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Want to putt like Jack Nicklaus? Then do these 8 things.

January 29, 2020

The Golden Bear is one of the greatest putters (if not the greatest) to have ever played. That’s not just me saying it—everyone puts Nicklaus near or at the top of the list. What’s interesting is that despite universal agreement on Jack’s putting acumen, very few modern players have adopted his style. What gives? A lot of it has to do with the improved conditioning of today’s greens and, honestly, a misunderstanding of Nicklaus’ method in general.

The first thing you notice when you study Jack’s putting method is his setup: that big forward bend toward the ground, head positioned behind the ball and flared left foot. Nicklaus is on record stating that the hunched posture and open stance helped him visualize the line more clearly—a benefit for any golfer of any generation. It also positioned him to strike the ball with a slightly ascending blow, which was needed in Nicklaus’ prime to overcome imperfections in the green and get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Who knows if Nicklaus would have tried something different if he played the super-slick putting surfaces of today’s Tour? (Keep in mind that although Jack set his head behind the ball, his eyes, shoulders and torso were square to the intended line—something every golfer should strive for to improve aim and alignment.)

As for the stroke itself, Jack called it a piston, referencing the movement of his right arm in the forward stroke. It was a lot of forearm action with a little wrist movement or, said another way, putting more with the big muscles than the little ones. This is stroke advice that never goes out of style—heed it and your touch and feel from various distances will skyrocket. The fact that you don’t see the piston on today’s Tour is partly due to equipment advances—today’s putters practically swing themselves! What you will find are shoulder, forearm and eye alignments pulled straight from Jack’s playbook—all square. That’s what you should copy.

Christian Hafer

Eight tips to putt like Jack:

1. Head behind the ball
2. Eyes square to the target
3. Shoulders square to target
4. “Hunched” upper body
5. Forearms square to target
6. “Piston” right forearm
7. Slightly forward shaft lean
8. Slightly open stance

Sutton teaches at Carmel CC in Charlotte, N.C.

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