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Six ways to improve your putting skills

Golf requires mastery of a wide array of skills. Many novice players focus on improving skills related to their swings. Yet they shouldn't overlook the importance of improving their short games as well.

In golf, short game refers to the golf shots golfers must make when they're near or on the green. Shots like bunker shots, chips and putts are part of the short game. Improving these skills can go a long way toward bettering one's game.

1. Learn "green-reading" techniques. 65 percent of golfers under-read the break on a typical putt. Incorrect reads can add to many lost strokes. Reading the green involves determining the correct slope and distance. Golfers who take depth-perception tests and continually practice their skills at reading both the distance and the slope can improve their putts.

2. Change perspective. Different putts require different perspectives in order to assess both distance and slope. If the putt is downhill, read it from behind the hole. If the putt is uphill, read it from behind the ball.

3. Practice consistent putter travel distance. While the total length of a putt stroke depends on the length of the putt, many golf instructors recommend consistency with the distance the putter head travels. Keep the same distance on the back stroke as on the forward stroke. This will help create a nice, even roll. Most beginners tend to short their back strokes and increase their forward strokes, resulting in less ball control.

4. Focus on an imaginary channel. When putting, imagine a three- or four-inch channel from the ball to the hole. Rather than staring at the ball, golfers can track their eyes down that imaginary line. Keeping a simpler focus rather than over thinking things can improve putting.

5. Keep a steady head. Instead of following the ball with one's eyes, a golfer should hold the focus on the start of the putt to foster a more steady head.

6. Change ball placement. Try moving to position the ball just forward of the centre of the stance. This helps the putter make contact at the right moment to achieve the slight lift needed for a successful putt.

Practising at home or with a golf instructor is a good way to improve putting skills. A strong short game can be the key to improving your overall game.

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