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4 keys to developing a more consistent putting stroke

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One of the most important aspects of putting is the repeatability of your stroke. That’s because reading putts perfectly isn’t very helpful unless you can consistently control your speed and direction on the greens.

The average amateur has little control over how the putter moves back and forth, thus they have little consistency in how the ball comes off the blade. The mechanical side of putting is all about getting the ball to leave the putter face exactly where you want it to.

The question is, how can golfers accomplish greater consistency on the green? Below are 4 keys to help you hone the repeatable putting stroke you’ve always wanted.

The Four Keys

  • Address Alignment of the Putter Face
  • Impact Alignment of the Putter Face
  • The Path of the Putter Head
  • The Rotation of the Putter Head

Note: Before I begin, I want to make clear that I’m only focusing on the horizontal (side-to-side) launch of the ball, which governs the starting direction of your putt based on your intended line. We’ll assume you have perfect vertical (up-and-down) launch characteristics, which will be the topic of another story. 

1) Address Alignment of the Putter Face

It’s nearly impossible to be consistent on the greens if your putter face is aimed away from your target line.

In your practice sessions (on a real putting green or your carpet at home), use visual keys in practice such as putting mirrors, T-squares, chalk lines and lines on the golf ball so you can understand the difference between open, closed and square.

Don’t forget about putter designs! Different players respond differently to certain designs, and finding the right match for you could drastically improve your alignment. Take the time to read what David Edel says about how your alignment changes with different putters.

Also, I highly encourage you to use some kind of putting analysis technology at your closest fitter or instructor that has the technology. It can help you diagnose a problem that you may not even have known existed. I personally recommend SAM Puttlab, an ultrasound machine that measures more than 20 different factors of a putting stroke.

Below is an example of the feedback that SAM Puttlab offers. I have used it in my academies for more than 10 years to give my students a better understanding of their putting motion.

StickneyAlignment1

First, note the alignment of the blade at address. You can see that this player has a propensity to line up the face about 2.5-degrees open (to the right) of his intended target. It’s true that many players have issues aiming the putter perfectly at address, which they have to make up for during the stroke by altering their club face or club path into the ball. The more manipulation you have in your stroke, the more you have to rely on your hand/eye coordination to take over for your faulty alignments.

If you’re new to SAM, consult a professional instructor to ensure you’re reading the results properly. Diagnosing your issues is key to developing a plan to improve.

2) Impact Alignment of the Putter Face 

The second factor in putting consistency is the ability to return the blade to square at impact. As we saw above, the sample player’s putter was 2.5-degrees open at address, meaning an adjustment had to be made during the stroke to avoid pushing the ball to the right.

StickneyNumber1Key

Thankfully, this player closed the putter face during the stroke and had a path that was right down the line. Ultimately, his horizontal launch conditions were not skewed, but it’s a move that’s very difficult to repeat consistently. It’s best to start with a square face, and return the face to square at impact.

NOTE: The face angle of the putter at impact accounts for more than 80 percent of a balls starting direction.

3) The Path of the Putter Head

StickneyAlignmentFeaturePutting devices that provide feedback based on starting direction are very effective. The training aid above is from Perfect Putter, which leaves no doubt whether your putt was hit on line or not.

I am not so concerned with what your stroke shape looks like (square-to-square or on an arc), but I do care where the ball starts. It’s tough to putt the ball through the gate if you have a face angle or path that isn’t on the intended target line. Remember, if you can align yourself properly at address, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of adjustments needed during the stroke.

4) The Rotation of the Putter Head

The last key is how the putter opens and closes during the stroke. The rate of closing is very important and highly correlated to the type of putter and putting stroke you employ.

FaceRotationStickneySimply put, if you use more of a square-to-square method, you should gravitate toward a face-balanced putter. The more arc you employ in your stroke, the more you should seek a putter with toe hang. Of course, this is a general rule, but one that works more often than not.

To test the putter you are using, balance the shaft on your index finger and see where the face of the putter points. If it points directly skyward you have a face-balanced putter; if not, you have a toe-hanging putter of some kind.

Getting your stroke diagnosed and finding the right putter can definitely be accomplished during the winter, so no excuses. Plus, you can practice your stroke and alignments while putting in your living room. Happy experimenting!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Brendan

    Dec 28, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Tom what is the name/brand of the alignment tools shown in the photos, looks simple but effective and would fit nicely in the golf bag

  2. kevin

    Dec 23, 2016 at 8:24 am

    http://www.getthepointgolf.com Face angle and center strikes at impact !! Practice how you play!

  3. Stick

    Dec 23, 2016 at 3:51 am

    Just use this thing, it’s been mentioned before in the forums
    http://www.tru-rollputters.com

  4. Chris

    Dec 22, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Help me understand. The article about 4 keys to developing a consistent putting stroke. If I look at your 4 keys, they are more about modifying your stroke to fit theoretical perfection.

    Address Alignment of the Putter Face – you indicate that you need to be aimed at the target to be consistent; yet you show a Puttlab report for a person that is pretty consistent in their current setup although open to the target line. Last time I checked, the ball doesn’t know anything about where my putter is pointed at setup. The ball as you stated reacts to your second key which is impact.

    Impact Alignment of the Putter Face – You show a player that has nearly perfect path and a putter that pretty much ends up closed at impact. Overall this is a pretty consistent stroke that probably doesn’t need to change. Why do you think the player made an adjustment instead of having a stroke that has a lot of rotation?

    The Path of the Putter Head – How often do you find a player that has or can achieve a perfect stroke? You also seem to imply that alignment somehow influences the stroke. How does alignment influence stroke? Do you completely overhaul a players full swing if they have a tendency to align left or right? Why change a persons stroke if teh path is left of right?

    The Rotation of the Putter Head – This is the key to everthing you discussed in the article which is finding a putter that matches your stroke. In this diagram while the score isn’t high, the player has very consistent rotation.

    The stroke you show with 80% influece of the face at impact is probably a pretty good stroke overall and the person makes a lot of putts. I doubt that the player has any manipulations due to the consistency so why would you advocate the person learn a new setup? Why not as you state in the last section find a putter that has a less rotation that will help the player start the ball online even more consistently. If the player had a stroke that was biased to the left or right; which I would be the overwhelming majority of players do, is it easier to change their stroke or to change their putter?

    • Stanley

      Dec 22, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      You can always play with that you have, but everyone is able to change putter path (or more exacty, the swing direction). An positiv angle of attack is preferred with the putter. A lefty motion will move the lowest point more towards the left foot (righthanded) and make the angle of attack more negativ.

      A fitted putter would never be able to compensate for a bad movement. The rotation of the putterhead is mostly a result of a grip too much in the fingers and standing to far away from the ball.

      • Stanley

        Dec 22, 2016 at 8:39 pm

        You can always play with that you have, but everyone is able to change putter path (or more exacty, the swing direction). An positiv angle of attack is preferred with the putter. A lefty motion will move the lowest point more towards the left foot (righthanded) and make the angle of attack more negativ.

        A fitted putter would never be able to compensate for a bad movement. To much rotation in the putterhead is mostly a result of a grip too much in the fingers and standing to far away from the ball.

      • Chris

        Dec 22, 2016 at 10:05 pm

        Yes, everyone is able to change putter path, but how long will it take to ingrain the change. Is it better to fit yourself to a putter or a putter to you. If you are suggesting moving closer to the ball and changing grip, you are changing how the person sees the line of the putt and making a significant overhaul in stroke mechanics.
        What is your definition of “bad movement”?

        The funny thing about the puttlab report that is part of this article is that they are snapshots from Tiger’s Puttlab report in 2010 and I wouldn’t consider him a bad putter or want to change his mechanics.

  5. PinHigh

    Dec 22, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Tom’s article is based on simple facts that golfers overlook. Tom thank you for the reminder, that simple. Keep doing what you do and don’t listen to the noise.

  6. alexdub

    Dec 22, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Showing some love for the rusted out TeI3 Santa Fe. Such a beautiful putter.

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The value of video

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In the age of radar and 3-D measuring systems, video analysis has somewhat taken a backseat. I think that’s unfortunate for a few reasons. First of all, video is still a great assist to learning, and secondly, it is readily available and it can be accessed continually.

Of course, it has limitations, that is a given. It is ultimately a 2-D image of a three-dimensional motion. The camera cannot detect true path, see plane, and can be misleading if not positioned properly. That said, I still use it on every lesson, because, in my experience, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Things like posture, ball position, and aim can all be seen clearly when the camera is positioned exactly as it should be. In swing observations such as maintenance of posture, club angles, arms in relation to body, over the top, under, early release can all be a great help to any student.

But the real value is in the “feel versus real” area! None of us, from professional to beginner, can know what we are actually doing. The very first reaction I get upon viewing, is “wow, I’m doing that?” Yes, you are. You did NOT pick up your head as you thought you were doing, you ARE lifting well out of your posture, you are NOT coming “over the top”, your aim is well left of where you think you’re aiming, your club is pointing well right of your aim point at the top of the swing, your transition is excessively steep, your lead arm is very bent at impact, the clubhead is past your hands, your wrists are cupped or bowed and on and on!

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I never evaluate video without knowledge of ball flight or impact. If one were to observe a less-than-conventional swing, perhaps a Jim Furyk, with knowing how he put matching components together, it might seem like a problem area. Great players have matching components, lesser players do not! IMPACT is king!

I have a video analysis program, as I’m sure your instructor, or someone in your area, does as well. It can only help to take a good, close slow motion look at what is actually happening in your swing.  It takes very little time, and the results can be massively beneficial to your golf swing.

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Happy Father’s Day weekend and U.S. Open weekend at none other than Pebble Beach weekend! Whoa, cannot wait to see the golf action today!

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