, to get your intended line dialed in.
Why are left to right putts harder?
Most right-handed golfers prefer right to left putts. But left to right, not so much.
It’s harder to release the putter and subconsciously harder to aim your body lines as well. Not to mention a lot of golfers “peak” too early and lead to pushing putts and missing on the low side. But to become a great putter you need to work on these in practice!
Final Thoughts on Putting
If you pull putts I’m convinced these changes will help you quickly!
Putting is a big part of golf and something you can fix quickly. A few hours over a few weeks testing out the different fixes above can lead to massive progress much faster than swing changes.
When you do practice putting, make sure to spend a majority of your time inside five feet. These are the most important putts for any skill level golfer and will help keep momentum in your round.
If you’re still having trouble with left misses, test out different putters to see if you get better results. Finally, don’t forget to create a consistent pre-shot routine to improve alignment, green reading, and overall confidence on the greens.