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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

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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