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7 techniques to improve your putting alignment

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Aiming a golf club to your target, in this case the putter, is like shooting a gun while looking at the barrel from the side. It would be so much easier if we could putt side-saddle like Sam Snead did. The rules of golf prohibit such action, however, so we’re left to find effective ways to align ourselves on the greens that abide by the USGA rules.

In my studio at Vidanta in Puerto Vallarta, I utilize the SAM PuttLab, which measures more than 20 different putting factors. With it, I’ve seen first-hand just how difficult it is to align the putter. And it’s not just average golfers. My studies have shown that even PGA Tour players struggle to aim the putter exactly where they intend.

So what chance does the average golfer have? With the 7 techniques I write about below, a much better chance than he or she does now. 

Before we get to the techniques, I want to offer a SAM PuttLab screenshot from one of the better putters on the PGA Tour. Note that this player consistently aims the putter 2.5 degrees to the right of his intended target. His setup necessitates a change in face alignment on the way back and through impact in order to begin the ball in the correct direction.

StickneyPutter

Touring professionals have spent years honing and ingraining repeatable strokes, and it may not be best for them to change the way they’ve been putting. They’ve earned their stripes, so as long as they return the putter to a position at impact that starts the ball on their intended line, where they initially aim can be of little consequence.

Amateurs, on the other hand, should work to limit the amount of manipulations in their strokes. This will give them the best chance possible to start the ball on their intended line.

Ready to give it a shot? Here are my 7 best techniques to improve your putting alignment.

Put a line on your ball

Line on ball

It’s easy to understand why drawing a line on your ball and aiming it from behind can help your putting alignment. As we mentioned before, it’s easier to aim from behind the barrel than beside it. If you watch golf closely on television, you’ll notice a majority of top PGA Tour players use a line on their golf ball for this purpose. 

Use a putter with a line

LIne on putter

The more lines you have perpendicular to the bottom of the putter face, the easier it will be to line up correctly. Some people prefer one line, while others prefer multiple lines. Whatever you’re preference, there’s no question that the majority of golfers will aim their putter better if it has a line on it.  

Use other clubs to form railroad tracks

RR Tracks

As with your long game, placing a few clubs on the ground will help you to “see” what square, open, and closed looks like in relation to your target will help your alignment. Again, you don’t have to be perfectly aligned, but if you think you are lined up one way (say, opened), but are actually lined up another (say, closed), I can guarantee you’ll run into trouble.  

Audit your right-hand grip

Rt hand grip

For whatever reason, I commonly see people’s right hand too much “on top” of the grip as shown in this photo. Remember, whenever your right hand is in opposition with your left hand, poor alignment will generally follow.

Make sure your shoulders are square

Shoulder alignment

Use a club under your armpits, like I’m demonstrating above, to see where your shoulders are in relation to your feet and target line. Open or closed shoulders are an issue that are usually affected by your grip. 

Be wary: Golfers with left-hand low grips tend to have closed shoulders at address, while golfers who use the traditional, right-hand low putter grip tend to have opened shoulders. 

Monitor your right forearm

High rt forearm

If the right forearm rides too high then you’ll tend to be too open to your target during your setup. Make sure your right forearm is in line with the club shaft and the left forearm at address. This will increase your odds of aiming where you want to aim more consistently.

Set up while looking at the hole and trust

Look at hole

When all else fails, just look at the hole, set your putter down, and fire. You’ll be aligned better than you think. 

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. brian watts

    Feb 2, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Like the article. what putter is in featured in this ?????

  2. Bob Pegram

    Jul 15, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    The touring pro who aims his putter 2.5 degrees to the right at address has an interesting statistic shown on the SAM Putt Lab screenshot. His consistency is 92 percent. In other words, although his alignment is way off, he does it the same way almost every time and so must have a compensating move that he does just about every time.
    That same peculiarity explains the variety of full swings on tour. Everybody’s anatomy is different and so our tendencies vary. A lot of practice will tell us where to compensate (but starting with what Tom shows is a good foundation to build on).
    The touring pro may have an eye alignment issue that he has learned to allow for.

  3. Killer

    Nov 25, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Putt with a string over your putting line. Great at home or even at the course when no one is around the practice green. Allows you to learn what straight looks and feels like. When you are ready to putt, think target, target, target, don’t sweat the small stuff, everything else!

  4. Scott

    Nov 24, 2015 at 9:49 am

    thanks Tom, something to work on this winter

  5. Steve

    Nov 22, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Nice edit taking negative reviews away

  6. Andy W

    Nov 21, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Great article on getting the ball rolling on the intended line at hopefully the proper speed. But what if your “intended line” isn’t the correct line to hole the putt? The idea is to actually make putts, right? Or at least have a chance. Best of both worlds happens with the P&SI-EGOS..

  7. Christestrogen

    Nov 21, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Another A+++ article…..
    You are on a roll…..pun intended

    -Christosterone

  8. Wallace

    Nov 20, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Tom, this is a great article with good information. Very few people can properly line up a putter. And it doesn’t have to slow down play. Just be ready and put the ball down the way you want it. I wish some of these people knew how hard a Trackman University course is. Keep up the good work and thanks for feeding this site with great content.

  9. Don

    Nov 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting around while a golfer aligns, then re-aligns, the line on their ball before putting. This “tip” promotes more slow play than it improves a golfer’s putting.

    TAKE THE DAM LINE OFF THE BALL. And, keep up the pace of play.

    • Bert

      Nov 21, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      +2 play weekly with a golfer who repeatedly does this; please attend the flag-stick while line up the line on my ball for my 10 foot putt. Then you remove the flag-stick and after they miss the putt, they go through the same routine again aligning up the stupid line on the ball. I doubt they ever read the contour of the green, grain, or just how the ball will roll. The USGA and R&A should have addressed for the 2016 Revision. It’s slow play and torture to those in the same group.

  10. Stretch

    Nov 20, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    A lot of shanks for a direction for the average player to help improve.

    Having been a land surveyor I cannot line a line on the ball perfect enough to satisfy a need for extreme accuracy.

    Lining up body angles does help the arms swing the shaft in plane with the aim line. How ever the most important body part to get lined up is the eye line. The best example is Jack Nicklaus who had every body line way open and the body mass behind the ball. This let him shove the putter down the line as well as bottom out at Impact which put the magic roll on the ball.

  11. Rich

    Nov 20, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    When I see a player with a big line on the side of their ball playing in my group, I know I’m in for a slow day on the course. Our club champion does this and he is the slowest player on the greens I have ever seen. EVERY putt gets lined up with the stupid line! It’s painful!

    • Bob Jones

      Nov 25, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      I played with a guy who was bent down like forever tweaking the line on his ball, and it was a 60-foot putt! The ball ran two feet left of the hole and ended up ten feet past. Oh, well…

  12. Jang Han

    Nov 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Good tips from the melon head guy!

  13. alanp

    Nov 20, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    thanks for the article. there is alot of merit to your last point. next time do an article on how not to be a negative person and suck at life. seems like thats all these people know how to do

  14. Chris

    Nov 20, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Good info here! And that is a really nice looking putter!

  15. Jimmeh

    Nov 20, 2015 at 2:37 am

    Something else that might work is making sure your dominant eye is on top of the golf ball. That way when you look at your intended target (hole, line etc) there is no visual distortion from your (right eye in my case) being a couple of inches away

  16. snowman

    Nov 19, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    What I’ve had some success with is looking TOWARD the hole (rather than zeroing in on the hole itself) but at the same time trusting my feet to set into proper position and then aligning my shoulders to my ‘foot line’ and starting the ball on a path that is parallel to my shoulder/foot alignment (make sense?). Eyes/brain/feet all work together to magically give you a good start line.

  17. WP

    Nov 19, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    I personally find that having a line on the ball and my putter is A LOT worse than looking at no line/logo and a putter with a simple dot on top. I’ve tried the line technique and besides the fact that it never looks the same from a stance as it does when you aligned it, all the focusing on “lines” removes all feel from the process. Different strokes for different folks I suppose…

    • mike

      Nov 19, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      WP,

      I agree with you 100% I’ve used many putter with different sight line and none worked. This year i went to a putter with just a Dot. My putting has improved 90% went from a 13 hcp to solid 8 hcp. I don’t put any markings/lines on my ball it’s worked for me so far.

    • Kevin

      Nov 22, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Use the line and trust it. Easier to aim the ball from looking behind and it’s a different perspective when you look down at it. Aim it and then trust that line!

  18. Sek

    Nov 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    What his putter model/Brand?

    Thank

    • Aaron

      Nov 19, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Looks like a blacked out TM Spider mallet. Maybe their new spider mallet.

      • Sek

        Nov 19, 2015 at 7:18 pm

        Aaron…Thanks

        • Dylan

          Nov 20, 2015 at 9:32 am

          it’s a ghost tour monte carlo. all blacked out

          • golfpro92

            Dec 10, 2015 at 9:09 am

            It’s a spider mallet 2.0. Wish I knew where he got that finish done!

  19. Tom

    Nov 19, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Seems like it’s worth tryin.

  20. Steve

    Nov 19, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Yes put a line on the ball, align it with the line on the putter, square shoulders, shaft inline with back forearm. Wow how do you think of this? This is going to change putting forever, all this new information.

    • dwc

      Nov 19, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Come on man, don’t be that guy

      • prime21

        Nov 19, 2015 at 2:17 pm

        Too late, he WILL ALWAYS be THAT guy. Maybe someday Steve will bless us with an article that provides the secrets of golf, until then, he will simply remain the troll he is, waiting for an opportunity to unleash his attacks from his Mac, safely hidden from reality in his childhood bedroom where he still resides. Nice article Tom, EVERYONE could learn something from it.

    • Justin

      Nov 19, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      You missed the whole point. Did you read the title? It’s techniques for monitoring and figuring out if you are properly aligned. Most people don’t know what causes their shoulders to be open or closed or the causes of other faults.

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