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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

Walters: Avoid these 3 big chipping mistakes!

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Chipping causes nightmares for so many amateur golfers. This s mainly due to three core mistakes. In this video, I talk about what those mistakes are, and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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6 reasons why golfers struggle with back pain: Part 1

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others.

You find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

 

Back pain is by far the most common complaint among regular golfers. It is estimated that up to 35 percent of amateur golfers endure lower back injuries. And in our experience working with tour players, the prevalence is even higher in the professional ranks! 

Back pain can affect our ball striking and short game, diminish our enjoyment of the game, or even stop us playing altogether. It can make us feel anxious about playing (and making the pain worse) and just generally disappointed with current performance falling way short of our expectations. 

There is certainly no shortage of information on the topic of back pain, and with myriad back pain products and supplement options available, confusion about the best path to pain-free golf is one of the main reasons we don’t actually do anything effective to alleviate our suffering! 

We aim to present in this article an easy-to-digest explanation of the common causes of back pain, alongside some simple and practical ways to address the underlying issues. 

The recommendations we make in this article are generic in nature but effective in many of the low back pain cases we have worked with. However, pain can be complex and very specific to the individual. You should seek the personalized advice of a medical or exercise professional before undertaking any form of remedial exercise.

Reason 1 – Lack of mobility in 2 key areas

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected. 

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Area 1 – Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercises – Hip Mobility

Foam roll glutes, you can also use a spiky ball

90 90 hip mobility drills, fantastic for taking the hips through that all important internal rotation range

90 90 Glute Stretch – great for tight glutes / hips

Area 2 – Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

Foam rolling mid / upper back

 

Cat / Camel – working the T-Spine through flexion and extension

 

Reach backs – working that all important T-Spine rotation

Reason 2 – Alignment and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right and back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and/or below.

For example, if we have short/tight/overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knee to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain. This would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance

Reason 3 – Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

 

The 3 major spinal curves – 1-Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures. 

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

Fortunately, re-establishing good posture is really simple and you can combine the information and exercises featured in the videos below with the mobility exercises featured in the Reason 1 section above. The equipment used in the videos is the GravityFit TPro – a favorite of ours for teaching and training posture with both elite and recreational players.

 

In the next installment of this article, we will cover reasons 4, 5 and 6 why golfers suffer from back pain – 4) Warming Up (or lack thereof!), 5) Core Strength and 6) Swing Faults.

 

If you would like to see how either Nick or Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

Nick Randall – golffitpro.net

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