How To Putt Well Under Pressure

Every golfer wants to putt well under pressure. Those five foot putts all seem so simple on the practice ground, but how do you putt well under pressure? It could be a putt to: win a match, par the last hole in a medal round, or to win your first major tournament. We all need to learn how to putt well under pressure.

Here I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you improve your putting under pressure. To finish off the article I have a little challenge for you.

Putt well under pressure – Solid mechanics

Unfortunately no amount of gritty thinking and mental toughness will make up for poor putting mechanics. Your putting action doesn’t have to look majestic, but it does have to repeat. Impact is the critical point to focus on. All great putters consistently square the club face to their intended start line at impact, and strike their putts out of the centre of the club face. These two factors should have little variation for any putt you hit.

Whilst the above factors stay constant, your putting stroke needs to control, and vary, the club head speed at impact. This will enable you to become a master of holing putts at the ideal speed. You can check out this article if you would like more detail on the ideal putting impact factors.

golf putting practice side on

Putt well under pressure – Understand your misses

The second key point in putting well under pressure is to understand your misses. Even the greatest putters in the world hit bad putts, but for these players even bad putts can still go in the hole.

Knowing if your miss is a slight push, a pull, or even a miss-hit out of the toe or heel is golden information. This allows you to plan and cater for your tendencies when you are putting under pressure.

My bad putting stroke leads to a ball starting just left of my intended start line, but I rarely start putts right of my intended line. Having a one-way miss that you are aware of makes holing out putts far easier. When I’m having an ‘off day’ I often read the line ideal then make a slight adjustment in case I make a slightly bad stroke. I never expect to make a bad stroke, but it is smart to cater for your weaknesses as best you can.

Putt well under pressure – Practice breaking putts

Once you have points one and two nailed down it’s time for some practice. Specifically, practice with lots of variability. This type of practice challenges you to continually go through your decision making process and routine before you hit each putt.

The game below is perfect. I would suggest starting at three feet (1 putter length), then as you complete a full circle, move all the tee pegs back 1 grip-length to make a slightly bigger circle. This gives you a nice, steady progression.

To make this game even more useful try this little twist:

Set the game up and begin with three golf balls at your start point. Hit your first ball at your normal/preferred pace, your second ball you have to hit at a firmer pace, and your last ball has to be softer than normal. You have to hole all three putts in a row before you move on.

Playing the skills games in this way has two positive effects. Firstly, you become excellent at controlling the pace of your putts. Secondly, you can develop a new mindset for putting. Rather than worrying if you have chosen the correct line, you can now consider which line you want to chose, based on your desired pace.

Putt well under pressure – Pressure training

If you’ve visited this site before you’ll know I’m keen on three types of practice every golfer should do to improve their golf – technique practice, skill development and pressure practice.

Most skills games can also be made into a pressure practice game. This can be done with a few minor tweaks.

Firstly, ensure you have a measurable goal in your practice game that you must achieve. Secondly, you should have some sort of consequence or pressure. This may be a small wager with a friend, people watching you, or just the pressure that you have to complete the game before you are allowed to leave the putting green (trust me, this one works surprisingly well). The third point is to shift your focus. Rather than developing your golfing skill, your main aim is to develop, and better understand your performance under pressure.

Putt well under pressure – 3, 6, 9 feet

Watch the video below of a great putting skills game that can be used for pressure practice. Below the video I will explain how to get the most out of your pressure putting training. It is a very simple game, all you need to do is hole nine putts in a row…easy right?

The first time you attempt this game I would set yourself a 20 minute deadline to see if you can complete it. As the video highlights, you need to hole all the putts from 3-foot before you move back. If you miss at any stage you’re right back to the beginning. If your time runs out you’ve failed, but will have learned a lot about putting well under pressure.

When you get onto the second stage (6-feet) and last stage (9-feet) of putts the mind games begin. You’ll notice similar thought patterns to when you have pressure putts on the golf course. Negative thoughts creep in, you second guess your line and make tentative strokes. These tend to result in you missing a putt and starting again, but that is the beauty of this game. Three minutes later you’ll be back into the same pressure situation, with another chance to improve your thinking and execution.

Here are a few quick tips for when you play this game:

  • It’s not about playing the game without making mistakes. Rather, it is in making mistakes that you gain an opportunity to learn and improve your putting under pressure.
  • Stick to your routine for each putt. If you don’t have a sound pre-shot routine, check out this article.
  • After a few missed putts it is very easy to get frustrated and rush. Take your time and treat each putt as if holing it is critical.
  • Make a note of the negative thoughts that creep in to your mind, and when they occur. Use this information to reflect on your pre-shot routine and improve it.
  • Make a note of the direction and pace of putts under pressure that miss. Use this to inform your decision making on the golf course.
  • Try to highlight the differences in thinking and stroke mechanics between your good and less good putts under pressure. You can then make a note of these and try to refine them next time you play.
Golf performance diary putt well under pressure notes
Keep a track of your practice scores and key areas to improve.

This how-to guide is not a quick fix, but it will work. Ideally you will keep reflecting and developing each aspect described in this guide. If you follow the steps in this guide, over time, you will become a seriously good putter under pressure. That is a trait well worth developing.

Putt well under pressure – A challenge for you

Before I leave you, I have a challenge. One that I hope gets you kick-started on this journey to becoming a great putter under pressure.

Take the game above (3, 6, 9 ft) and see if you can complete it in the next seven days. To add some pressure I would like you to video it with your phone and upload it to Twitter or Instagram. To film my challenge I set my phone up leaning against two tee pegs behind the hole – so no excuses, it is that simple.

You can find me at @golfinsideruk on both twitter and instagram. Send me a message/tweet and let me know if you’re going to take part. Then tag me in the video when you have complete the challenge.

This little act will really add some pressure to you completing the challenge. If you don’t succeed you can still send me your video with (many) missed putts. It took me 5 attempts, and some deep thought when I was filming mine.

Here are some variations for you to choose based on your current ability.

  • Easy – 1 ball from each stage
  • Medium – 2 balls from each stage
  • Pro – 3 balls from each stage

I really look forward to seeing those videos. For a fresh article each week you can sign up for the golf insider weekly post below.

Happy golfing.

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Head back to golf putting home.

This post includes affiliate links to products used. If you click and purchase the product it does not cost you any extra, but I do earn a small commission. Please feel free not to use the links if you wish. Thanks and happy golfing, Will.

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

1 thought on “How To Putt Well Under Pressure”

  1. As an introduction to the 3,6,9 challenge I have just given it a go on my indoor mat. Not having the luxury of 9 feet I had to make do with 3,5,7. It took me 9 attempts. A good start though, the next challenge is 5 attempts, 3 and then 1 attempt.


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