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Looking at the hole while putting - try it!

48 posts in this topic

I have found what could be the answer to many of my putting problems. I recently bought an inexpensive book - Golf Magazine's The Best Instruction Guide Ever. It is about 140 pages of drills, tips, and instruction from their Top 100 Instructors. I have browsed the book thoroughly but have not tried to put too many drills into play yet, in case I get paralysis by analysis.

I would like to highly recommend one specific tip the book provides - When putting, especially long distances, look at the hole from the moment you set the club at address until you finish your stroke.

This goes against the conventional wisdom of picking your line, setting up your club, looking once at the hole to gauge speed, and then staring down at the ball until well after the stroke was completed.

I tried this tip a while ago and found it awkward, so I didn't pursue it, so I went on practicing my normal putting routine, which is the conventional one.

Today I decided to give it a try again, and I spent a little time getting used to the odd feeling of staring at the hole while performing my stroke. Once I became used to it, I noticed dramatically improved performance on the practice green.

My new routine goes like this: Look at the line to judge the break. Step up the the ball, feeling the green with your feet, and set the putter behind the ball while looking at the hole and visualizing the ideal putt line. Look down at the putter to make sure it's square with my intended line, pick it up off of the grass and prepare to make my stroke. Look up at the hole and perform my stroke, focusing on keeping a smooth rhythm without jerking the putter through the ball.

I found that when putting long distances (30-50 feet), I was able to very consistently lag the ball up to within 5 feet of the hole. It was a dramatic improvement over my previous lag performance. From distances of around 20 feet and in, I was able to consistently put the ball within 2 feet of the hole.

The key to doing this - looking down your intended line at the hole, instead of at the ball - is trusting your putting stroke 100%. If anything my putting performance increased because I was not watching my putterhead at all with any of my peripheral vision - instead of focusing on making a perfect stroke and striking the ball with the exact center of the putter face, I was focusing on the results, and as a result, my whole stroke relaxed and I was able to put the ball on the line and with the speed I wanted to. When looking down at the ball and trying to perform a smooth stroke, especially to a hole a long ways away, I had a very difficult time simultaneously keeping the putterhead moving smoothly as well as striking the ball with the right amount of speed.

Having a simple, repeatable stroke is a big part of this, and I am happy that I've done enough practicing to have a basic stroke. I am not saying it is perfect but it is good enough to get the job done while looking up at the hole.

Distance control is one huge advantage I found in looking at the hole instead of at the ball while making my stroke; All I had to do was imagine rolling the ball underhand along the line - I guarantee anyone who rolls a bowling ball is looking at the target, not at the ball in their hand to make sure they have a good release - and I very quickly dialed in my speed much better than I have ever been able to do while just looking at the ball. So as I've said, my lag putting on the practice green improved dramatically.

The second huge advantage I found, and this is even more key, is that I found an incredible amount of confidence in performing strokes in the very difficult 3'-6'-10' range. I know I'm not the only one who has lined up over a six foot putt that I know has a small amount of break, aimed my ball where I know I need to start it rolling in order for it to curve into the hole, and missed the hole by inches because, during my stroke, my body fought me and re-aimed at the hole, or forced a little extra speed. A 6' putt is not hard, but it's hard mentally to force yourself to make a smooth stroke on the right line.

When I was standing over a 6' putt and looking at the hole, I could literally 'see' the line the ball had to take - after making sure my putterhead was square to that line, I just kept looking at the hole as I made my stroke, and the ball just kept going into the hole. Where I might make 1/5 breaking putts on the practice green normally, I started making 4/5 immediately. The putts that missed were almost all lip-outs; None of them missed the hole as greatly as they would have if I had been looking down at the ball. I was really raining them into the hole from everywhere, every kind of tricky break. It's hard to describe how much easier I found those tough middle distance putts today while looking at the hole instead of at the ball; I just visualized the line, and made my stroke, and it was like rolling the ball in with my fingers. My body just automatically 'got' the right stroke, and the right speed.

So I'm really sorry for this rambling but I was having such a good time I spent a bit too much time in the sun. Seriously, I recommend trying this - I have not taken the technique out onto the course to pressure-test it, so feel free to think that I have no business in recommending it yet - but I have 100% more confidence in my putting now and feel very confident that I can eliminate three-putts in the course of a normal round and increase my one-putts from within the 10' range. If you are looking for anything that might increase your made putts, if only during practice.... try looking at the line of the putt, and at the cup.... judge your distance... don't even look at the ball after you've set up the putter and taken your stance. Trust your stroke 100% and stay smooth and relaxed. You might be surprised.
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I read this tip as well and was very impressed with the results. I have modified it to suit my own comfort level though. I do all of my practice strokes (3 or 4) while looking at the hole till I am happy and I think I am getting the speed right. I then step up to the ball and hit. I have become very good at getting the speed right on my putts, now if I could only learn to read the greens.
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Taking a good look at the hole is a key to long distance putting for sure. I don't look at the hole the entire time but I stare down the hole and the line for what seems like a long time before I look down at the ball and putt. What I do is burn an image of the hole and line in my brain before I putt. I can still see the hole and line in my mind's eye when I look down at the ball to putt. Just like you are doing, I putt to the hole and line which tells my body how hard to stroke the ball. So what you are doing is pretty sound. Keep using it if it works.
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I tried this tip on the course yesterday. As crazy as it sounds and as CRAZY as it feels it definitely worked exceptionally well on long putts. I still used the convential method from 6-8 feet in but do give this a try on long putts if you're having trouble.

It feels wierd but if you think about all the other sports that you swing looking at the target as opposed to the ball.... tennis, soccer, cricket etc... even shooting pool!!
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Bob Rotella's book "putting out of your mind" recommends this approach. I'm prettyhappy with my long putt routine but if I find myself misjudging the speed on a couple of holes I'll do this to get the feel back quickly and it works well. In addition can also help with chips and shorter pitch shots.
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I tried this a couple of times a few years ago and hit it so bad I will never do it again. Plus I don't think I have ever seen anyone (TV or on the course) actually try it on a golf course. However give it a try and see for yourself. The results might be different. Not all ball sports make you better by looking at your target rather than the ball. In my competitive handball days I never took my eyes off the ball. No one else ever did either. The nose always followed the ball (bad habit in golf if you ask me.)
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It feels wierd but if you think about all the other sports that you swing looking at the target as opposed to the ball.... tennis, soccer, cricket etc... even shooting pool!!

not totally correct. you do look at the hole in pool but you keep a low profile to see the line of ball you are trying to hole. then see what point the cue ball must hit the other ball to take the right path. i consider myself a very good pool player, i can spin,jump,bank,combo,masse,etc. but i'm also sure that all those other sports you do still do look at the ball rather than then target at times. not saying your completely wrong but looking at the hole while in the act of putting isn't a piece of advice i would pass on.

if your looking at the hole to focus on your target. wouldn't that pure focus on the hole lead you to misread break? i think looking down and trusting your stroke and not your eyes is a better idea...
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If you aim properly for the break, looking at the hole will help judge the speed for the break. There are a lot of putts that require a perfect combination of speed & break to get it into the hole. Those are the ones I find much easier using this method.
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Utley recommends looking at the target not the hole per se, but also not at the ball.
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You do look at the hole in pool but you keep a low profile to see the line of ball you are trying to hole.

That's odd, because most pool players I've talked to, including a few pros and some Master instructors, simply look down the line of their cue stick and towards the point where they're looking to make impact on the object ball. They look at the target and they start to move the stick in that direction, and bad things happen.

not saying your completely wrong but looking at the hole while in the act of putting isn't a piece of advice i would pass on.

In a Playing Lessons with... Jim Thorpe, he talks about looking at the hole when putting.

I've always heard it done on a really long putt, because it immediately connects your eyes with the length of the putt and, thus, helps you get the speed down more. When my speed is off I'll putt on the practice green looking at the hole. Again, it more quickly connects what my eyes see to what my body feels (in terms of the length of the stroke). Tiger "looks at the hole when he putts" in effect: he takes a mental picture of the hole, then putts to the picture. Same idea... kind of. In some cases, an important distinction should be made, and that is that the HOLE may not necessarily be the TARGET. For a downhill putt, it's sometimes a spot ten feet short of the hole. Uphill, maybe ten feet past. Combine that with break and the target might move right or left, too. I personally rarely look at the hole (or a target) when putting. Occasionally on a REALLY long putt, but that's like once a year. On the putting green I'll end up doing it for a few putts once a week or so, especially when I go to a course with slower greens than my home course(s).
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I think I will give this a go on the practice greens.
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Tried it, didn't work for me, so end of story. I have much better luck concentrating on the first foot or so in front of the ball where I want the line of the putt to go.
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Utley recommends looking at the target not the hole per se, but also not at the ball.

Isn't the hole the target?

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Tried it, didn't work for me, so end of story. I have much better luck concentrating on the first foot or so in front of the ball where I want the line of the putt to go.

Hehe, well I'm desperate with my horrible putting keeping my scores so high.

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Hehe, well I'm desperate with my horrible putting keeping my scores so high.

Hey, I'm all for trying new things for sure -- it just didn't work for me..

Whatever it takes to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible.
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Isn't the hole the target?

Technically, no. The target is the point on the green that, based on your read, will result in the ball ending up in the hole. If you've got a perfectly straight and level put, then the target may well be the hole. And in the context of this thread, if the target happens not to be the hole, and you are looking at where the ball is supposed to go, you should be looking at the target, not the hole.

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I have to apologize for not reading the whole post, but just real quick - if you look at the hole, your head position will change for every putt depending on the distance = inconsistent, non-repeating. But, if you believe it and it makes you putt better, use it. I'm not that talented so I need measurable motions.
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Tiger "looks at the hole when he putts" in effect: he takes a mental picture of the hole, then putts to the picture. Same idea... kind of.

i never said you couldn't look at the hole to judge the distance. i meant that looking at the hole while you stroke the ball might not be the best advice for putting..
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