The Mystery of the Jumping Putts
Dear Dr. Putt:
My Dear JJ:
Your problem, if indeed it is a problem at all, could be caused by the loft of your putter face at impact. Every putter has a little loft. If you are striking the ball too much on the upswing, or if you have broken your wrists, you have in effect increased the loft of the putter, and the ball will take off, much as a chip shot will.
One of the great myths of putting is that one should try and impart top-spin on the ball when striking it. You may be trying to give the ball more top-spin to remedy this perceived problem, and in the process only make it worse by hitting it more on the upswing! Every putt will skid for at most 20% of its total length, and then the friction of the green will take hold and it will roll the rest of the way to the target. This is how putts are supposed to roll!
In any case, here is the fix. The idea is to consistently strike the ball just a little past the low point in your stroke. Stand on a piece of plywood and put a little black shoe polish on the sole of your putter. Take a normal stroke and note where the polish is left on the plywood relative to your stance. This is the low point in the stroke. Then, when assuming your stance over the ball, set up so that the ball is an inch of two in front of that point - every time!
All else is execution. Take a smooth stroke in which the follow-through is a little longer than the back swing. Maintain your visual focus on the point of impact. (DO NOT look up to see if the ball jumped! Pose at the end of the stroke, and only then look up to note how the ball is rolling while you hold your pose till the ball comes to rest or drops in the hole. The last thing you want to think about is whether the ball will jump!
Finally, make sure that your hands and wrists are "dead" when executing the stroke. You should be striking the ball by tilting your shoulders back and forth. They move everything else. If you are a "wristy" putter, this could contribute to the problem.
It was extremely thoughtful of your playing partners to point this flaw out to you. Dr. Putt would suggest that in your next round of golf with them, you should return the favor. Inquire, merely as a matter of interest of course, if they inhale on their back swing on all their full shots. This should have a most salubrious effect on their performance.