How to Putt a Golf Ball at the Right Speed

By Gary McCord

Hit a golf ball too hard on a putt, and it zooms past the cup. Hit a ball too softly, and it creeps toward the hole with no hope of dropping in. The right speed of a golf ball on a putt can make the difference between par and %$%^!

One of the best ways to develop a touch for the speed at which putts should roll is to visualize what you want to happen. You must optically preview the putt’s roll from its stationary point to a resting place near the hole — a tap-in is really nice.

This optical preview tells your muscles how much energy to use to hit the putt. (If you had to throw a ball over a bush and make it land no more than five feet beyond the bush, you’d decide at what arc and speed to toss the ball, and your mind’s eye would relay this information to your muscles.)

View a putt from a point off to the side of the target line, midway between the ball and the hole, as shown in the photo. This technique can give you a better feel for the distance. Some professionals swear they can visualize the proper speed of a putt twice as well from the side.

Viewing a putt from the side can help you judge distance and speed.

Viewing a putt from the side can help you judge distance and speed.

If the ball doesn’t go in the cup on a putt, it should finish 14 to 18 inches past the hole.

A good rule of thumb: Don’t change your mind while you’re over a putt. For one thing, putts look different from above than from the side! For another, the ground you stand on may not be sloped the same as it is near the hole. And unless the putt is all downhill, the ball does most of its curving during the last third of the putt. (That’s another reason to stand to the side of the putt — assessing the last third of the putt is easier from there.)