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How to improve your putting arc

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Golf is played on an inclined plane, which is established when we bend forward to address the ball. This angled plane dictates the club swing on an arc.

An arcing motion is present in all golf strokes whether you are swinging an iron, a driver or putter. On short putts the arc is smaller, so it may “FEEL” straight back and straight through, but there should still be a slight inward movement of the putter head during the back and forward swings.

DTL 600 Inclined 2

A common mistake that I see is the putter head moving outside the target line on the backstroke, accompanied by a blocking action and no release of the putter face on the through stroke. Most golfers then employ some type of breakdown in the lead wrist in an attempt to square the face, which results in inconsistent loft and off-center strikes at impact. An arcing stroke would see the putter head moving slightly inside the target line on the back stroke, then naturally swinging inside once again on the through stroke — simply a pendulum motion, executed on an inclined plane.

CD POV 2 600

Complementary Angles

To improve your putting arc, let’s begin with a solid address position. I call this type of setup “Complementary Angles” as it encourages the putter to swing in a way that requires very few compensations.

The address position is so crucial because we want to establish clear and accurate relationships between our target line, putter, and body. Complementary Angles means we will be stacking one good position on top of the next. An easy way to practice improving your angles both indoors and out is to draw a few lines on the reflective side of a CD or DVD disc. The first line will traverse the center of the disc and represent our intended starting line. Draw a second line perpendicular to the first line and directly behind the ball. This line will ensure that our putter face is square to our intended starting line. Last, draw a third line parallel to the first line just inside where the ball will be.

When setup properly, you should see your eyes on top of this line in the reflection provided by the disc. Setting up with your eyes slightly inside the target line provides more freedom for your hands and arms to swing while encouraging the forearms to rotate slightly during the stroke, thus transporting the putter on the desired path.

Grip in the fingers, heel pad on top

Next, we want to adopt a grip position that encourages the forearms to track properly during the stroke. Contrary to the “Lifeline” grip that’s commonly taught, we will incorporate a hold with the heel pad of our lead hand on top. As in your full swing, utilizing the heel pad provides leverage and control while removing tension from your thumb which radiates up the forearm.

Finger Grip In Four Steps

PPG 600

  1. With your lead arm hanging naturally, curl your last three fingers around the grip and rest your heel pad on top.
  2. Remove the thumb and index finger.
  3. Rotate your trail forearm slightly clockwise and slide the four fingers onto the grip. Connect the heel pad of the trail hand to the lead hand’s middle and ring fingernails for stability.
  4. Allow the thumbs to rest on the grip with no tension.

Grip

Notice that there is now an air pocket under your lead thumb pad and the putter head feels light. An excellent training aid that I use to quickly identify a proper fingers grip is Master Putting Instructor Pat O’Brien’s “Perfect Putting Grip.” The PPG is a decal that adheres to your existing putter grip, featuring heel pad and finger placement markings.

DTL Arc 2 600

Backward, Upward and Inward

Now that we have completed a setup and grip comprised of “Complementary Angles,” the forearms can naturally rotate back and through. To rid yourself of any old tendencies such as bringing the putter back “outside,” place an object (alignment stick, tees, sleeve of balls) just outside the toe of your putter to verify that the club is working slightly away from the object as you swing back.

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Michael Howes is a G.S.E.B. authorized instructor of "The Golfing Machine" - Director of Instruction "Carter Plantation Golf Course" Springfield, La. - Director of Instruction "Rob Noel Golf Academy at Carter Plantation. - Golf Channel Academy Instructor - SPi Instructor of the SeeMore Putter Institute - Featured Writer GolfWRX Teaching philosophy: "We will work together on adding the all-important elements of power and consistency to your game while maintaining the individualism and art of your swing." Work on your swing from anywhere in the world - NO software needed. www.howesgolf.com www.youtube.com/cedarstreetgolf

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Mark s

    Mar 15, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    When I try this grip it feels like I need a shorter putter with a flatter lie angle. Does that seem right?

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  8. manz60

    Jan 1, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for your article. I’ve read the Dave Pelz Putting’Bible’ and he refers to a PILS Stroke (Perfect In Line Stroke). He used a grid and special photography to show strokes that appear to go slightly inside square to inside (like a screen door), but actually go straight back and thru. He refered to this as an optical illusion. You need to see the stroke from the target line or from above the ball. Otherwise if you view the stroke from head on (like on TV), the stroke will be seen as a ‘screen door’ but its not.

    The arms hang straight down from the shoulders to create a vertical penduleum and despite the lie angle of the putter, the putter head moves straight back and thru.

    ref: p81 Pelz Putting Bible

    M60

    • Michael Howes

      Jan 1, 2015 at 10:55 pm

      Hello M60 – I have also read Mr. Pelz ‘Putting Bible, as well as ‘Putt Like The Pros’ and am familiar with his PILS method. Here are a few points I believe worth noting in the above excerpt. Having access to current technology like SAM Putt Lab, I will say that the putter does swing on an arc. This is due to the angle of the club shaft and fact that we are bent over at the waist to address a ball on the ground, which we are standing to the side of. The degree of arc is greatly affected by our amount of forward bend, eye placement, forearm position, and other address conditions. Also if I remember correctly, the PERCY model used to demonstrate the PILS stroke had NO wrist or elbow joints.
      My experience has been that golfers who are trying to truly execute a SBST stroke must make many compensations in an attempt to keep the putter from doing what it naturally wants to do, which is swing on an arc. These compensations usually show up as the putter head moving outside on the way back with a closed face, followed by a blocking type through stroke. I also see these players set up with their eyes positioned outside of the ball and require very upright lie angles when trying to get the right forearm and shaft on plane at address.
      That being said, I am advocating allowing the putter to swing on a slight arc. The set up and grip that I outlined complement this arc and might even “Feel” SBST, depending on the player and their tendencies. Test it out and thanks for reading.

      • Michael Howes

        Jan 1, 2015 at 11:05 pm

        typo: PERFY

      • bradford

        Jan 5, 2015 at 7:59 am

        In fact, the only way to actually bring the club straight back and straight through without breaking the wrists is to adopt the Michelle Wie stance (or possibly Nicklaus), whereby the club is actually hanging straight down.

  9. David Partridge

    Dec 31, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Nice article. I like how you noted the importance of the grip. I believe that’s where the majority of amatuers get it wrong. Probably worthy of a mention is that with the correct grip the forearms can become an extension of the putter shaft allowing the correct plane for the putter to travel

    • Michael Howes

      Jan 1, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Right on David. Complementary Angles at address lead to simple strokes. Thx for posting.

  10. Edward McMahon

    Dec 31, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Michael,
    Really enjoy the instruction since putting is the biggest mystery in my golf game. I have a tendency to push short putts and pull long putts. I’ve tried multiple different grips and occasionally succeed for a short time. How much pressure is applied by each hand? And does either hand assume a more dominant role?
    Ed

    • Michael Howes

      Dec 31, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      Edward & Steve, here is my recommendation on grip pressure. We want as little tension in the forearms as possible. When holding the putter horizontal to the ground I should not be able to pull the club from your grip, but we still want your hands and forearms relaxed. This is why I advocate the putter be gripped in the fingers with the heel pad on top, as opposed to a lifeline grip which is commonly taught. Gripping in the fingers allows for touch and control by relieving the forearm pressure created when the putter’s only support is the thumb pads. Tiger Woods wrote in his 2001 book, How I Play Golf, “The handle of the putter runs under the butt of my left hand. Most players like the handle running straight up the palm so the club shaft is parallel to the left forearm. My grip is unique this way, but I believe gives me a little extra feel and gives me freedom in my wrists when I need it.” Tiger goes on to write of his conversation with Ben Crenshaw on grip pressure and Ben’s advice to grip light enough so that he be able to “feel the weight of the putterhead at the other end of the shaft”. When pressed for a number between 1 and 10, I have heard Crenshaw say 4. Hand placement has a huge effect on grip pressure and deserves experimentation at the very least.
      Try this drill: Tie some type of weight (I use brass washers) to the end of a piece of nylon string. Grip the putter with the string lying in your fingers and running on the underside of the putting grip. Begin making strokes, keeping the putter and the weight swinging in unison. Increase grip pressure until the weight and putter no longer keep pace. Relax your pressure until you are able to regain a swinging motion. This is your “Feel”.

  11. Steve

    Dec 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    One question I have is that No one ever seems to talk about the Grip, by that I mean “How tight” should you hold the Putter.

    With a wedge its ” Soft hands” as if you were holding an ‘open Tube of Tooth paste’ which I can understand and feel the difference if I were to hold it ( The wedge ) too tight.

    But what about the Putter ??

    Steve ( UK )

    • Michael Howes

      Dec 31, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Good question Steve! Please see my above response to you and Edward in reagrds to grip pressure.

  12. Mchapp2

    Dec 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Michael, great article!
    Look forward to trying it soon. Sounds like it can greatly help me. Also got excited when I was reading the article and recognized the clubhouse in the background. Played there once and loved it! Always great to know there are other WRXers around Louisiana.

    • Michael Howes

      Dec 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      pleasure to hear from an La golf enthusiast. Keep me posted on your putting progress and have a great New Years!

  13. Eagle006

    Dec 28, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Nice article. A follow up article on the mechanics of the stroke would be very helpful too.

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  15. Golfraven

    Dec 27, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    ok, so how about the left hand low grip? I like the idea with the grip though

    • Michael Howes

      Dec 27, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Did you switch to left hand low, due to right hand “hit”? Try out the grip procedure outlined in article and you should find a much more passive right hand.

      • Golfraven

        Dec 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

        Hi, I stragled with the conventional grip recent years so thought I try something new. Actually I like the feel of the left hand low and I seem to be more consistent. Still tinkering with my hand positions slighly so will try some of your instructions. cheers

  16. Gloover

    Dec 27, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Good article. Thanks!

    If one putts face-on, the stroke becomes nearly straight back and through. No need for the arc.

  17. jl

    Dec 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    “Connect the heel pad of the trail hand to the lead hand’s middle and ring fingernails for stability.” But in the picture isn’t the heel pad of the trail hand resting more on the lead hand’s thumb?

    • Michael Howes

      Dec 27, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      JL – in the completed grip picture, the right hand’s heel pad is on the fingernails of left hand. The only part touching the lead hand, is the trail hand’s thumb and thumb pad. Hope that helps.

  18. Ponjo

    Dec 26, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Hi Michael,

    Love this article regarding the putting arc as this has recently been introduced to me by my golf coach following a lesson after having a turbulent year on the greens.

    I was taking the club away slightly on the outside “thinking I was taking it back in a straight line” you can guess the rest 🙂

    Many many hours later the movement is better and am utilising an MSIII aid to drill the natural movement even more.

    Thanks

    • Michael Howes

      Dec 27, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Great to hear Ponjo. You’re on the right track – set the right forearm up correctly at address & that outside takeaway will be a thing of the past! Keep on it.

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Instruction

Master your takeaway with force and torques

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Most golf swings last less than 2 seconds, so it’s difficult to recover from any errors in the takeaway. Time is obviously limited. What most golfers fail to realize is that the force and torque they apply to the club in the initial stages of the swing can have major effects on how they are able to leverage the club with their arms and wrists.

Our research has shown that it is best to see the golfer as a series of connected links with the most consistent golfers transferring motion smoothly from one link to another and finally to the club. Approximately 19-25 percent of all the energy created in a golf swing actually makes its way into the motion of the club. That means the remaining 75-80 percent is used up in moving the body segments. This emphasizes the fact that a smooth takeaway is your best chance sequence the body links and become more efficient with your energy transfers.

In the video above, I give a very important lesson on how the forces and torques applied by the golfer in the takeaway shape the rest of the swing. There will be more to come on the subject in future articles.

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Learn from the Legends: Introduction

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There is a better way to swing the golf club. I’d prefer to write that there is a correct way to swing the club, but I know that really freaks people out. People love to talk about how everyone’s swing is different. “There are lots of ways to get it done,” they say. “Look at Jim Furyk’s swing – it’s not what you’d teach, but it works for him.”

To some extent, they’re right. Elite swings do have different looks. Some take it back inside (Ray Floyd). Some cross the line (Tom Watson). Some swings are long (Bubba Watson). Some are short (young Tiger). But these differences are superficial and largely irrelevant. When it comes to the engine – the core of the swing – the greatest players throughout the history of the game are all very similar.

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you. In this series of articles, I will do my best to show you – with pictures and videos and data – that the legends all move a specific way. Focusing on these elements (while ignoring others) and practicing a certain way is the surest path to improving your golf swing and lowering your scores.

So, let’s get into it. There are a number of important elements that all the legends have, but the biggest and most important of these elements is rotation. Every great player throughout the history of the game has had elite rotation. It’s the most important thing they do, and it’s easy to see. When you’re looking down the line at all the great players at impact, you’ll see hips and torso open.

This is what the legends look like at impact:

1Hips open
2Torso open
3Both butt cheeks visible
4Left leg extended and visible

And here’s what some very good players with less good rotation look like at impact:

These are very successful players (one of them is a major champion!), but they don’t move like the legends of the game.
1Hips and shoulders not open
2Left leg not totally visible
3Can’t see both butt cheeks

Now, there are plenty of nuances to how great players rotate. They do it while keeping spine flexion, for example, and they do it with very little (or no) lateral movement toward the target (lateral movement impedes rotation). I will discuss these things in detail. My hope is that at the end of this series you will have a much better understanding of what separates the legends from the very good… and from the rest of us.

You will understand their “engine,” and hopefully this understanding will help you begin to create your own legendary swing!

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10 reasons your golf game isn’t improving (even if you’re practicing a lot)

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One of the things I hate to see is when you watch someone come to the practice facility day after day, week after week, truly doing what they think is best for their games and they continue to get worse. In fact, you can actually do more harm than good by “practicing” if you are not careful. So in this article I want to give you my top-10 reasons your game is not improving, even if you’re practicing more than ever.

1) You’re not practicing, you’re just getting exercise

We all know the guy who walks into the grill room and boasts that he has hit five pyramids of balls that day. The problem is, at least 90 percent of those shots were a complete waste of time! This guy is only getting exercise, not doing himself any good whatsoever. As a matter of fact, this is my number one pet-peeve for my clients who have retired and are looking for something to fill their day. When you hit this many balls, you have no chance to get better as you are only ingraining poor swing flaws or improper motions from getting tired.

Please limit yourself to one hour per range session, and use this time wisely with slow motion swings, proper feedback, and mirror work; this way, you just might improve. Anything past that hour mark (unless you’re a trained professional athlete or top-level amateur), and you are spinning your wheels, in my opinion.

2) You don’t understand “feel vs real”

Feel and real are two different things, and if you don’t know the difference, you’ll have to practice twice as hard for twice as long to get any better. Remember the feeling of making that “new” move? How weird it feels and how similar it actually looks on camera? Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a new move in order to make the change you want; if you don’t exaggerate it, then you may have to put in much more time in order to eradicate yourself of whatever move you’re trying to eliminate.

Use video feedback to remind yourself of what is actually happening when you’re making a swing change. Huge changes in our mind often translate to very small changes in real life; the camera will remind you what needs to be done.

3) You only practice the fun things

How many times have you gone to the range and worked on smashing your driver versus working on hitting trouble shots around trees, or your super-long lag putting? In fact, we are all guilty of working on things that we are already good at or enjoy doing with the excuse that “we don’t want to lose it.” Personally, I hate practicing my long irons and seldom did when I was playing, and because of this fact, I am not too stellar from outside 200 yards still today. Why? Because that was in the days of small bladed forged irons and whenever you missed them they felt terrible and therefore I avoided them. Not a smart idea. Hone your strengths, but work hard on your problem areas to really improve.

4) You’re not making practice uncomfortable and pressure filled

Another one of the things I constantly see is where a player can hit the ball like a champ on the range, but the moment they walk on the course, things change for the worse. Why? Because they become too outcome focused. If they could reverse the mental process — making practice pressure filled and the course worry-free — they would be a world beater. My favorite drill is to set a goal during a practice session, such as making 100 3-footers in a row; and if you don’t reach that goal, open up your wallet and throw $20 on the ground for someone to find. If you do this, I promise you will focus and feel pressure. These are the type of things that one must do in order to simulate game-like conditions.

5) You’re not testing your changes on the golf course

Ok, you’ve worked on it, and you feel that you have mastered the “new” move that will cure your snap hook… now take it to the course and test it out! There is no better way to see if your no-double-cross swing is working by aiming down the line of trouble and trying to work it away from it. The course is the only place for you to see if you truly have a grasp of the new move, and under pressure on the course is the only way to actually know for sure!

6) Your equipment isn’t truly fit to what you’re trying to do as a player

If you have faulty equipment, then how can you actually know you have eliminated a faulty move or funky shot? Maybe those super-slick grips are causing your grip pressure to increase at address and this is the reason why you tend to swing the club too much to the inside on the way back? Or is it a faulty motion of the forward arm and wrist? If your clubs are not correct, then you will always fight something that might not actually be your issue.

Think about the buddy of yours who has irons that have an incorrect lie angle… how much easier could the game be if they were correct?

7) You don’t have any… goals, practice, evaluation or feedback

I’m sorry, but just swatting balls daily is not the best way to get any better! Have you ever asked yourself “what is today’s goal?” and then “what is the best way to work toward achieving that goal?” Next time you’re at the range, ask yourself those two questions, and then ask yourself how you will measure this and understand the feedback you’re given. Most people do not even think of these things, nor do they have factors in place in order to do so.

To be a better player, like in life, you have to have clear-cut goals in mind, or else you are being sloppy. Remember to take into account the four things above, or you will not improve as rapidly as you’d like!

8) You’re working on mechanics only, not how to score

Yes, you can do either or both in your practice, but don’t get them confused! What is your first objective in a given practice session — making a more consistent motion or lowering your score? Most of the time, they don’t have anything to do with one another.

9) You’re overly focused on the “look,” not the function

Are you too focused on making a perfect swing instead of one that is functionally correct and repetitive? Yes, we’d all like to look as pretty as Adam Scott, but understand that Furyk has a better record — it’s not about beauty, it’s about function at the end of the day.

10) You’re working on your swing with a non-professional

This is one that hits close to home, as I HATE to see people working on the incorrect things on the range, or from their buddy who can’t break 90. It kills me to watch someone working on their exit pattern when their grip or transition is the fault. Please make sure you at least consult with someone who knows more about the game and the swing than you do, and if your thoughts check out, then by all means go at it alone. I’m a big fan of players being self-sufficient, but for every Watson or Trevino who figured it out on their own, there are millions of golfers who screwed themselves up royally doing this.

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