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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

A Guide (Secret) to Better Putting

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Putting is a part of the game where we can all do small things to get better. You don’t have to practice 40 hours a week or have a stroke that gets a perfect score on a SAM PuttLab. The universal answer is to simplify the approach as much as possible.

While being a world class putter is an art form, being competent at putting is probably the least physically daunting task in golf — aside from maybe driving the cart. Putting generally provides the most stress and frustration, however, as our results are almost never aligned with our exceptions, which drives us to create unnecessary roadblocks to success.

That being the case, let’s narrow this down to as few variables as possible and get ourselves holing more putts. First off, you need to have proper expectations. If you look at the PGA Tour averages for made putts, you will find that the rates of success overall are far lower than what we see on on TV on Sunday afternoon. That’s because we are seeing the best players in the world, who in a moment in time, are holing putts at a clip the average plus-handicap club champion couldn’t dream of during a near death experience on his way to walking into the light.

If you have ever seen golf balls rolled on a stimpmeter ramp (the device used to measure green speed), you have probably seen something shocking. Golf balls rolling perfectly — the perfect speed, on a perfect green, on a perfectly straight putt — sometimes miss on both sides of the hole on consecutive efforts.

This is a very important point. The farther you get from the hole, the less control you have over making the putt. That’s why actually making putts outside a few feet should not be your priority. Hitting the best putt possible is your only priority. Then be resigned that the putt will either go in or it won’t. This might seem defeatist, but it’s not; its just a perception change. If you judge yourself on whether the ball goes in or not, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you judge yourself on whether or not you hit a good putt, you will be more successful… and you’re going to make more putts.

This sounds like something you’d hear at a Tony Robbins positive thinking seminar, but it has proven successful for every one of my clients who has embraced it. So what’s the secret to hitting the best putt possible each time?

Simplify the process.

  1.  Read the green to the best of your ability.
  2.  Pick a line and do your best to set up to it.
  3.  Do your best to hit the putt solid and at the right speed.

Reading the green is something that gets better with experience and practice. Some will be better than others, so this is an intangible thing that countless books are written about. My advice is simple; DON’T OVER THINK IT. Look at the terrain and get a general sense of where low point is in relation to the hole.

The reason why perfect green reading and perfect alignment are overrated is because there is no one line to the hole. The hole is over 4-inches wide and putts break differently with changes in speed and solidness of contact. I saw a video at the Scotty Cameron Putting Studio many years ago of dozens of PGA Tour players. There was a worm’s-eye camera on a 4-5 foot putt that was basically straight on the artificial grass. Few were aimed at the middle of the hole and many weren’t even aimed at the hole at all… but I didn’t see one miss.

So have a look at the terrain and be decent at lining up in the general direction that will give a chance for a well struck putt to go in or finish close enough for a tap in. Simple. After rambling on for several paragraphs, we get to the heart of how you can improve your putting. Narrow it down to doing your best to hit a solid putt at the right speed.

The “Right Speed”

I ask people after they addressed a putt how much attention they pay to line and speed. Any answer but 100 percent speed is wrong. You’ve already read the putt and lined up. Why is line any longer a variable? Plus, have you ever missed the line on a 20-foot putt by 5 feet? Maybe once in your life on a crazy green, but you sure as heck have left it 5-feet short and long on several occasions.

Imagine I handed you a basketball and said shoot it in the basket. Or what if I told you to toss a crumpled piece of paper into the trash? Having the requisite coordination is an acquired skill, but you wouldn’t grind over innocuous details when it came to the feel of making the object go the right distance. You’d react to the object in your hand and the target for the right speed/distance.

Putting is no different, save one variable. There’s the sense and feel of how the the green interacts with the ball, and that’s a direct result of how solidly you hit the putt. If you use X amount of force and it goes 18 feet one effort and 23 feet the next, how are you ever going to acquire speed control? That is the mark of almost every poor lag putter. They don’t hit putts consistently solid, so they never acquire the skill of distance control.

Since speed is a learned reaction to the terrain/target and consistency is a direct result of how consistently solid you strike the ball, that is what we’re left with.

Learn to Hit Putts More Solid

The road to better putting is as simple as hitting your putts more solid. Put most/all of your effort into what it takes to hit more putts solid. Now for each individual, it’s less about doing what’s right. Instead, it’s about avoiding movements and alignments that make it difficult to hit the ball solid. It would take an encyclopedia to cover all of the issues that fall into this category, so I will list the most common that will cover more than 90 percent of golfers.

The most common one I see — and it is nearly universal in people who are plagued by poor lag putting — is excess hip rotation. Sometimes there’s even an actual weight shift. Think of it this way; take a backstroke and stop. Rotate your hips 20 degrees without moving anything else. The putter and the arc is now pointed left of your intended line. You have to shove it with your arms and hands not to pull it. Good luck hitting it solid while doing all of that.

I had a golf school in Baltimore and told this story. Ten of the 15 people there assured me they didn’t do that. After 8 people had putted, we were 8-for-8. No. 9 said, “There is no ******* way I am going to move my hips after watching this.”

The entire group laughed after his putt told him he was wrong. The last 6 did everything they could to avoid the fault. We went 15 for 15. Many people are unaware that this issue is so dire. If you add the people that are unaware they have this issue, we are near 100 percent of golfers. I have gotten emails from 8-10 of them telling me how much their putting improved after all they did was focus on minimizing hip rotation and just hitting the ball solid.

This issue is not just the bane of average golfers; I’ve had several mini-tour players with putting issues improve with this. We are all aware Fred Couples would have won many more majors if not for a career-long battle with his putter. Watch the next time he misses a 6-foot putt to the left. As you will see, it’s not just a problem for a high-handicappers.

The best way to judge and practice avoiding this, it putting with an alignment stick in you belt loops.  If your hips rotate too much, the stick will definitely let you know.

Other issues include the well know chest/sternum coming up too soon in an effort to see the ball go in the hole, as well as:

  • Not aligning the putter shaft properly with the lead arm
  • Grip pressure issues (too much and too little)
  • Too much tension in neck and shoulders
  • Poor rhythm
  • Long back stroke

I could go on and on and on. The main point; find out why you aren’t hitting putts solid and do whatever it takes to do so, even if it’s something crazy like a super wide-open stance (with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek). See the Jack Nicklaus picture at the top of the story.

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Instruction

WATCH: How to Improve Your Golf Club Release

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Many golfers release the club way too early. The low point of the swing moves back and they hit the ground behind the ball or pick the ball clean off the top of the surface. They then dream of “lag” and the “late hit” trying to achieve this by thinking of holding on the the wrist angle too long.

In this video, I share a drill that it will improve the way you release the club.

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Instruction

Alistair Davies: My 3 Best Swing Tips

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In this video, I share with you my three best swing tips. Watch the video to get on the path to lower scores straight away.

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