For Shorter Putts…Keep It Simple

Having been laid up with a knee injury sustained playing football (soccer), I haven’t been able to hit the golf course for over a month. With constant rain delays during the U.S. Open over the past week, I was coaxed to come out of temporary retirement for a quick nine holes on Saturday. I was fine, a little rusty, but all in all it just felt great to get back out on the course after a long layoff.  My biggest concern, as usual, were the poor habits and fundamentals of my friends. All three of them can hit the ball, but none of them can putt to save their lives. This is not surprising in the slightest, considering 95% of their already limited practice time is spent on the driving range, and not on the practice green.

Two of them are what I would call “recreational players”. Guys who are out there just to have a good time, where their performance is not of the highest concern. The other one is a gradually improving serious golfer who has gotten much better over the last two years, and takes the game very seriously. All that aside, the three of them have the same major problem with their golf game: short putts.

I maintain, and will always maintain that the biggest reason mid to high handicappers miss so many short putts is BECAUSE THEY NEVER PUTT THEM!!! They lag a 20 footer up to about three feet from the hole, and then just rake the ball back to themselves…I hate that. The ball isn’t in until it’s actually in, but that’s a whole different story. The other reason they miss short putts is because of a mechanical flaw in their short putting stroke. Not all putts should be hit the same way. A lag putt should be hit with a longer flowing stroke in an attempt to establish a consistant feel for the speed of the greens. When you get inside of the dreaded six foot range, it becomes all about the line. In order to keep the ball on line on a shorter putt, you need to use a shorter stroke.

I see way too many people take the putter back on a five footer like they are hitting a 15 footer. Then, to compensate for that, they decelerate on the way through the ball. A serious mechanical flaw. For a putt in that range it is only necessary to take the putter back a couple of inches. If anything, this will help you keep the face more square, and the putter on the correct line, since it is traveling less distance, makes sense right? Also, since you aren’t taking it back as far as you usually would, it will force you to accelerate on the way back to the ball.

Unlike a change to the full swing, this is not a mechanical flaw that will take a lot of time and practice to incorporate. It is more psychological than anything else. The next time you get out to play, get to the course about a half hour or an hour earlier than you usually might, and hit the practice green. My favorite drill is the 2-4-6 drill. It’s pretty basic, find a flat putt or a straight up hill putt, and put a ball down at two feet, four feet, and six feet from the hole. Start with the two footer and work your way back, and keep repeating the process with a short, solid, and strong stroke. I guarantee you will be more confident and consistent with the short ones if you stick to a shorter stroke. And this way, you won’t have to rake back that three footer, you can just knock it in.

– Patrick Keegan

82 Responses to “For Shorter Putts…Keep It Simple”

  1. Kit Lefroy says:

    The 2-4-6 drill is an excellent piece of advice. Another drill is to practice short putts while looking at the hole. This leads to accelerating through the ball, virtually eliminating deceleration. Combine the two and you have a killer drill where the focus is on the target not the ball, which, after all just gets in the way of the stroke.

  2. Pye says:

    Good comments. I’ve got a relative that is always scooting back everybody’s ball that is within 3 feet of the hole. Annoying!

    I’ve been decelerating through the ball, will change that from now on.


  3. jim eastburn says:

    Great tip

  4. Phillip Chambers says:

    Earlier today 10 points after 8 holes – due to 6 missed 4-6 putters – so no turkey this week –

    then 2 x 25 – 30 footers for par and birdie….almost put the round back on track……but fine as the long puts were by next week I will have spent time on the 2 – 4 – 6 routine.

    Many thanks for very opportune advice

  5. Larry says:

    I wish all golfing advice were as clear and concise as this. I can already feel my anxiety over short putts ebbing away, and I haven’t even tried the drill yet; but you can bet I will, starting tomorrow. Thank you very much.

  6. michael says:

    Thank you, I will get to the practice green an half hour before next round, it’s so obvious when one is reminded “Once again”

    And, remember not to take the putter too far back – great advice – as always.

  7. Ricky ward says:

    A good tip for putting is stand a good meter from the hole line yourself up keep looking at your ball close your eyes stoke the ball keep going until you start droping them you learn to feel the green with your stroke.

    Happy Golfing


  8. PA says:

    Good article, very helpful thanks.

  9. Daryl says:

    Makes a lot of sense, I tried this and it really works. I am getting a much better role on the ball and much straighter, now all Ineed are better reading of the greens. Thanks

  10. Dave Walsh says:

    Thanks very much for your simple but insightful advice,which I
    find motivating me to get out there just to hear the special sound
    of a ball as it drops into the hole.

    Dave Walsh

  11. TJ Taber says:

    I had a 2+ year absence from golf. As my swing started to return, I would be walking off the 18th feeling better about my game until I got to the 19th and totaled my score and putts. So concerned was I about my long stroke, I had forgotten the good habit of the putting green, always saying to myself something like “That’s OK, you hit a great 5-iron,” or some other feel-good excuse for missing that 4-footer (again). I had taught my sons the game from the green backward to the tee, but some of the best lessons in golf have to be re-learned. Thanks for the reminder. The least complicated stroke in golf is the putting stroke and one is expected to use it 36 times per round. I use the driver only 14 times on my preferred course. The math speaks for itself.

  12. Good advice! Something else that helps me is to talk to myself – On every put I say (softly), ” straight back, straight through.” This really keeps me focus on what I’m doing.

  13. mike farrell says:

    worked on it and it is going down a treat thanks patrick

  14. garrett cohn says:

    I have heard that golfers spend less than 19% of their practice time on the putting green. I have reversed this on a monthly basis and have seen some (not 100%, yet) improvement,

    Good advice from Pat.


  15. Bob says:

    A timely reminder anytime.

  16. js says:

    Thanks. It is really a very practical and sound advice.

  17. Don Hutchison says:

    Thank you. A very helpful refresher. It is all to easy to forget the importance of club head speed on these short putts.

  18. Thanks, this makes perfect since to me, however, I don’t like to practice on the practice green because they just are not like the greens on the course

  19. Theresa says:

    Yes that is very good advice I always miss those.

  20. Dan says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll work on the drill.

  21. margaret says:

    Thank you for the lesson re putting. I will test the takeback today when I play at Royal Cromer, Norfolk. many thanks margaret

  22. Russ says:

    Makes sense. A billiard pro instructed me to hold the bridge hand and cue tip close to the ball for the same reasons.

  23. Joe says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned ‘raking back’ those ‘gimmies’. I’ve only been playing 2 years, and the guys that originally invited me onboard drive me crazy when they don’t shoot that final putt. Playing that way, then actually keeping ‘score’ without finishing the hole is a really strange way to play this game.
    Personally… I like the sound of the ball…when it finally falls in the cup.

  24. Patrick says:

    This is great advice, I have tried it and it works. Thanks a million.

  25. garrick says:

    Every now and then a little gem that really seems to help.

    Shortening the putting backswing is one of those.

    Thank you!

  26. Patrick says:

    Thank you for this super insight. Putting is my weakness and this makes good sense. I will cetrtinly try it out.

  27. les stewart says:

    Thanks Patrick

    I have tried the two inch backswing for a couple of rounds. It makes sense and seems to work – I’ll use it again today. It is disturbingly easy to lose a couple of shots each round on these little putts.


  28. John says:

    Hope it works for me, as putting is my weakness. one round is ok …then poor. but i see pros have hot days and bad days too. ?
    will use this on the practice green and spend more time there .

  29. Daniel says:

    Just wondering if keeping feet closer together would also help these two to three foot short putts.

  30. les stewart says:

    A simple idea for short putts that makes much sense. I’ll go and try it.

    Thanks Patrick/Andy

  31. june says:

    going to give this practice routine a go

  32. michel says:

    It will never be reminded enough that green practice is essential.

    Thanks for the tip to force an acceleration on short putts (a very short “backswing” with the putter).

    As soon as it stops raining, i’ll be on the green, i promise!

  33. Bob says:

    Hi, Andy, that is exactly right. The short putts should never be given as they are never practised and, when necessary, very often missed.So often you see someone come up to the short putt (including me!!) and fluff it because they never practise them.

  34. Scott Rowe says:

    While the winds of winter howl outside and the snow drifts in fantastic patterns like the rakings of a mad groundskeeper fancifully mounding the sand traps in horrific patterns, I constantly visualize the coming of spring and the start of a new golf season in Canada.

    Thank you for the putting tips which seem to logically at least make so much sense. I will take them to the imaginary links of my mind every night and practice them on the ever green fields of my golfing dreams.

  35. Larry says:

    Patrick and Andy, Thanks for the tip as short putts are my nemesis. I’ll try it today when I play.

    Thanks again

  36. Greg says:

    I’m so used to playing with “rack-back” boys that I don’t even sweat the 4 footers anymore, as long as they don’t mind me going ahead and putting out. Everyone so commonly gives those that I don’t much think about them, just swipe them in and rarely miss – but the 5-10 footers are a different story. Those are the ones I feel I should regularly make, and don’t. Kind of a double whammy on those, since my lags are usually good, the 5-10 footers are generally for birdies, and my tendency is to lock up tighter than a drum.

  37. Bryan McFarlane says:

    I agree whole-heartidly. My handicap has came down from 9.4 to 6.9 by just using the simple shorter stroke on the six footers and less. Genius. Thanks a lot

  38. Don Oosterveen says:

    I have often wondered why it is so much easier to lag a long putt, and how hard it is to make the short ones. I have read about using a shorter stroke for shorter putts, but I have not seen the comparison that Patrick made concern the long and short putts. The combination of the two makes perfect sense, and I will keep each in mind as I attempt each putt. Thanks for the tips.

  39. Harry Thompson says:

    Thanks Patrick
    Been waiting for some short yet sound advice over this.
    Will try it out immediately

  40. Eugene Russell says:

    excellent advice Patrick.

  41. Warren Nelson says:

    Short putts. About 10 years ago I was at La Quinta Country Club at Palm Springs, CA. On the practice green was no other than Gary Player. He practiced short putts for it seemed like an hour, and I mean short..3 to 5 feet. I read later that he considers these the most important shot in golf because if you miss it there is no tomorrow, no recovery.

  42. kwashie says:

    Hi i’m kwashie if you can help me in my putting,so that i can improved my putting game.

  43. Eugene Russell says:

    Excellent commonsense advice. I have decided to practice my putting recently and my putting has improved immesurably. Eugene

  44. Julie Hughes says:

    🙄 Great advice – no more three putts:evil: for me!:lol:I’m a happy bunny now!!

  45. Mike Black says:

    The old guy (long since departed) who started me on the game 35 years ago, always used the addage: “never up, never in”. Basically if tha ball never goes past the hole, it can’t possibly drop into the hole. He also used to say of “gimmies” that there was plenty of golf left in that shot!

    I had it instilled into me from the start, that the way my game would improve started in the area 50 yards or less from the pin. I was even encouraged to try stuff for myself, playing such shots as the flop-shot with relative ease. Why have I not reached the top of the game, then? Simple – I didn’t want to play golf for a living. These days, I play off around 16, and am happy to string a handful of pars together every round, safe in the knowledge that I play each and every shot as it is presented to me!

  46. paul white says:

    No better words were spoken about putting. I had a 75 year young man who started me playing golf when I was 3l and his instructions were almost the same. Your lesson brought many great memories. Always injoy your articles. THANKS

  47. Anthony Fox says:

    Excellent advice. Anything that keeps the face angle square is the key and this advice does the job. Also, putt them out – all the time!

  48. Michael Clements says:

    Very good and effective advice. Definately the best way to handle the short ones. The pros can be seen doing this in every tournament on TV. My one concern is, when do you revert back to your normal flowing stroke ie where is the cut off point. I hope to get a reply to this.

  49. Barry says:

    Guilty as charged I’m afraid! I often get to the course just in time to Tee Off so dont get any practice in. I’ll have to take the advice on board and be a bit more disciplined. Enjoy all the articles bye the way.

  50. Bud Roberts says:

    Excellent advise, I know I could shave 6 0r 8 strokes off my game just by consistant putting. Pratice,pratice,pratice, the pros do it and so should we.

  51. Fred says:

    :smile:It works!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for the tip

    Fred Wilkinson

  52. Dana Young says:

    Thanks for the short stroke tip. I played this morning, (Saturday) ,and missed two puts of less than two feet. I also missed three birdies from four to eight feet. Shot 88. Hope they don’t complain about the chalk marks.
    This evening I intend to start this drill. (With my chalk line.)

  53. PatrickKeegan says:


    I built my entire short game around the 2,4,6 drill when I was a youth, and I could really putt back then. So I’m glad it works for you.

    Also, since there has been so much feedback on this article, there is one other thing I have to stress. As I said, a shorter stroke is ideal for a shorter putt, but you still have to make a smooth and complete stroke. I have seen some of my friends get far too “jabby” or “quick” with their putting strokes. There is a difference between short and quick, so keep that in mind when you stand over your next four footer.

    Cheers all!


  54. Greg Farnham says:

    Hi there Pat, thanks for the putting tips. I will start practicing today. I just purchased a long putter and would really appreciate any tips regarding using a long putter. Looking forward to seeing your thoughts, thanks again.

  55. Ray Robinson says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve lately had a few problems with my putting so gave patricks 2,4,6 method a go. wow how my putting has improved.
    Thanks , you’ve got me back on track:

  56. John Green says:

    Thanks for that tip on short putts. I use it and of course it makes sense. John.

  57. Gerry says:

    Great item. I have tried the 246 and it works. I just have to remember to use it all the way round!

  58. Norm Conwill says:

    I agree with your suggestions. I am 76 and have recently started playing golf again, after not playing for 30 years due to business and personal health problems.
    The first thing I realized was I can’t hit the ball anywhere near as far as I used to. After playing for several months, I began to adopt more and more strategy to my play just to score better.
    It became clearly obvious that putting was the major part of my game that didn’t require physical excellence. Over the past two years my scoring has reduced from the 120’s to the 80’s, and I enjoy each round much much more.

  59. Matt says:

    That is a great piece of advice. One drill I’m using at the moment is to place a tee in the green just a few inches behind the ball (about the length of a putter head) on a four foot putt. Then I make a short back stroke trying not to hit the tee. This immediately helps to accelerate the putter through the ball. The results have been amazing for 4,6 and 8 foot putts 🙂

  60. PatrickKeegan says:


    I sprained the MCL in my right knee, so I just had to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on it for about a month. Your injury sounds much more serious. I would do as your doctors say, and just take it slow. Start with the short game and shorter swings. As you become more comfortable, you can move on to big turns and different shots, but don’t do anything that can risk re-injuring your knee.


  61. dr sudhir says:

    great advice,i practiced, it really worked.also imp is to look at the ball,while hitting the ball.

  62. Ron says:

    Spot on. I’ve been saying this for years. It also applies for short chips and short pitches. The chip isn’t an abreviated iron shot with a slower swing. As you say for putts, deceleration is the killer, and consistency and feel goes.

  63. Claudia says:

    Hi Patrick,
    Thank you very much for the good advice on putting short strokes.As you told us that you had an injury from socer, I ,myself had a bad injury on January, I had surgery on my ligament, and they had to put a replacement, so you can imagine I haven´t been able to play golf at all, but now I´ve got the green light and I will start with ” putts” and approaches, I had pretty much the same surgery Tiger Woods had, but I am lives away from being like Tiger Woods, I am a normal average person, so ,do you have any advice on what to start doing with my game, because I think it is going to be very very rusty,s o I´m open for suggestions. Thank you very much, Claudia.:wink:

  64. Thomas says:

    I just started playing last year.

    My goal is to break in to the 80’s this year. I am only able to play once a week.. With The 4 Magic Moves my best score was a 99 with 54 on the front 9. This was with bad putting and chipping . I have since increased my putting practice. Most ranges don’t have a good putting green and I find that getting to the course early is tough. I am 56 yars old and hit 2 jumbo buckets on the driving range at least once a week mostly 2 last night I had 4 pars in 9 holes on a course that I never parred any. We started at 6:30 so think what might have happened. keep up the good work Andy

  65. Keith T says:

    That all made so much sense. Thanks

  66. pete freeman says:

    The man has hit the nail right on the head. I had trouble with these short puts, trying to do a shorter version of the full stroke. I’ve had a lot more success with short tap at the ball, just like tapping a nail in…………:cool:

  67. jamescox says:

    I would be very grateful for your opintion as to my putting stroke.

    For a long time I have been using the rap putting stroke, with the reverse grip. I line my putter to my ball I am right handed, I then move
    my putter two inches from my ball on a short putt of three feet then I only take a two inch back stroke towards the ball.

    I increase my measurements accordingly on longer putts.

    I am quite happy with my results.

    I feel I putt better this way. I feel my way keeps my putter head under
    more control. Please give me your thoughts on this matter.

    At home I have a long hallway running into my bedroom. This gives me a
    over thirty foot putting area I use it a lot as the carpet is laid on a
    concrete floor and lucky for me it has a lot of tinny dips in it.

    I understand Billy Casper rap putted.

    Yours gratefully

    Jim Cox

  68. heather says:

    Thank you for that reminder i was advised to do that years ago and completely lost my rythm but i will be giving it another go

  69. Monty says:

    Andy , that was good stuff. How’s the gal on the women’s tour doing?

    Andy’s Reply:

    Hi Monty,you can follow Nicole’s progress at



  70. RAMESH says:

    Thank you. Advice could not have come at a better time. I played today and had a terrible time with my putter. Everything you say touched a cord. I am sure I will have more confidence next time I play, particularly taking your advice for practing on board.

  71. Lance says:

    Patrick, you are the man! Lance

  72. Pat says:

    That was a great remInder for me I have been working on my long irons this year and have gotten away from putting drills etc. and I have noticed on my score card I’ve been three putting when I normally may have one three putt after three rounds and tha has to do with the short putt.

    I know that what you have written on short putts is just what I needed, thanks again for that importand message on short putts.


  73. j inglis says:

    I consider putting my strong point but have never analysed it this way i.e. using 2 different strokes. It makes sense , I often lag very well and keeping the same type of stroke then miss from a couple of feet. I am off to the practice green !

  74. Bob Crawford says:

    Andy: Interesting comments. I like to spend time on the range and practice putting but have difficulty doing it because of my friends being so eager to get on the course. I’m working on it with mixed feelings because I know if they do practice before playing , and do it properly , they too will improve and be more competitive. Hm!. Have a good day. Bobc

  75. Tim says:

    I have just had a round where I missed everything inside 6 feet.

    I will try the short stroke on the practice green tomorrow using your drill.

    I’ll let you know if it works!

  76. ERIC TIONG says:

    I agree with Patrick about not practising enough on the putting green. About six months ago I got a putting mat and I have been practising the six footers every evening for about ten to fifteen minutes. Nowadays my playing partners have given up hope about me missing putts below six feet unless the break is signficant.

  77. Rick Tod says:


    That advice can be a real stroke saver. Two missed short putts takes a 79 to an 81. To me, that’s a 12 stroke difference.


  78. George Schaefer says:

    Thanks Patrick,

    I continually try to work on short putts lately, I used to be very unconfortable over them because I also didn’t use the right technique. Since trying to putt :To the hole” and some more playing time, my handicap has gone down 6 strokes. Thanks again for the remainder.

  79. william says:

    Patrick, this article is so true! I really love the 2 4 6 practice tip idea. Good advice! Thank you

  80. Philip Walker says:

    I have always had trouble with the short putts.So I will try your method which makes a lot of sense to me. Taking the stroke too far back seems to take it off course, so I don’t strike it right in the middle.Hopefully I will get it right from now on.

  81. Great post, I couldn’t possibly agree more. Another sin that I find my playing partners committing is leaving the short putt short of the hole. One would think (hope? wish?) that they would at least strike the short putt firmly enough to have a chance of going in. Ah well.

  82. Larry Quah says:

    Good solid advice, Patrick. Thanks for sharing the technique as I have been having the shot putt blues lately! I am certain it will work.

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