Instinct putting, also known as “heads up putting”, is a technique that involves keeping your eyes focused on the hole rather than the ball during the putting stroke. The premise behind this method is that it allows golfers to utilize their athletic instincts and hand-eye coordination more effectively, similar to how a quarterback keeps his eyes downfield when throwing a pass.
The keys to instinct putting lie in the setup and ability to commit to the stroke while visually locked in on the target. Proper alignment of the eyes, shoulders, and feet is critical to ensure the face returns squarely to the ball at impact. Confidence and feel also play a major role, as golfers must trust their subconscious mind to produce the appropriate speed and path for the putt. This putting style has been adopted by top pros like Jordan Spieth and Louis Oosthuizen and can help recreational players improve their touch and lower scores. With practice, instinct putting can become an effective weapon on the greens.
In this post, we’ll review this technique and proper application, learn from the authors of the books “Instinct Putting” and “Instinct Putting Revisited,” share some recommended training aids, further reading and videos. This methodology goes well with the concept of “Club Focused Instruction” that we are very high on, where you are focused on your target and what you are trying to accomplish first and foremost, and less concerned with how you are accomplishing it. This frees up your subsonscious to lead the way, just like it does in every other facet of your everyday life. Research has shown that golfers who employ instinct putting demonstrate better distance control and are more likely to start the ball on the correct line.
About Instinct Putting
The 2007 book “Instinct Putting,” written by Eric Alpenfels, Bob Christina and Cary Heath, was the first to introduce the concept of target-focused putting and looking at the hole rather than the ball during the stroke. Through both anecdotal evidence and scientific testing, the authors make the case that this putting style allows golfers to utilize their hand-eye coordination and athletic instincts more effectively. They cite how professional golfers frequently demonstrate this technique without consciously realizing it as proof it is an innate ability. We have also done multiple posts referencing this group’s other work “Evidence Based Golf,” where we looked at grip size and tee height.
The methodology laid out in “Instinct Putting” includes proper setup adjustments to ensure eyes, shoulders and feet are aimed at the target. It also provides putting drills to reinforce keeping focus on the hole and trusting instincts to control speed and path. As the most comprehensive guide available on instinct putting at the time of publication, the book served to validate the technique and spark further interest and adoption across the golf world.
When first adopting instinct putting, it is generally easier than most golfers expect. Simple setup adjustments like ensuring proper eye alignment over the ball can make a big difference. As with any putting method, continued practice is vital for long-term improvement. Recording stroking sessions can also help identify any persistent issues. With an open mind and dedication to learning the technique, instinct putting can prove an effective way to gain consistency on the greens over time.
In 2019, the authors published a follow-up, “Instinct Putting Revisited: Look Where You Want to Putt the Ball,” to further build upon their research and real-world evidence. With added scientific backing, anecdotal testimonies, expanded practical instruction, the sequel makes a compelling case that by trusting our subconscious instincts we can unlock breakthrough performance improvements on the greens.
There are some common mis-conceptions about instinct putting that are important to address. Many golfers believe they will miss the ball more often or make poor contact if they take their eyes off it during the stroke. However, research shows this is not the case – golfers are still able to return the putter face squarely to the ball at impact through proper setup and alignment. There is also a sentiment that deceleration during the stroke causes missed putts, when in reality it is very difficult for a golfer to consciously decelerate once the putter is already in motion. Finally, some think path and face angle are equally important, but studies demonstrate that face angle accounts for over 90% of the initial starting direction.
While conventional putting relies heavily on mechanics and consciously controlling variables like speed, path, and face angle, instinct putting utilizes intuition, athleticism, and hand-eye coordination. Instinct putting refocuses attention on the ultimate target – the hole, or the line – rather than the technical details of the stroke. It allows feel, touch, and subconscious instincts to take over rather than conscious control of each element. Conventional techniques can sometimes lead to tension, deceleration or “yips,” while instinct putting promotes confidence and commitment to the stroke.
One effective instinct putting drill is the “Clock Drill,” where golfers place 12 balls around the hole in a circle like the numbers on a clock face. The goal is to make putts starting at 12 o’clock and working clockwise (or counter-clockwise) around the circle, allowing feel and athletic instincts to take over rather than mechanics on every putt. This drill develops touch and accounts for breaking putts in all directions while keeping focus locked in on the target. We cover the “Clock Drill” in our post on Tiger Woods’ short game – in this iteration of the drill, focus on looking at the target while stroking the putt.
Another helpful instinct putting drill uses alignment dots placed perpendicular to the target line, spaced one putter-head length apart. Golfers take the putter back and through along this path while keeping eyes focused ahead on the hole. This grooves proper takeaway direction and face angle control. Adding tees on either side of the ball set to the width of the putter also guides correct alignment and impact. With repetition, these drills build confidence in the setup and stroke fundamentals of instinct putting. This practice can be done indoors with a putting mat, as well as a putting gate such as the Tour Aim or Eyeline Golf Putting Mirror.
Featured Training Aids
The PuttLink Smart Ball is a revolutionary putting training aid that connects wirelessly to your mobile device to provide real-time feedback and stats. It calculates true roll distance, green speed, entry pace, make percentage, and more to help you practice smarter, track progress, and lower your scores. With adjustable difficulty levels, multiple ball types, and fun competitions, the PuttLink Smart Ball makes putting practice engaging for golfers of all skill levels. This innovative smart ball takes the guesswork out of becoming a better putter.
The key benefits include:
- Provides real-time putting stats and feedback
- Calculates useful metrics like distance, green speed, make percentage
- Adjustable difficulty and ball types for all skill levels
- Makes practice more engaging and fun
- Takes the guesswork out of improving as a putter
Our readers receive a 10% discount by using code PUTTSMART at checkout.
The Stack System
In our post “Speed Training in Golf: The Stack System Unveiled,” we took you through the Stack System as a Speed Training Program. Another feature the program offers is Stack Putting, an app and analytics tool that provides detailed feedback on your stroke. It allows you to track putts from various distances and slopes, analyzing make percentage, face angle, and stroke path. The app offers different games and challenges to make practice more engaging and compare your stats against tour averages. The Stack System aims to identify strengths, expose weaknesses, and provide insights to improve your putting through purposeful and measurable practice. With its excellent analytics, engaging training games, and ability to track detailed putting data, the Stack System is an innovative tool to help golfers take their putting to the next level.
Our readers receive a 10% discount by using code LEVELUP10 at checkout.
by Eric Alpenfels, Bob Christina, Cary Heath
Summary: Instinct Putting promotes a counterintuitive technique of looking at the hole rather than the ball while putting, based on scientific tests showing improved results. The book explains how focusing visual attention on the target taps into the brain’s innate ability to perform complex tasks through unconscious processing. With simple steps to retrain traditional putting methods, Instinct Putting aims to boost putting skill by emphasizing proper alignment and distance control. This unique guide provides golfers with an unconventional but effective approach to conquer the mental game of putting.
Instinct Putting Revisited
by Eric Alpenfels, Bob Christina, Cary Heath
Summary: Instinct Putting is one of the most extraordinary golf instructional books to come along in my lifetime. In a radical break from conventional wisdom, it brings a whole new paradigm on the art and science of putting. — Carol Mann, LPGA Tour (1961-81), Member of the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame.A scientifically proven approach sure to cut strokes on the putting green by tapping the power of intuition.The Instinct Putting method relies on the brain’s built-in ability to perform incredible tasks through unconscious information processing, rather than through active thought. Through crystal clear instruction and gorgeous illustrations, the authors explain how to retrain your putting protocol with uncomplicated steps and easy-to-follow drills. From setup to follow-through, this book puts the keys to precision putting into your hands. A revolutionary new method that is based on cutting-edge research, Instinct Putting promises to end frustration on the green.
Evidence Based Golf
by Eric Alpenfels & Bob Christina
Summary: Evidence-Based Golf by Eric Alpenfels and Bob Christina utilizes scientific research and data analysis to provide research-based recommendations for improving golf performance in areas like swing biomechanics, injury prevention exercises, and optimal practice techniques. However, the authors note there are still many gaps in golf research that need to be addressed with more sophisticated tools and study designs. Overall, Alpenfels and Christina aim to provide golfers with proven, fact-based guidance to help decide what to do, choose the most effective way to do it, and select the best conditions for learning and improvement. The book’s recommendations are relevant for all golfers including professionals, amateurs, beginners, juniors, parents and anyone involved in the game. Through golf science, the authors seek to strengthen the practical application of research evidence to the way golf is learned, taught and played.