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Opinion & Analysis

The key to putter fitting? Know your roll

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This is the second installment of a four-part series from Modern Golf on putter fitting and the Quintic System. 

Find a busy practice putting green, and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see at least a few golfers obsessing over the motion of their putting stroke. They’re usually the ones who are using some kind of training aid to help them groove their stroke in a certain way.

For many golfer, it can be time well spent. But what they might not know is that the way their putter moves is only half the equation to good putting. Did you know that two putts with the same clubhead speed can travel significantly different distances? Did you also know that most golfers actually do a good job of consistently swinging the putter through at their desired speed? So why do so many golfers have problems with their distance control? The other half of the equation is controlling what is called their ball roll.

How do golfers control how their ball roll? How should the ball be rolling? It is a very difficult question to answer without using high-speed cameras and motion capturing. Using a system called Quintic, we provide golfers the knowledge and data they need to putt their best. Understanding this data will improve your game.

The image below shows what an ideal 8-foot putt looks like on our Quintic System. 

Ideal Putt

Click the image to enlarge it.

Forward Rotation

As you can see, the ball instantly started to rotate forward off the putter face. A ball that has negative initial ball roll, or “backspin,” will lose speed and can deflect offline. Having the ball rotate forward off the face will give players better distance control with their putts because the ball will lose less energy and stay on its intended line longer. This will aid the ball in rolling over debris and other imperfections on the green such as ball marks, spike marks, etc.

Having anywhere from +25 rpm to +50 rpm initial ball roll is ideal. Any higher and the ball will roll out longer because it will be carrying more momentum. This can make downhill 5 footers scarier than they already are. With an rpm under +20 rpm, the ball doesn’t carry as much momentum to the hole.

Launch

The ball was launched at about 1.75 degrees. An ideal launch angle on most greens is between 0.75 degrees and 2 degrees. Much like a driver, controlling launch has a big influence on how far the ball will travel. That is because on the green, a ball will sit in a small depression as a result of gravity. The ball needs to be launched out of this depression — and not too high or too low. Optimal launch should change depending on the blade length of the grass and the type of putting surface. On lush greens with a longer blade length, the ball will sit in a deeper depression. On firm greens with a short blade length, the ball will not sit in such a deep depression, and for that reason not as much launch is required.

The image below shows what happens to a putt that has a launch angle that is too high.

High Launch

Click the image to enlarge it.

Zero Skid

Minimal skid is ideal. On a well struck putt, there should be less than 10 percent skid for the total distance the ball travels. So on an 8-foot putt, ideally there should be less than 10 inches of skid (see first image). Once “zero skid” occurs, the ball starts rolling on top of the grass smoothly. When there is too much skid, the result is a loss of distance and ball speed. Every time the ball bounces and strikes the putting surface it loses energy — energy that has been factored into your putt for speed and distance. These putts tend to come up short and offline, and this often happens with long putts or lag putts.

Below are images of a “dew board.” The board simulates putting through an early morning dew where it is easy to see launch and skid. There are two visible lines on the board. The putt that has a flat and consistent line has optimal launch and minimal skid. The putt that looks dotted or chattered has launched too high, increasing the zero skid parameter. The dots are where the ball has struck the putting surface and continues to hop until it reaches zero skid.

IMG_2347

Every putt, at some point, reaches zero skid. Reducing the amount of time it takes for the ball to reach zero skid will ensure that the ball will lose minimal energy and carry more momentum to the hole.

Impact Ratio

This refers to how efficiently clubhead speed is converted into ball speed. For all of those Trackman users out there, this is the same as smash factor. It is a simple calculation: ball speed divided by clubhead speed. Controlling the speed that the ball comes off the face is crucial. This is achieved when the center mass of the club head makes contact with the center mass of the golf ball. Any off-center strike results in a loss of ball speed and face deflection, causing the ball to roll offline with less speed.  

We’ve all hit full shots that weren’t solidly struck and they come up short of our target.  The exact same thing happens when we don’t hit a putt solid, but it’s much harder to feel the mishit because the clubhead speed is much slower through impact with a putter. This is where most golfers struggle.

The face of the putter also needs to be square to the path of the club. Otherwise, you’ll see a glancing blow that also reduces ball speed. The type of putter a player uses also has an effect on ball speed. Putters with softer inserts reduce ball speed because of reduced energy transfer from the club head to the ball. To illustrate where you strike the ball on the clubface, spray the face of the putter with Doctor Scholl’s foot spray. It will show you where the ball is making contact with the face, and has minimal effect on ball speed and friction.

Certainly there are other parameters to consider, but this article should provide golfers with a general concept that they may not have considered in the past. Without knowing what the ball is doing, it is very difficult to teach someone proper putting mechanics. Players who have a better understanding of how the ball is rolling have a better chance of improving their game on the greens. Therefore, go get fit for a putter and KNOW YOUR ROLL.

Call or email to book your appointment today at Modern Golf.

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Modern Golf was founded in 2011 and has established a reputation as Canada’s Premier golf club-fitting experience. With a brand agnostic approach to club-fitting, a 13,000 square foot state-of-the-art headquarters including a PGA Tour caliber workshop, Modern Golf can provide a demonstrable improvement to your golf game. Regardless of our customers’ age, gender, or skill level, our highly trained club-fitters and experienced club builders can custom tailor our customers’ golf equipment to produce improved on-course results. The Modern Golf team is excited to share their expertise with the GolfWRX Community. www.moderngolf.ca

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Scooter McGavin

    Feb 27, 2015 at 11:20 am

    There is some good info on this article. I also agree that people can tend to overlook putter roll. I’d be curious for a little more info that goes into greater depth about its role in the fitting process with respect to different models’ grooves, inserts, centers of gravity, etc. and how it would directly affect one’s putter choice. Cheers!

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Podcasts

Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

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Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

To me, of course, what stands out is how Woodland elevated his short game for this event. Coming in he was ranked something like 165th on tour in greenside saves but went 16-for-20 last week. Of course, that also means he hit 52 of those small greens in regulation, which certainly outdistanced most of the field. Justin Rose was putting on a scrambling clinic for three days, but his inability to hit fairways and greens finally did him in. So that brings me to today’s topic – an honest assessment of your own “short game handicap.” Regardless of skill level, I have long believed that the key to better scoring is the same for us as for these tour-elite players – improving your ability to get up-and-down.

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the U.S. Open

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Gary Woodland claimed victory at the U.S. Open in spectacular style, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Pebble Beach.

Hot

Gary Woodland produced a masterclass both with his irons and flat-stick all week long at Pebble Beach to claim his first major title. The 35-year-old gained 8.4 strokes over the field for his approach play and a monstrous 7.2 strokes over the field on the greens at Pebble Beach. Check out the clubs Woodland used on his way to victory last week in our WITB piece here.

Brooks Koepka continues to impress on the biggest stage, and the American’s play tee to green was once more outstanding in California. Koepka gained 14.4 strokes tee to green last week, which was the best in the field in this area.

Viktor Hovland has just about every golf fan excited after watching his brilliant display at Pebble Beach. Hovland was second in the field for strokes gained: tee to green at the U.S. Open, gaining a whopping 12.6 strokes in this area. All that was holding the amateur back was his putting, where he lost almost four strokes to the field

Cold

Justin Thomas continues to struggle after his comeback from his wrist injury, with the American missing the cut at last week’s U.S. Open. Thomas lost 2.7 strokes to the field on the greens at Pebble Beach, and worryingly for the 25-year-old is the fact that he has now lost strokes with the flat-stick in his last six consecutive events.

Dustin Johnson’s performance on the greens cost the 34-year-old dearly at last week’s U.S. Open. Johnson came into the event as one of the favorites, but a poor performance with the putter, where he lost 6.1 strokes, put paid to his chances. It was the worst performance for Johnson on the greens since 2017.

Bubba Watson continues to struggle, and last week it was his short game which was woefully misfiring. Watson dropped a combined 10 strokes to the field for his play on and around the greens at Pebble Beach for the two days he was in town.

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