What’s the best way to achieve proper alignment when putting?
21 Professionals Contributed
Aim the Putter to Where You're Starting Your Putt
Aligning is the process after you aim the golf club’s leading edge. Most golfers get aim and alignment confused. You must aim the golf club first. Then align yourself to how the golf club is aimed. The same applies to putting.
The difference between putting and all other shots is putting you’re rolling the ball. That said, you have to take into consideration the terrain of each green relative to where your ball is on the green and where the hole is on the green. In other words, to aim your putter and then be able to align yourself correctly you have to read the green correctly in order to know where you intend to aim the putter.
Green reading is entire subject to itself. But the purposes of this discussion, let’s state you’ve read the green and have determined your “aim point”; where you want to start the putt. You simply aim the leading edge of the putter perpendicular to that line. Then you set up yourself, or “align” yourself to the putter.
As you do so, your shoulders are the most important body part to be aligned correctly. The putter is directly connected to your shoulders. Therefore, the putter will most likely move on an arc that is somewhat parallel to your intended start line of your putt. If your shoulders are not parallel to your start line, then you’ll most likely do one of 2 things. Either you’ll make a great putting stroke and totally miss your start line and the hole. Or, you’ll manipulated the stroke and the putter to compensate for your lack of proper alignment, not aim.
To understand how simple a start line adjustment can influence any putt, check out a video I produced about maximizing the break of your putts.
PGA Master Professional
President, North Florida Section – PGA of America
John Hughes Golf, Kissimmee, FL
Let Your Natural Instinct Take Over
Alignment is crucial to finding success on the greens, but overanalyzing your alignment can sometimes do more damage than good. We have all heard at some point to simply draw a straight line on the ball, point the line at your target and your alignment problems are solved. This certainly is a great method that has helped many golfers improve their putting by adding this directional sight line. But, anyone that has tried this method has likely also experienced doubt or mistrust once you have addressed your ball and no longer agree with what you see. Using a sight line is great provided you can accurately point it in the correct direction. If not, there is a good chance that you will see or feel something different once you are over the ball and at that point, good luck! If you doubt what you see or feel, you inevitably will put a poor stroke on the ball.
In contrast, how many times have you dropped three balls on the practice putting green, simply looked at the hole fifteen feet away, and without reading a thing, rolled your first putt straight in the hole? Sure, you can say ‘well there’s no pressure on the practice green’. But what you should notice, is how if you allow your eyes, feet and natural unstrict to take over, you WILL make more putts.
So try this both in practice and on the course. Do not use a line for the next two weeks. Spend at least 80% of the time before stroking a putt looking ‘down’ the intended line of the putt and at your target. During your practice strokes, really ‘see’ and ‘focus’ on your target, then trace the line you intend to roll the ball on from the hole back to the ball. When you address the ball, set your putter head behind the ball first. Then while looking at your target, set your feet and body naturally to what you see. Once you are set, slowly trace the line from the target back to your ball one last time and pull the trigger without hesitation. This is a natural process, not an exact science. It should be fluid and athletic.
I am confident this process will not only improve your alignment, but will improve your rhythm, contact and distance control. All resulting in fewer putts!
Eye Line and alignment aid
Two things are key when working on putting alignment.
1.) Proper eye line – your eyes should be directly over the ball in to ensure you are looking down your intended line when looking at the hole. To test this, either use a mirror or place drop a ball to the ground from between your eyes and note where it lands. That should be where you position the ball in your stance.
2.) Draw a line or use a line on your golf ball to line up at your intended target. It is much easier to line up properly from behind the ball than standing over the top of it. Once your ball is lined up at the target, align your putter to that line and trust it. Practice this routine as it may take some time to trust if it is new but it works!
Set-Up Sequence for Alignment Success
One of the best ways to find proper alignment when putting is to sequence your set-up appropriately. Many amateurs walk into a putt by setting the feet first, then take the grip, and finally try to align the putter face toward the target. Unfortunately, this set up sequence of Body-Grip-Putter can cause players to get “locked in” to any misalignment of the body, and may affect a player’s perception when bending over to the ball.
Most tour players use a Putter-Grip-Body sequence when walking into a putt. This means aligning the putter face first when approaching the ball, then taking the grip, and finally shuffling the feet to position the body to the putt. When following this sequence, the putter face is aligned toward the target and the body sets up around the putter, offering the best opportunity for quality alignment. Setting the feet and body last also allows a player to make fine adjustments until the set-up alignment feels “just right.”
Note: While most players I see have been fit for a driver, few have been fit for a putter. The Putter-Grip-Body sequence works best with a properly fit putter, so see a knowledgeable local putting coach or fitter who can help.
PGA Golf Professional
Director of Player Development
Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL
Find a Putter you can AIM!
The two most important things in putter fitting is to find a putter the player can AIM and also one that they like the way it looks and feels.
That said–putting is very independent and personal. Being able to aim the putter is key, using a line on the ball or the side pole trademark can help with this a lot.
The position and alignment of the body is not as crucial, but a preference would be to have the shoulders, forearms and eyes as close to parallel to the start line as possible. A lot of folks get the shoulders and forearms open, this causes an outside to in stroke. Other’s tend to cock their head one way or another causing their eye line to be off, you’ll tend to swing the club in the direction the eye line is looking. The lower body, hips and feet are really not much of a factor since all the motion is with the shoulders and arms.
Get set-up in your normal putting stance/posture and have someone lay an alignment rod across your shoulders, then your forearms and then under your eye line and see where they are pointing. As I mentioned using the line on the ball and hopefully the line on your putter to help it get aimed correctly. If there are issues a lot of practice in front of a mirror on the set-up will help.
In order to sink putts, you must be lined up properly. Use alignment rods, when you practice.
Here’s how: find a 4 foot putt that is flat and straight, on your practice green. Lay two alignment rods down, parallel to one another and 4 inches apart. Position the rods so the hole is at one end. Place a golf ball at the other end, in between the alignment rods, four feet from the cup. Position a third alignment rod, perpendicular to the two alignment rods (and in between your stance), to indicate ball position in your stance. Play the golf ball slightly forward from the center of your stance. Position the putter head behind the golf ball and directly between the parallel lines of the alignment rods. Square your putter face to the hole. Practice putting over and over again, on this 4 foot straight putt with these alignment lines as visuals.
Repeating this drill is the key to proper alignment and sinking more putts.
Putting Alignment: Different Strokes
There are a myriad of tips and aids to help the golfer aim the putter and stroke along a correctly aligned path, but snapping a simple chalk line for a five foot putt is my favorite. Even a golfing friend can stand behind the line and tell you if the putter is aimed properly and on the right path. But not enough players will invest in a putting lesson, where a good teacher can tell you if your shoulder alignment, stance, or ball position is wrong–for you–and fighting the best of your efforts.
Personally, my shoulders tend to creep too open over time, creating a tendency to pull putts, but slightly open shoulders are my “norm” when putting well. Square, open, or closed….one man’s food is another man’s poison. But a faulty stroke can mean something in your set up is amiss, and all the concentration on aim and path won’t produce results until the set up is corrected.
Aiming your putter face to your line and then moving the putter down that line is paramount. How you stand at your putt matters not. More important is what stance (for you) makes it easier and comfortable to see and align yourself to the target line. Experiment with different styles of stance and posture until you are most confident about making putts. Then stick with it. Remember proper alignment relates only to where the putter first faces and then moves through the ball on impact to your target.
PGA Golf Professional
Big Picture Golf Consulting, Scottsdale, AZ
To putt more accurately you must understand what “square” is. The putter face must be square to the intended line ( perpendicular).
Use an indoor putting Matt or get a 2 X 4 piece of wood that can be used as a target tool.
Place toe of putter against the inside of 2 x 4. Practice making strokes along board.
And play golf ball opposite the center sight line on putter head.
When it comes to anything green side, it’s essential to always be very creative. With regards to putting, you should also be extremely creative, even in terms of creating your own drills (probably only if you’re an experienced golfer at around a 15 handicap or better) that you may think are effective. Putting is also mostly a feel related part of the game! However, there are many ways to master the art form.
Alignment is important and it oftentimes helps to buy a putter with an alignment line on the top of the putter head, which should line up right behind the middle of the ball before you make your stroke. I really do highly recommend this for most golfers (especially amateurs), as it’s quite a useful tool!
Another way to optimize your alignment is to stand behind your ball (knowing how to read the green properly) and get a good look at the line of your putt and nearby curvature to also help learn the green’s natural tendencies. Then, pick a spot to putt to, walk into the ball and align your putter face accordingly. As for your feet position, you don’t have to do anything extraordinary. Just stand normally with your feet about (just inside of) shoulder width and the toes of your feet pointing straight ahead and in the same (parallel) line as your putter face.
My toolbelt of alignment aids for putting
A putting mirror, rulers or chalk line are tools to help with proper putter face alignment off the course. But on the course is a different story. One tool that is very popular is the line on the ball. I like to use it on slippery left to right putts since I tend to line up to the right.
Another tool is spot putting. It is much easier to find a spot a few feet away and line up than 15 foot away near the hole. Also experiment with alignment aids on your putter like circles, lines or none at all.
But if you want to get on a roll, don’t worry too much about alignment and stroke….focus on speed and your target longer than the ball.
I think for you to achieve proper putting alignment when playing you need to work on your alignment when practice putting.
There are some great training aids for putting that can help you with alignment. The Eye Line putting mirror, the Dirty Larry putting aid attachment, string tied to 2 Tees or simply alignment rods.
A simple way to practice is to set your alignment rod up in the direction that you need, set your ball down with the alignment line running parallel to your alignment rod. Practice getting your body parallel to the alignment rod. Roll some putts trying to keep the line on ball rolling as tightly as possible, you don’t want see the line wobbling.
Now when you get out on the course you can use the line on your ball to help you aim, but it can also help you to align your body. From here try and make the ball roll end over end in a tight line just like you did in practice.
I would say the answer is two fold:
First, make sure you are able to set up properly to the club. This is done by using either video or a mirror to check your alignments.
Once you have done that, you want to then make sure the putter is lined up to the target. Nothing comes close to setting down the ball with a big line on it! Make sure the line on the ball is lined up and then take care to set the putter up to that line. You will now have a perfect set-up.
Aim Your Clubface First
On any shot, to include putting, aim the face of your club to your intended target first and then work your body into position second. I highly recommend lines on the ball being matched to lines on the putter for correct alignment. Most players are so misaligned that I truly think this is the only way for them to be correctly aligned. Ball first then putter and let’s see if you start dropping more putts!!
PGA Golf Professional
Director of Instruction
Westin Mission Hills Resort, Rancho Mirage, CA
When Putting or Full Swing it’s always good to us Alignments Rods. Place one along your Toe Line then place one toward the Hole with this one Tap it with your Putter Face and see if your face is Square. Then take a golf ball and see what happens.
Pick Your Intermediate Target
When putting- pick an intermediate target about 18 inches in front of your ball and on your start line. Aim at that target and commit to that line then all you have to focus on is distance. When aiming at your target set your club first then your feet and shoulders then take your grip. Now roll your ball over your intermediate target you have to be able roll the ball straight for at least 18 inches.
Square Club face, Square Shoulders
The most important things to remember when setting up to putt is, use the alignment aid aimed at a spot halfway to the hole. Set the putter down behind the ball square to the alignment aid. Ensure that your shoulders are parallel to the target line.
Set your feet parallel to the target line.
Eyes directly over the ball.
Master Clubmaker, Master Club Repair Technician and Master Club Fitter
Tim Krumnow Golf Academy, Houston, TX
Get a second pair of "Eyes"
Find a PGA or LPGA instructor to stand behind you to check out your: eyes, feet, shoulders, arms, hands, ball position and then don’t leave it short!!!
Read, Align, Roll
Alignment in putting is most significant in the shoulders, forearms and hand placement on grip. This enables the player to ‘swing’ the putterhead on an arc that rolls the ball on line without manipulation of hands or wrists.
2015 Iowa PGA Professional of the Year. 2004 Iowa Golf Association Professional of the Year
Golf Galaxy, Davenport, Iowa