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Why We 3-Putt (And How To Fix It)

Your putter is the only club you use on every hole.  For both recreational players and professionals, putts account for about 40% of total strokes which I never realized until I started doing research regarding putting.  Besides adding distance off the tee, for recreational women golfers eliminating a few three-putts every round is a sure-fire way to reduce your score.

When I heard that putts were such a significant percentage of any round, I asked my coach, Mario Bevilacqua, and custom club fitter, Brendan Bergin, of HPGI here in Las Vegas, what the key issues were when it came to putting.  Both work with recreational, collegiate and professional players on tour.  They both agree that:

— Most players, far more than 50%, have the wrong putter.
— Most players don’t align their putter properly when they set up.
— Most recreational players will severely misread the break on a green, maybe several greens, during their round.

In this post I will address the first two points.  In my next post I will discuss how to eliminate, yes eliminate, misreads.  No longer will you think the putt was going break one way but watch it go the other way.  No longer will you discover a putt you thought was going to break, say, six inches, break three feet setting you up for a three-putt.  This second post also will answer the question of what pros on both the PGA and LPGA tours are doing when they hold up several fingers at arms length in front of them as read break.

Finding The Right Putter

Let’s go back to making sure you have the right putter to start with.  I think all of us would admit we have purchased a putter because we liked how it looked.  I know one of my first putters was a shiny Scotty Cameron.  It wasn’t fit for me but I loved how pretty it was. Unfortunately, the beauty wore off when I couldn’t make any putts. Hence, the real beauty of a putter lies not in looks but whether it helps you get the ball into the hole!

There are two kinds of putters.  If you putt using a pendulum-like stroke (you take putter straight back and come back straight through the ball, like a clock’s pendulum swings) you need a so-called “face-balanced” putter.  If your putting stroke is an arc or like a swinging gate you need what is called a “toe-balanced” putter.  Brendan and Mario say half the players with whom they work had the wrong type of putter when they first met.

To determine which type of putter you now have place your putter lengthwise (so the shaft is parallel to the ground) across your index finger.  Move your finger back and forth along the shaft until you find the balance point where you can balance the putter there across your finger.

Now look at the clubface:

Face-Balanced Putter

Is it facing almost straight up, skyward, in the position of the putter I took in the photo above?  If so, your putter is face-balanced.  

Toe-Balanced Putter

If the toe of your putter is pointing downward, like in the second picture, your putter is toe-balanced. 

The former promotes keeping your putter square to the target.  It’s how Phil putts.  The latter helps you open and close the face so you can make an arc.  It’s how Tiger putts.


Once you know you have or are considering buying the correct type of putter, you can select a club based on looks.

Loft and Lie

And then after making your selection, club fitter Brendan emphasizes you need to make sure your putter has the correct loft and lie.  The lie adjustment made for you will make your putter sit flat on the ground at address.

The loft adjustment is critical. You have to get the ball rolling smoothly or you are going to find that you can’t get your distance (the speed) consistently correct.  Club fitters like Brendan can make the needed adjustments, adding and subtracting loft by bending the putter, but so can the better fitters at Golf Galaxy or PGA Superstore.  If done correctly, your loft should be measured and confirmed on a roll board like that pictured.  (You may think all of is overkill, however, all of it affects performance.)

 Once you have the correct style putter that is properly adjusted, Brendan points out the challenge becomes alignment.  Beginning 8 feet from the hole if your putter face is open or closed just a single degree at impact the ball misses the hole.

In short, it’s written and said that “The only way you’ll make a putt with poor alignment is to hit a bad putt or misread the green.”

The answer to learning how to align yourself is lies in buying an inexpensive laser. They’re about $25. You can get them on Amazon, at Ace Hardware, Home Depot or Lowes. There are videos on YouTube that show how use them at home– perfect for cold weather or off-season practice.  Use the lines on your putter and ball to practice setting up on target.  After all, that’s what they’re for.

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