Over the years I’ve found that swinging the putter straight back and then down the line with the face kept square to the target through impact (call it a “linear” stroke) is the easiest way to start putts on the desired line. An arcing stroke can work but it takes a deft touch and better timing than Bob Hope.
According to studies I’ve done using PGA Tour ShotLink data you’re six times more likely than the pros to three-putt on long lags. That number should scare you.
I know there were 60 shots hit that day because I counted out the balls myself then watched Phil “kiss” the practice-range turf on every one of them. The turf was firm and tight yet very few bits of grass—and almost no dirt—were disturbed during this 30-yard pitch-shot exercise. (And for the record: There wasn’t a chunk or skulled ball in the bunch.)
Every round no matter how low your handicap may be you and every other golfer out there will make some less than perfect swings miss some fairways and greens and hit some really bad shots. I remind you of this because one of the wonderful parts of the game we play is that sooner or later we all face recovery shots from the trouble our poor shots happen to find.
As you start the club down keep your left arm straight so that your swing bottoms out under the ball. Let the club “kiss” the grass. No need to carve a huge divot. Don’t “hit” the ball. Accelerate smoothly through impact. Your goal: Reach max speed about four inches ahead of the ball.