Those of you who have watched Phil Mickelson play down the years will have noticed that he has a very distinctive putting stroke that includes a pronounced forward press.
The forward press is the putting equivalent of the waggle. Notable great putters like Dave Stockton, Ben Crenshaw and Phil Mickelson have been utilising this method for years. They have used the forward press as the start of the backswing to help promote a smooth and rhythmical stroke.
Poor putters place the putter behind the ball and then freeze leading to a jerky takeaway, which instantly destroys their natural touch, leading to an inconsistent strike and poor distance control.
A lot of amateurs I see add loft at impact when they putt, often caused by
a rushed backswing. This causes the ball to jump in the air with the ball being struck off the bottom of the putter, resulting in a poor roll and poor distance control.
Having a forward press can help alleviate this issue as it promotes a free flowing stroke where the butt of the club moves far less than the putter-head, as shown in the pictures below.
Most putters off the shelf have either three or four degrees of loft. If you are going to forward press, you may need a putter with a little bit more loft, especially if you tend to putt on slow greens.
A forward press establishes a good rhythm and tempo and makes it easier to keep your hands ahead of the clubface at impact.
As you address the ball, your hands should be set directly over the ball. Then, as you start the stroke, your hands should move an inch or two laterally towards the target making sure that the clubhead remains square to the target line.
It should not be a dramatic motion but enough to signal the start of the stroke. When you have completed the forward press, it should match the position you are looking to achieve at impact.
It is a technique that has paid great dividends for Mickelson down the years and, if you are struggling with your putting, it might be worth giving a go.
Originally published on bunkered on June 4, 2012.