Tips from Denny McCarthy, arguably the TOUR’s top putter
5 Min Read
Virginia alum has twice led the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting
Written by GolfWRX @GolfWRX
Shootaround with Denny McCarthy and Washington Wizards' Anthony Gill
Since joining the PGA TOUR in 2018, Denny McCarthy has established himself as one of the best putters in the world, ranking first in Strokes Gained: Putting in both 2019 and 2020.
This week, McCarthy is set to compete in the Wells Fargo Championship at TPC Potomac at Avenel, which is just 14 miles from his birthplace of Takoma Park, Maryland. While preparing for the event, GolfWRX.com caught up with the 29-year-old to learn more about his putter, his mentality on the greens, how he prepares and why amateur golfers may struggle with putting themselves.
Below, we highlight five key takeaways from the putting discussion with McCarthy, one of the game’s best putters.
1. FIND YOUR ‘FOREVER’ PUTTER
McCarthy currently putts with a Scotty Cameron TOUR-only GoLo N7 mallet putter with a black finish, a white alignment line, a custom long neck, and a deep-milled face that produces a soft feel and muted sound.
While he says he doesn’t always putt with the same exact putter from week to week -- he makes slight variations depending on his feel and the green speeds -- he does stick to the same style of putter head. McCarthy started using a GoLo mallet model while at the University of Virginia, and he’s stuck with it ever since.
“I have 10 different versions of this GoLo head, basically,” McCarthy told GolfWRX.com. “The one thing I do keep very consistent is the black mallet style with the white line and the milled face. Then I might change the neck, or the weighting of it, depending on how fast the greens are, but I like to keep the head and how it looks the same.
“I used a blade putter for a little bit as a kid, and then I used an old Odyssey Rossie mallet for a little awhile. Then in college I used a white (TaylorMade) Spider for a bit, then landed on the GoLo… it was very trial-and-error. I putted well with a mallet, with the Odyssey and the Spider, and then really liked the GoLo and everything about it. That was kind of like, ‘this is going to be my putter forever’… it’s just, to me, it’s the appearance of it. The way it sits on the ground.”
Experimenting with different putters can be a fun and informative process, but once you find a head style that suits your stroke and preferences, it may be best to stick with it.
2. THROUGH THE GATE
“I kind of stole it from (Tiger Woods),” McCarthy told GolfWRX.
Like Woods, McCarthy uses a two-tee “gate” putting drill, which helps him square the face and make center contact.
The drill is easy to set up. Simply place a golf ball about 5 feet from the hole on a straight putt. When you approach the ball with your putter, place a golf tee just outside of the toe and heel portions of the putter head. Then, hit putts by trying to keep the putter head within the tee “gate” at impact.
It’s an easy way to train your stroke to make consistently centered impact with the golf ball.
3. GETTING ALIGNED
Even though he has one of the best putting strokes in the game, McCarthy said his stroke can get a bit “wipey” if his alignment gets off. As he told GolfWRX, his stance tends to get a bit open at address, which leads to an outside-to-in stroke that leaves the face too open at impact. This causes a miss short and to the right.
To help combat the issue, McCarthy simply lays down an alignment stick parallel to his target along his feet line. This helps him focus on keeping his stance square, and his putting stroke can flow freely from there.
4. AWAKEN YOUR INNER ARTIST
According to McCarthy, putting should be treated as more of an art than a science.
As part of his process, McCarthy picks out a target between his golf ball and the hole, such as a small imperfection in the green, or a piece of grass that’s a different color. Then, he lines up his golf ball to the intermediate target, and without taking a practice stroke, he lets his inner artist take over.
“Treat it more as an art form than a science,” McCarthy said. “You don’t have to have a perfect stroke. My stroke is not perfect. I’m a good putter because I can see the greens well, and I track spots and I treat it more as an art form. I’m picking spots and ball marks, anything that stands out in my line. I line up my ball around those areas and see the arc of the putt as opposed to worrying about what my strokes doing.”
To ensure that he’s lined up toward his intended target, McCarthy draws a line on his golf ball using a black marker. Then he aligns that line to his target, and he hits putts so that the line rolls end over end.
While this is a common method of putting, McCarthy does it a bit differently. Instead of aligning the ball with the entire line showing, he tilts the line toward his target. He says he does this because although he wants the line there for a reference, he doesn’t want it to be his sole focus during the stroke.
Remember, he treats putting as an art. Worrying too much about the line can restrict your stroke and make it less reactionary.
5. TRY TO MAKE IT
Of course, not everyone can have the same confidence that one of the best putters in the world has, but a quick switch in mentality can work wonders.
“I’m stepping into every putt like trying to give it a chance to go in,” McCarthy told GolfWRX. “I’m stepping into them trying to make them. I’m not trying to wish them up near the hole. If I’m getting a putter in my hands on the green putting for birdie, to me it’s like any putt is a good look to me.
“Have fun with it as opposed to like, ‘Oh shoot, I haven’t putted well today. I’ve missed a bunch from this length.’ No, …go up there and pick a spot and get up and be confident and just hit a good putt. It’s more about the process than the result … to me. I’s about the process of going through what you’re seeing and hitting good putts. Once you hit the putt there’s nothing you can do after that, it’s out of my control. If I do everything well that I can control, I’ll be in good hands.”