I've always said that the shots that you regret at the end of your round is never that stray drive or that mi-hit approach shot, it's that putt you may have missed from under 6 feet. This is because the closer we are to the hole, the more our expectations rise that we must make the putt and if we don't, it can start to affect us mentally. The reason also that it affects us is that we realise that it doesn't take too much perceived skill or talent to hole these putts on a somewhat regular basis.
Holing these putts under 6 feet is what I call significantly eliminating unforced errors. It's just like when you're playing tennis and hitting the net when there's a clear passage for a winner. You want to make sure that you capitalize on these putts as consistently as possible. As like any other part of the game when trying to improve, it all comes down to preparation in practice.
The correct amount of putting practice which I used when training for tournaments was 75 % short putts under 6 feet and 25 % longer putts outside 20 feet. Depending on how much time you have in the week, I would definitely use this same ratio.
The first thing I do when training for short putts is that I try and find a straight putt on the Putting Green. I then put a tee in the ground about a handspan from the hole on the left hand side. I then use a 4 iron and place the club on the ground that is exactly a handspan away from the ball and lined up to the tee. Basically I'm trying to set my feet parallel to the target. I aim to make sure that my feet, knees, hips and shoulders are all perfectly parallel.
Once Ive set-up to the ball, I then make sure my ball position is correct. The back of the ball should be in the middle of the stance. I also want to make sure the hands are just forward of the putter face. In terms of the grip, I make sure that both of my thumbs are pointing directly down the grip, with my left index finger sitting on the fingers of the right hand.
In terms of the stroke I firstly cock my elbows out to the side and I want to make sure that I just use my shoulders and not my hands during the stroke. The biggest key to not moving my hands is that I make sure that the angle in the left wrist doesn't change throughout the stroke. The last part about the stroke is that I make sure that the body doesn't move until after the ball is struck. I always say to people count nearly up to two seconds after you hit the ball to then look and see where it's gone.
What I then do to make sure I simulate exactly what I do on the course is I start the routine behind the ball each time just like I would out on the course. I then do my necessary practice strokes (usually two) and then step into the shot ensuring my body is parallel and the clubface is aiming straight. I then stroke the putt mimicking the exact distance to what I worked on in the practice putt. Make sure that you always match the backswing length to the through swing length. Lastly ensure your stroke tempo is the same and your grip pressure light.
If you need any further help in mastering short putts just let me know and we'll book in a lesson.