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Face the facts in putting: Controlling face angle

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Controlling face angle in putting is a tenacious task. The top players in the world even struggle with this on a daily basis. What about conventional golfers? Can controlling face angle really improve one’s ability to put the ball in the hole?

The short answer is yes, but there are many influencing factors: the style of the putter (face-balanced, plumber-neck, heel-shafted, center-shafted), head weight, posture, alignment, lie and loft, etc. All are factors that can aid a player in controlling face angle, for better or worse!

The purpose of this article is to inform golfers why this is crucial, what to look for when rolling putts and looking for a new putter, and how they can get better.

Note: Through this entire article, we are assuming centered contact with ball and putter head (center mass to center mass). Heel and toe strikes have minimal effect on the direction the ball rolls.

The main purpose of having a square face at impact is to start the ball on your intended start line, but that’s much easier said than done. As the loft on the club gets lower, the more influence face angle has on the direction a ball starts to move or roll. For example, with a 6 iron with a loft of approximately 28 degrees, face angle at impact has a 75 percent effect on the direction the ball launches. The other 25 percent is path. As the loft on the club decreases (i.e. a driver), gear effect aside, face angle has an 85 percent effect. With a putter with a loft of 2 degrees, the influence is greater than 90 percent. This is massive!

A putter face that is open 2 degrees at impact will miss the hole from 5 feet! For a putt to go in at 8 feet, the angle of the face needs to less than 1 degree open or closed to the target. Increase the distance to 15 feet and the putter face needs to less than 0.5 degrees open or closed to the target for the putt to go in. Can you tell the difference between a face angle that is 1-degree closed or open to your target line?

Article #3 Push Putt image

Consider the above statistics. Now consider the PGA Tour average of putts made from inside 5 feet, from 10 feet, and from greater than 10 feet. From the beginning of the 2014/2015 season until now (3.20.2015), here are the best putters from those distances according to PGATour.com.

  • Inside 5 feet: Vaughn Taylor — 99.25 percent
  • From 10 feet: Jerry Kelly — 71.43 percent
  • From greater than 10 feet: John Daly — 22.94 percent

Notice the drop from 10 feet to greater than 10 feet — it’s 48 percent! Remember, a face that is open by 1 degree will miss the hole from 8 feet. This is evidence that face angle outside of 10 feet is unyielding. Outside of 10 feet, most amateur players should focus on getting the proper speed for the putt, but inside 10 feet is where the magic happens. Controlling face angle is what the best players in the world do best.

When selecting a new putter, the style of the putter needs to compliment the style of stroke a player has. That’s why identifying what type of stroke you have is critical.

There are three generalized styles of putting stroke. 

  1. Straight back, straight through: The putter moves in a straight line away from the ball and straight through the ball.
  2. Minimum Arc: There’s a slight arc to the path of the putter head with minimal face rotation.
  3. Lots of arc and face rotation: The putter head moves with a noticeable arc and plenty of face rotation.

Golfers who have an arc to their stroke with more face rotation usually prefer or fit into toe-weighted or heel-shafted putters. This gives them more control over face angle at impact.

Golfers with less arc and face rotation generally fit into a plumber’s neck model putter. These putters generally suit strokes with minimal arc and face rotation.

Golfers who like the feel of a “straight-back, straight-through” stroke tend to favor a face-balanced putter. This is a generalized comment, because sometimes different putters feel and perform better to these golfers. Ultimately, the putter should feel comfortable and very natural throughout the stroke. It should also feel very easy to line up to the target.

Checking alignment can be tough to do without a laser or other types of calibrating tools. Typically, most golfers think they are lined up properly, but are not. Using a laser that can sit flush with the putter face is the most accurate way to test this.

Below is an example of how a laser can help identify face angle at address. If your face angle is not square to your target or start line, something would have to change somewhere through the stroke to get the face to square up.

I know some of you are thinking, “What about Billy Mayfair?” Mayfair cut every single putt he made and missed! His face angle was very open at impact during his prime. What he did very well was match his putter’s path to his face angle, so his path, which only has a 10 percent influence, complimented what direction his face was aligned. At Modern Golf, we would never encourage a player to emulate this style of putting. It is too difficult to repeat and adds a ton of cut spin to the roll of the ball. But if a golfer comes to us with this tendency and putts well, there is often no reason for him to change.

One way to work solely of the face angle of your putter at impact is to eliminate path as a variable. Using a putting arc, or a 2×4 piece of wood to run the heel of the putter along to eliminate any path deviation will isolate face angle, but this is only really applicable to short putts. At some point, there should be some arc in a golfer’s stroke.

If you are looking for a quick way to lower your putts on the course, isolate face angle. Work on putts inside 10 feet. These are the ones that have the highest percentage of going in regardless of outside variables. It takes commitment and some extra tools, but it’s one of the quickest way to lower your handicap.

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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

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Samual Puttington

    Apr 1, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    HEY MODERN GOLF, what are the stats for people returning the face at impact to what they had at address? Pretty low, right? So then why so concerned with adjusting the address position to have a face pointed directly at the target when very few will return the putter face to that angle? Fir for stroke. Edel has it wrong.

    • Modern Golf Staff

      Apr 2, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      It’s all about creating consistency. It’s important to see where the alignment issue is (aligned left or right of target) and getting the player to feel and see the difference. If we can create a more consistent face angle at impact the player will develop more feel for distance and line.

  2. AJ Jensen

    Apr 1, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Good article for sure. The main takeaway for me though is the idea that my driver is more sensitive to face angle than are the weaker clubs. This explains all the times I’ve KNOWN my driver’s swing path was correct at-and-after ball impact, yet my shot quickly took off on a lateral arc to the left or right

  3. lef

    Apr 1, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Lie angle is critical in the discussion and not brought up here. The amount of arc in the putting stroke is strong dictated by lie angle. When you set a putter down flat it tells you its natural arc. This is why It’s virtually impossible to truly putt straight back and straight through because putters don’t have a zero degree lie angle. I’ve been playing a face balanced centershafted putter for a decade with a moderately arcing stroke due to its lie. When I use a heal shafted toe heavy putter with the same lie angle and shaft length and weight I feel almost no difference. But if I use any style of putter with a different lie angle I immediately adopt the natural arc of that putter. If you want to feel the face closing find a putter with a longish shaft and a shallow lie. Its a much stronger effect than toe weight in my opinion.

  4. Brutus

    Apr 1, 2015 at 11:25 am

    It has been shown that without a doubt a putter path cannot move straight back and thru without the handle moving back linearly and maintaining it’s exact relative location to the head (i.e. hovering right over it as it slides back, speed of movement, etc…) Any variance between the 2 immediately introduces 2 arcs on 2 planes. Arc 1 as it lifts up the lowest point to the ground at address while swinging back. Even if it comes up a 1/2″, that’s an arc. And arc 2 as it swings inside (or outside) a straight path back. This is created as the putter head moves farther and faster than the handle and has to arc in the process. An analysis of Nicklaus’ stroke as he used to hunch way over and piston like pump his putt was close to straight back and through but still produced those 2 arcs inevitably.

    I bought that yellow swing path trainer your set of pictures show. It’s from Butch Harmon who developed Tiger into a putting force using this method in the early 2000’s. (See putting tips from Jim Flick and Butch in Golf Digest articles from 9/09 and 5/13 issues as they describe the Inside and Down the Line technique Butch teaches and this aid develops). I rarely think a new training device will give me 10% more driving distance or whatever, but I know practicing with this increased me putting from inside 10 feet to the tune of 3 to 4 less putts a round. I saw it in my scores and handicap improvement.

  5. Phil

    Mar 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I am a heavily left eye dominant, right handed golfer. I constantly fight aiming too far right of target as my eyes are telling me I am aiming too far left. This results in me A trusting it and putting a good stroke on or B pushing the putt cos after the back swing my brain forces me to push the ball where my eyes think it should be going. I have been trying to use a ping ketsch with slight arc but am continually missing right. A return to my yes Morgan (Napa) type blade fixes this but I really want the ketsch to work as so much more forgiving…

    • Mike

      Apr 1, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Try a putter with less offset (center shafted to 1/2). If you are like me (left eye dominate playing right handed golf), I aim better with a center shafted or at most a 1/2 offset putter. When I grab a 3/4 to full offset putter I aim too far to the left of target.

    • talljohn777

      Apr 1, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      I have had the same issue. Put a line on your ball, get behind your intended line and using both your eyes binocularly place the ball on your intended line with the line on the ball matching up with your intended line of putt, then step into your putt with the putter lining up with the line on your ball, now your putter is correctly aimed on your intended line, stroke the ball, make the putt.

  6. Rick Wright

    Mar 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    LASER OPTICS is actually the original putter alignment laser. My patented technology (US only) has been around for over 15 years. In 2013, I upgraded to a high power green laser, which can be seen prominently outdoors. I further changed the design allowing for the instructor/user to trace the aim line on the putting surface. This change allows assessment of alignment on straight or breaking putts from any length. Hurrion approached me at the 2014 PGA Show with the desire to have me develop an alignment laser specifically for the Quintic Ball Roll System. After prototypes were provided I never heard from him again. Although, I see he didn’t bother to change the shape of the laser base. Oh well, that’s the golf industry for you.

  7. M

    Mar 31, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Modern Golf – What if you have natural aiming tendencies due to eye dominance, etc? Wouldn’t changing a person to aim directly at the hole (if they are slightly off) cause their eyes and proprioception to send conflicting messages? How many professional golfers actual aim within the hole at 10 feet or more?

    • Modern Golf Staff

      Apr 2, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      This is not a what if, everyone has a dominant eye and tendencies due to this. The key is to find a putter that is easier to line up. Right eye dominant players have an easier time lining up putters with left offset. Also, they tend to have an open stance to their target to see the line better. using a laser will help identify what direction the alignment is off.
      Golf professionals struggle with this as well. They are human! The difference is they know their tendencies and have a good feel for alignment. outside of 10 feet the best putters in the world are making just over 20% of their putts.

  8. Paul

    Mar 31, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    I use a plumbers neck ping anser style putter. I have a slight arc.

    I often feel like I have to grip the putter firmly to stop the face closing over, which produces pulls if I leave it to go. Should I be using a face balanced putter?

    • M

      Mar 31, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      No you should be using a putter with more arc to allow the face to open more on the backswing. Then you won’t feel like you have to stop the putter from releasing.

      Try a Shea H or a Zing and see if it feels like you can release the putter more freely.

      • Rick Wright

        Mar 31, 2015 at 5:43 pm

        A putter does not create arc, the golfer does. With a couple of friends/colleagues I have developed the math which will plot an individual’s signature path based upon set up, posture, and relationship to ball position. If the golfer’s path does not match the projected path (usually due to preconceived notions), there is manipulation. The brain can typically manage small degrees of manipulation, but greater degrees can result in accuracy, impact, and ultimately, distance control issues.

        • talljohn777

          Apr 1, 2015 at 1:43 pm

          And why are you not sharing the information with the rest of the golf world???

        • Tiger Hoods

          Apr 1, 2015 at 6:37 pm

          Every putter has a rotational value that is engineered into the design. If that value doesn’t fit the rotational requirement of the golfer the golfer will feel off. I learned that from a great instructor at puttertalk.com

        • Modern Golf Staff

          Apr 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm

          Interesting Rick! We would love to chat more regarding the applied math. Maybe this is something we can implement here at Modern Golf.

        • Stretch

          Apr 4, 2015 at 11:17 am

          Nicely stated Rick. The manipulation is what leads to yippy strokes. The root cause of the manipulation is having the eyes aligned differently to the intended line the ball needs to roll on.

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The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.

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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An open letter to golf

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Dear golf,

I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.

It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.

On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.

This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.

As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.

I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.

When you are able to return in full, I will be here.

Sincerely,

Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)

 

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The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact

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One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.

As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.

I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.

So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.

So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.

I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.

I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.

If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.

[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]

It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.

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