If your read and your stroke are perfect, the putt will not go in if you’re aimed in the wrong direction. Here’s how to take care of that variable once and for all, and get it right.
Golf balls today have an alignment mark somewhere on them, in the form of an arrow. Once you’ve made your read, place the ball in front of your marker so the arrow points along your starting line. Now stand up and take a few steps back and look again to make sure the arrow is pointing where you want it to.
Now stand up to the putt and look one more time at the line. You’re seeing the arrow from a viewpoint at a right angle to the one you just had. Ask yourself, do you still believe that the arrow is pointing in the right direction, that is, along the line you wish to start the ball on?
“I guess so,” is the wrong answer. By “believe” I mean are you sure, convinced, certain, that if the ball starts off on this line, it will go in the hole? There can’t be an iota of doubt in your mind, only true confidence. If so, skip the next paragraph.
If this looks like the wrong starting line, step back and adjust the ball so the arrow points to a place that you think is better. Check the arrow from behind, and from over the ball again. Only when you are convinced from both viewpoints that the alignment mark is pointing down the right line, should you proceed to the putt.
Bend over and pick up the ball marker. The critical moment has arrived. You have found the aim that you believe will send the ball into the hole. You have checked and verified it from two angles. Commit yourself to stroking the putt along the line the arrow indicates. Do not second-guess yourself at the last moment. If you have lingering doubts, do not stroke the putt. Look and adjust once more until you are sure.
Go through this procedure on every putt of two feet or longer. Every one of them. This procedure prevents you from taking two-and three-footers for granted — a sure way to invite a miss. On the forty-footers, it prevents haphazard aim from having the ball end up four or five feet off line.
I’m not advising you to agonize over every putt. Once you get used to this process, you can go through the whole thing quickly.
I am advising you to build a trust factor into what you believe, and to act on that trust. That’s what good golfers do.