Each part of your golf game is an art form on its own merits, and putting is no different. OK, so a putt's line and speed may be controlled by physical factors, but when you drill down into the making of the stroke and an ability to read which way the ball will break, you are an artist at work.
If golfers are all artists, our clubs are our paintbrushes, and we rely on our putter to put the finishing touches on our golfing masterpiece. If your putting is joe-average, how can you start to develop the creativity and keen eye of a putting artist? We have a few ideas below:
Hit with purpose
We all want to hit our driver and irons solid, but it's just as important with your putter. Don't dwell over the ball; put a good roll on it by committing to the strike.
Many of the best putters in the world address the ball and almost immediately commence their stroke. Hesitation sows seeds of doubt. If you can also focus on accelerating through impact and hitting to the back of the cup, you'll make plenty of short to mid-length putts.
Know when to lag
As you improve your golf game and start finding more greens in regulation, you often leave yourself long putts. Are you aiming to try and make a glorious birdie, or do you play it safe and focus on lagging it close?
If you're in the first camp, how many times are you racing the ball 6 feet by and walking away with bogey? We would wager it's many more times than you would like. If you can show restraint and revert your efforts toward reading the pace and lagging the ball close, you'll card many more of the pars you deserve.
Lag putting is a much-neglected area; it's in the DNA of most golfers to arrive 10 minutes before a tee time and smash a few balls before heading to the first tee. It could be a difference-maker for your weekend comp if you can spend some time on the practice green perfecting your long putts.
Match your putter to your stroke
It's said that a bad workman blames his tools, but when it comes to your putting, you could be missing more than your fair share of short to mid-range putts because your putter doesn't suit your stroke.
If you're 'straight back and through', it's probable that a face-balanced putter should be in your bag. Conversely, if you putt on a bit of an arc, a putter with more toe-hang might suit you better. The best way to get this checked, and to test out a few different putters all at the same time, is (you guessed it) to book a putter fitting.
Don't over-think it
Trying to tap into your subconscious a little more could help release tension if you're struggling on the greens. Quite often, it's best just to see the line and commit to rolling the ball on that line. It sounds simple because it is simple, and it can often lead to better results.
Getting bogged down in technical thoughts stifles your creativity, and it's not how a putting artist would do things. Try to embrace and enhance the natural flow of your putting stroke.
No more self-fulfilling prophecies
We've all heard those voices in our heads that sneer as they tell us, "you're missing this", before the ball slides by and stays above ground. Can you stop them altogether? Probably not. Instead, you can employ a solid pre-putt routine to silence them as much as possible.
Over time you'll learn to ignore those self-fulfilling prophecies, and more and more putts will start to drop.
Practice visualisation techniques
It's hard to hit a good putt if you can't first see it in your mind's eye. Finding the appropriate pace and the correct line is all but impossible if you haven't taken the time to visualise the ball's journey to the hole.
One visualisation technique that could help with your consistency on shorter putts is to stop viewing the line to the hole as a thin one. Instead, by thinking of a thicker path to the hole, you'll be less tense over the ball and believe in your ability to keep it on line.
Practice makes perfect
We've mentioned it a few times up to now, but finding time for putting practice between rounds - and before your tee times - will help drive down those scores. Developing a consistent roll, improving your green reading, enhancing your confidence on short putts and having a lag putt in your locker can all blend together to make you a putting maestro.
It won't happen without hard graft, but if you put in the hours, you'll reap the long-term benefits.
2 easy putting drills to level-up
Clubface control drill: You absolutely need to deliver a square putter face at impact. It's so easy to arrive at the ball with a slightly open face or one that has over-rotated into a closed position.
Here's a great drill for working out your tendency: Address two golf balls side by side and make a stroke. If the ball closest to the heel comes off fastest, you're leaving the face open a little. If the ball closest to the toe shoots off, then the putter face is slightly closed.
Keep an eye on your ball position. If it gets too far back in your stance, you will more likely leave the face open, and the opposite is true for a ball positioned too far forward.
Pace control: Find a quiet part of the putting green and place three tees in a line at 5, 10 and 15 feet. Hit putts in turn to all these distances, aiming not to hit the tee but to lay the ball up alongside.
A couple of balls per tee is perfect for this instant feedback exercise. By doing this, you can learn to adjust your stroke very quickly and observe what an effective pace looks like at various distances together rather than in isolated scenarios.
It will also achieve something else. You'll realise where you need to focus your efforts! Everyone has distances they are better and worse at; with this method, you'll see what looks acceptable and what doesn't.
How is your putting at present? Is it the strongest part of your game, or do you need to work on your art? Let us know in the comments below.