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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

Gear Dive: Fixing my broken body with Michael Dennington of GolfWOD

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In this Coaches Edition Episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny discusses his physical decline and chats with Michael Dennington of UK based GolfWOD on how to go from broken to a golf warrior.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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