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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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The Gear Dive: Discussing the drivers of 2020 with Bryan LaRoche

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with his good buddy Bryan LaRoche. They chat on life and do a deep dive into the drivers of 2020.

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: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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