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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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Instruction

Faults & Fixes: Losing height in your swing

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In this week’s Fault and Fixes Series, we are going to examine the issues that come with losing your height during the swing and its effect on your low point as well as your extension through and beyond impact.

When a professional player swings, there is usually very little downward motion through the ball. Some is OK, but if you look at this amateur player you will see too much. When the head drops downward too much something, has to give and it’s usually the shortening of the swing arc. This will cause issues with the release of the club.

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Dangers of overspeed training revealed: What to do and what not to do

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Speed: a key factor to more money on tour. The key component sought after by many amateur golfers to lower their scores. The focus of many infographics on social media this past PGA Tour season. A lot of people say speed matters more than putting when it comes to keeping your tour card and making millions.  

Overspeed Training: the focus on tons of training aids as a result of the buzz the pursuit of speed has created. The “holy grail” for the aging senior golfer to extend their years on the course. The “must do” training thousands of junior golfers think will bring them closer to playing college golf and beyond.  

Unfortunately, overspeed training is the most misunderstood and improperly implemented training tool I see used for speed in the industry. Based on the over 50 phone calls I’ve fielded from golfers around the world who have injured themselves trying it, it is leading to more overuse injuries in a sport where we certainly don’t need any help creating more than we already have. Luckily, these injuries are 100 percent preventable if you follow the few steps outlined below.

Don’t let your rush to swing faster get you hurt. Take five minutes to read on and see what the industry has not been forthcoming with until now.  

Understanding how to increase your speed safely and with as little work possible is the path to longevity without injury. If you could train 75 percent less (to the tune of about 8,000 fewer reps a year) and still see statistically comparable results, would you rather that? 

I would.

Would it make sense to you that swinging 8,000 times fewer (low volume protocols versus high volume protocols) would probably decrease your risk of overuse injuries (the most common injury for golfers)?  

I think so.

But I’ll let you draw your own conclusions after you finish reading.   

Your Challenge

Your biggest challenge is that the answer to more speed for you is not the same as it is for your friends. It differs depending on many factors, but there are four main ones that you can start with. Those four are 

  1. Your equipment
  2. Your technical prowess
  3. Your joint mobility at your rotary centers (neck, shoulders, spine, and hips) 
  4. Your ability to physically produce power  

If you are not totally clear on these, I’d recommend checking out the earlier article I wrote for GolfWRX titled Swing speed: How do you compare? Go through the testing as outlined and you’ll know the answer to these four areas in five minutes.

Basically, you have the potential to pick up speed by optimizing your equipment (ie. find the right shaft, etc), optimizing the technical element of your swing for optimal performance (ie. launch angles, etc) or by optimizing your body for the golf swing. Understanding how to best gain speed without putting your body at risk both in the short and long term is what 95 percent of golfers have no idea about. It is the single biggest opportunity golfers have to make lasting improvements to not only their golf game but their overall health.

Are You a Ticking Time Bomb?

In my earlier article (link above), I described three main categories when it came to physical factors. Step one is to determine what category you are in.

The first option is that you might be swinging faster than your body is able to control. In this case, you are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in injury. We all know that friend who just has a year-round membership to the local physio or chiro because they are always hurt. If this is you, DO NOT try overspeed training, it will only make your visits to the physio or chiro more frequent. There are much better areas to spend your time on.

The second situation might be the rare, sought-after balanced golfer. You might have great mobility in the four main rotary centers (hips, spine, shoulders, and neck) and your swing speed matches your physical power output abilities. It should be noted that based on our mobility research of almost 1,000 golfers, 75 percent of golfers over the age of 40 don’t have full rotary mobility in at least one of the four centers. When you age past 50, that 75 percent now applies to at least two rotary centers. Hence why “the balanced golfer” category is elusive to most golfers.

The final option is the sexy, exciting one; the “more RPMs under the hood” golfer. This is the one where overspeed training is your fountain of youth and you can pick up 10, 15, even 20 yards in a matter of weeks. You might have more RPM’s under your hood right now. Being in this category means you physically are able to produce way more power athletically than you are doing in your golf swing currently.  

The Good News

The “more RPMs under the hood” golfer describes over 50 percent of amateur golfers. Most of you sit at work and don’t train your body to move at maximal speeds outside of when you swing the golf club. The number of adults and senior golfers who train maximal speed at the gym, run sprints and train with plyometrics (correctly) is under five percent.

Why is this good news?

Because if you don’t move fast at any point in your life other than on the golf course right now, doing pretty much anything fast repetitively will make you faster. For instance, you can jump up and down three times before you hit a drive and your speed will increase by 2-3 mph (6-9 yards) just from that according to a research study.

This means that for the average amateur, adult golfer in this category, picking up 5-8 mph (12- 20-plus yards) almost immediately (it won’t stick unless you keep training in though) is incredibly simple.

The Bad News & The Fine Print

Remember earlier when I mentioned you needed to “also have full mobility in the four main rotary centers” and that “75 percent of adults over the age of 50 lack mobility in at least two rotary centers?” 

That’s the bad news.

Most golfers will get faster by simply swinging as hard as they can. Unfortunately, most golfers also will get hurt swinging maximally repeatedly because they have to compensate for the lack of rotational mobility in those rotary centers. 

This should be a big bold disclaimer, but is often not. This is the fine print no one tells you about. This is where the rubber meets the road and the sexiness of overspeed training crashes and burns into the traffic jam of joints that don’t move well for most amateur golfers.  

Your Solution

The first step to your solution is to make sure you have full rotational mobility and figure out what category of golfer your body puts you in. As a thanks for being a WRX reader, here is a special link to the entire assessment tool for free. 

After you determine if you have the mobility to do overspeed training safely and you know if you are even in the category that would make it worthwhile, the second and final step is to figure out how many swings you need to do.

How Many Swings are too Many?

Concisely, you don’t need more than 30 swings two times per week. Anything more than that is unnecessary based on the available research.  

As you digest all of the research on overspeed training, it is clear that the fastest swing speeds tend to occur with the stronger and more powerful players. This means that first, you need to become strong and be able to generate power through intelligent workout plans to maximize performance, longevity and reduce injury likelihood. From here, overspeed training can become an amazing tool to layer on top of a strong foundation and implement at different times during the year.

To be clear, based on the two randomized overspeed studies that Par4Success completed and my experience of training thousands of golfers, it is my opinion that overspeed training works in both high volume (100s of swings per session) and low volume protocol (30 swings per session) formats exactly the same. With this being the case, why would you want to swing 8,000 more times if you don’t have to? 

The research shows statistically no difference in speed gained by golfers between high-volume overspeed protocols compared to low volume ones. Because of this, in my opinion, high volume protocols are unnecessary and place golfers at unnecessary risk for overuse injury. This is especially true when they are carried out in the absence of a customized strength and conditioning program for golf.     

Rest Matters

In order to combat low-quality reps and maximize results with fewer swings, it is necessary to take rest breaks of 2-3 minutes after every 10 swings. Anything less is not enough to allow the energy systems to recover and diminishes your returns on your effort. If these rests are not adhered to, you will fatigue quickly, negatively impacting quality and increasing your risk of injury.  

Rest time is another reason why low volume protocols are preferable to high volume ones. To take the necessary rests, a high volume protocol would take more than an hour to complete. With the lower volume protocols you can still keep the work time to 10 minutes.   

The Low Volume Overspeed Protocol

You can see the full protocol in the full study reports here. It is critical you pass the first step first, however before implementing either protocol, and it is strongly recommended not to do the overspeed protocol without a solid golf performance plan in place as well in order to maximize results and reduce risk of injury.

This is just the first version of this protocol as we are currently looking at the possibility of eliminating kneeling as well as some other variables that are showing promising in our ongoing research. Be sure to check back often for updates!

Commonly asked questions about overspeed training…

Once initial adaptations have occurred, is there any merit to overspeed training long term?  

None of the studies that I was able to find discussed longitudinal improvements or causation of those improvements. This is the hardest type of research to do which speaks to the lack of evidence. No one actually knows the answer to these questions. Anyone saying they do is guessing.

Do the initial gains of overspeed training outperform those of traditional strength and conditioning?  

There appears to be a bigger jump with the addition of overspeed training than solely strength and conditioning, by almost threefold.  In 6 and 8 weeks respectively, the average gain was just around 3 mph, which is three times the average gain for adult golfers over a 12 weeks period with just traditional strength and conditioning. 

Can we use overspeed training as a substitute for traditional strength and conditioning?

No. Emphatically no. It would be irresponsible to use overspeed in isolation to train golfers for increased speed. First off, increasing how fast someone can swing without making sure they have the strength to control that speed is a means to set someone up for injury and failure. Secondly, if they are appropriate and you increase someone’s speed, you also need to increase their strength as well so that it keeps up with the demands the new speed is putting on their body.   

Are long term results (1 year+) optimized if overspeed training is combined with traditional strength and conditioning vs in isolation or not at all?  

It would appear, based off our longitudinal programs that using overspeed training periodized in conjunction with an athlete-specific strength and conditioning program and sport-specific training (ie. technical lessons, equipment, etc—not medicine ball throws or cable chops) in a periodized yearly plan maximizes results year to year.  

In order to keep decreases in club speed to no more than three-to-five percent during the competitive season (as is the normal amount in our data), it is imperative to keep golfers engaged in an in-season strength and conditioning program focused on maximal force and power outputs. By minimizing this in-season loss, it assures that we see gains year over year.  

It is unclear if overspeed training in conjunction with strength and conditioning during the season further decreases this standard loss due to nervous system fatigue, but this would be a great area for future research.  

What sort of frequency, protocols or volume should one utilize for maximal benefit and minimal risk of injury?  

Most of the studies that I was able to find specifically on swinging looked at about 100 swings three times per (baseball). The Superspeed protocols which are the most popular in the golf world, follow a similar volume recommendation after an initial ramp up period. It is a concern, especially with untrained individuals, that adding more than 11,000 maximal effort swings over the course of year might increase risk for injury due to the incredible increase in load. Especially for the amatuer golfer who only plays on the weekends and does not engage in a strength and conditioning program, this is a significant volume increase from their baseline.

The Par4Success studies in 2018-19 found no significant difference in swing speed gains between high volume protocols and a lower volume protocol which required only 30 swings, 2x/week but required a 2 minute rest between every 10 swings.

More studies beyond these two need to be done looking at this, but it would be my recommendation, specifically in golf, not to engage in the high volume protocols as it does not appear to increase speed gains while also increasing load on the athlete significantly.  

Do any potential gains of overspeed training outperform the traditional methods that are proven to transfer to sport?

It does not appear that overspeed training is superior to any one training method, but rather a tool to use in conjunction with other proven methods. The key here is to assess yourself and look to implement this type of training when mobility is not an issue and the physical ability to produce power is higher than the ability to generate club speed. In the right scenario, overspeed training can be a game-changing tool. In the wrong scenario, it can be a nail in a golfer’s coffin.

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Faults and Fixes: Arms too far behind body at the top

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In this week’s Faults and Fixes, we’ll look at the issue of the older player getting the arms too far behind the body at the top. When this happens, the clubhead speed is compromised, and the ability to create height, spin, and distance is diminished. For older players, Brandel Chamblee has the right idea by wanting the left heel to raise and the arms to work themselves into a more upright position.

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