When people think of the best putters in golf history, there are a number of usual suspects who show up on the list. Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors are often mentioned, as is Brad Faxon and his silky stroke. In the modern game, Tiger Woods has to appear on the list.
Another name almost always mentioned is Ben Crenshaw. The soft-spoken Texan rode his languid stroke and deft touch on the greens to 19 PGA Tour titles and two Masters victories. There are few players who could roll the ball as well as Gentle Ben, and in a recent interview with GOLF.com, he shared his four keys to becoming a good putter.
1. Be yourself
Crenshaw was tutored by legendary teacher Harvey Penick from the time he was a boy all the way until Penick’s death in 1995. Crenshaw learned a majority of what he knows about the game from Penick, but the best advice he received about putting was also the simplest.
“Harvey Penick said something that I’ve never heard any other teacher say,” Crenshaw said. “He said ‘Don’t putt like someone else.’”
There are many times on the greens when you might see someone rolling the ball extremely well and feel the need to tweak your action to mimic theirs. But chasing the technique of another might put you in a worse spot than you were before. It’s important to trust your stroke and have your own unique mechanics that help you putt your best.
“I’ve seen a million putting methods work,” Crenshaw said. “I’ve seen short strokes. I’ve seen long strokes. Different grips and styles. It just has to fit you.”
2. Become a good green reader
You could have the best stroke in the world, but if you don’t know which way the ball is going to break, you’ll have no chance to hole putts. Green reading is an art that takes time to improve at it, but it’s an absolute necessity if you want to succeed on the greens.
“You’ve got to read greens properly,” Crenshaw said.
3. Develop proper pace
In order to get the correct read, you have to pick the proper pace. Crenshaw said his preferred pace was a ball that dies near the hole, but it’s important to be consistent on your pace if you want to become an elite putter.
“The key to good putting is the pace of the ball,” Crenshaw said. “In many cases, pace is more important than line. To pick out a line you have to have a pace in mind.”
4. Get comfortable over the ball
Being comfortable when you step up to the ball is a must for rolling good putts. If you stand over the ball and can’t get into a good mental space, you have no chance at holing many putts.
“Whenever I putt poorly, I was thinking about my stroke, and not imagining a putt,” Crenshaw said. “When I putt well, I don’t even think about my stroke. I’m thinking more about what the ball does and what it’s going to look like when it arrives around the hole … Putting is as difficult as people make it.”
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