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How much arc should you have in your putting stroke? Well, it depends…

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Much has been written over the years regarding putting and the benefits of using a square-to-square putting stroke versus having some arc in the stroke. Personally, I’ve always gravitated toward what I call an “on-plane” putting stroke where the shaft of the club works back and thorough with minimal face rotation. In my opinion, this makes the stroke more natural and requires fewer manipulations from the player.

In order to train players to use this stroke, I first use the SAM Puttlab to help them understand their arc and rotation tendencies. From there, I begin to tighten up any loose motions using a simple on-plane putting stroke trainer I have called the Perfectstroke Putting Aid. Most people have trouble with too much face rotation and this aid tends to help keep it under control.

Here’s what the training aid look like from address.

StickneyPerfectStrokeGolfWRX

There’s a rail that the putter shaft rides back and forth along keeping it on plane, while the clear white line helps to show face rotation. While I make my backstroke you will notice a few things…

StickneyArcOnPlanePutting

  • The shaft remains on the rail and has remained “on-plane.”
  • The head has shifted inward on a very slight arc.
  • The face has rotated open slightly.

So how can you apply this to your stroke?

When you move the putter back and through, you’ll always see some type of arcing unless you train yourself to NOT have this motion. This is because the shaft lies on an inclined plane, naturally making the putter head move in the manner shown above.

Note: The more upright your putter, the easier it is to make a straight-back, straight-through stroke.

As the putter moves, you will also see a touch of face rotation; this is normal as long as it’s not forced. We want the stroke to be as natural as possible. Putters with different toe hangs allow for different amounts of rotation. Whether you prefer less or more arc will determine what style of putter you should use. Mallets tend to not open up as much, while putters with more toe hang tend to open much more.

SAM Putt lab can help immensely by not only identifying your stroke proportions, but also helping to fit you into the putter you prefer.

puttlab-rise (1)

I try to train the stroke on the Perfectstroke and then see how this affects putter head rotation. Using the SAM I can fine tune the face rotation and from there the stroke is much simpler to repeat.

Here are my keys to making a more “on-plane” putting stroke:

  • Practice with a training aid such as the Perfectstroke, other arc trainers, or using a bench — anything with a straight edge that the shaft can follow to train yourself to keep your stroke more “on-plane.”
  • Focus on how to make this stroke and what you feel in order to do so.
  • Try to curb excessive face rotation by experimenting with putters that have less toe hang, face-balanced putters and/or by using larger grips.
  • If doing this does not seem to help, practice putting with your left hand only and you will learn to curb your overactive face rotation.

As always, enjoy the experimenting process; it’s part of the fun!

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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

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Zinger Pinger

    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I thought that the most expensive, exotic, studio-designed putters machined from a solid block of sooft virgin 303 SS and proper heel-toe weighting design shapes would automatically bring itself to square at impact…. and even control distance …. after all, shouldn’t a $750 custom putter do all that for you …?!!

  2. PGFREE

    Apr 4, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Ian NAILED IT!!

  3. Dill Pickelson

    Mar 30, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    i would characterize it differently. my data shows it’s not that people arc too much as tiger arc’d more than almost every tour pro. the issue is people don’t square the face at impact. the average is 2 degrees open at impact (e.g. 50/50 from 7ft or so). it’s rare for someone to over rotate to closed at impact. it’s pretty impossible to have people restrict the arc on the backswing and then somehow naturally square it. let it open, let it close and just put the ball in the right place. the key is in the shoulders moving naturally (no rocking!) and the elbows also arcing’, bottoming BEHIND the ball not at it, etc…

  4. Ian

    Mar 28, 2017 at 8:52 am

    When my putting is off I try focus only on distance control. When my putting is on I try focus only on distance control.

    • Kevin

      Mar 28, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Excessive Face Rotation is the biggest culprit in solid contact for most players. Arc, is a function of length of putt/backstroke. I do believe on longer putts the stroke has a tendency to move toward the inside. Although, a 3 time winner on PGA Tour told me his coaches said he was taking the putter slightly outside. Whatever you do hit solid putts and concentrate on square and center contact!!

    • Mat

      Mar 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      Right on, Ian.

      First putt is all distance control. Sometimes it’ll go in. The skill is ensuring the second putt goes in. If putt two is difficult, putt one failed. And of course, solid contact is the best way to get consistency in face response for distance control.

      For whatever it’s worth, I’ve found for myself that I putt best with my right hand on top, like moving a computer mouse. Left hand stabilises under. Try things, but base your findings on how that distance control works!

    • Hans

      Mar 29, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      For a lot of players, distance control is the last thing to work on. Telling someone that can’t make a consistent stroke to worry about distance control first is waste of time. I used to be a bad putter. I learned to fix my alignment and get my stroke consistent and within no time my distance control improved tremendously. That’s because if you have problems with stroke you don’t get the consistent feedback needed to get the feel for distance control. Fix your stroke and distance control is easy. Once you are already a good consistent putter, sure work on distance control to refine your feel. Work on distance control is good advice for those that already good at putting. But for many with putting issues, fix the stroke first and distance control will follow.

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Instruction

Stickney: A dangerous trend is developing for top players

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As a teacher, I obviously have my own particular biases as it pertains to the different stroke patterns I teach to the random levels of golfers I see, however, one thing remains the same they ALL want a predictable ball flight in the end.

To me, it doesn’t matter if you swing it upright like Wolff or flatter like Kucher because they both work, as do all the swings in the middle IF they produce a consistent result under pressure. What we now understand with the advent of GEARS and Trackman is that everyone has their own individual motion and sure there are certain fundamentals that everyone great possesses but end the end we are all left to “find what works best” for us. And over time, the great players have gravitated towards the best and most desirable way that they swing the club without worrying what it looks like only what it produces.

However, I have been noticing a trend amongst the highest level of players that is disturbing…and this trend that we’ll be discussing in a second is beginning to filter down to the kids whom have ready access to launch monitors in high school and just entering into. This trend is the culprit of a two-way miss, albeit a very small one, but a two-way miss nonetheless all in efforts to try and hit the ball too straight.

First, let’s show you examples of some of the best players I have seen personally at the top amateur levels. Every one of these players shown below are proven winners and are ranked very highly nationally on the amateur and Division I college circuits.

I asked each player above what their normal ball flight was day-to-day and each replied, “mostly straight, but if I miss it then it tends to go X, but very, very slightly.” (For those Trackman users, these swings are “normalized,” which takes out the wind etc. for a touch more reality regardless of the conditions outside at the time.)

Now look in the left frame of each player’s swing, and you will see a blue line, and if you look closer, you will see that it is laying directly on top of a white line. The white line is the player’s target line—where they were trying to hit the ball. And the blue line is the PATH of the club for the particular swing shown.

What you will see is that the path of the club is basically “zeroed” out where the path and the target line are moving directly in the same direction. While this might seem like a great idea, in fact no one can play from this position because it’s impossible to zero out the path and clubface at the same time. No teacher in history has seen this consistently. We have seen very small face to path relationships but never 0 for the path, 0 for the face, 0 for the face to path, and 0 for the spin axis. We’re talking trying to manage a degree which is basically 1/6 to of a click of your second hand on your watch dial!

If you could play from a zero path and zero face, then this is what it would look like on Trackman. I have only seen 0 path and a 0 face just once in ALL the shots I have seen with Trackman, and the shot I am talking about curved way offline due to the fact that it was a longer club coupled with a faulty impact position (gear effect).

Now here is the key for people who desire a ball flight that curves as little as possible and zeroing out the path is not the answer! The key is to play with a face to path ratio that is very, very low which helps to lower the ball’s spin axis and thus the ball would curve slightly. If you have the path sitting a couple of degrees left or right of the path then you will be able to have some predictability of your curvature which will give you freedom when you don’t have our “A” swing working that day.

NOTE: Think about pro bowlers, how many do you see that roll the ball directly at the head pin?! Zero. They curve the ball to some degree for more predictability.

As we know, in order to hit the ball where we want, we need to have some consistent curvature and when the path is on top of the target-line a slight twist of the face right or left causes baby pulls or baby pushes.

The goal of ballstriking efficiency is to eliminate ONE side of the course.

Secondly, we know that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face at impact and will curve away from the path with a centered hit. Therefore, regardless of the curvature left to right or right to left you must work in this order- PATH then the FACE then the Target (as shown below) if not then you will hit pushes and pulls, slices and hooks!

Let’s examine this player above, who moves the ball left to right. We see a path that is leftward at basically -3.0 degrees and the face is almost -2.0 degrees left of the target but only 1.0 degree RIGHT of the path thus the ball curved gently left to right. For players desiring a mostly “straight” ball without the danger of missing it both ways, then the path has to be just far enough left or right of the target line so that the face can fit between the path and the target so you can begin the ball in the correct direction before it begins to curve. This reduction in the face-to-path relationship is the forgotten fundamental of the straight ball hitters!

As you can see, this player has a path that is slightly leftward and the face is only 1 degree rightward of this causing a very low face-to-path, and from this point, he has a spin axis of 0.3 meaning the ball barely moved rightward. This is the key to hitting the ball straighter…not zeroing out the path but reducing the FACE-to-PATH relationship! This cannot be mastered with a zeroed-out path because the face won’t consistently have room to fit between your path and target line as discussed. Thus you will hit micro-pulls or micro-pushes giving you the dreaded two-way miss…all because you have the path working too much down the line!

Path, face, and target…in that order will help you reduce your face to path difference and this will help you to lower your ball’s spin axis and straighter but MORE PREDICTABLE ball flights will ensue. Anything else spells disaster for the people who desire a “straight” ball flight!

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Instruction

Clement: Stop hanging back

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Whether you are a beginner hanging back or an advanced player hanging back, there are very specific reasons for this as well as a very specific task to focus on to OBLITERATE this issue. You will CLEARLY see how this simple task will engage your machine’s hard drive And get you the action you need to hit quality golf shots; TODAY!

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Instruction

Clark: On learning golf

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“A true teacher will teach how to think, not what to think”

There are several versions of the above adage, but when you teach every day, you get to see this up close and personal. In my opinion, all a teacher can do is to guide you as to what happens when you hit a golf ball. The student has to discover what works for them to achieve better results. It is that simple. The internet is loaded with “how-to” info, and some of it might actually apply to your individual issue, but do yourself a big favor: Go beat some balls and see how it goes; try this, try that, repeat steps one and two!

Let’s take turning as a classic example. If someone were to ask a teacher HOW to turn, there could be a dozen answers. What the teacher, the data, video show is simply this: You are NOT turning. Let’s try this, let’s try that, no, how about this? There are an unlimited number of ways, but the student needs to: FIRST, realize the lack or incorrectness of turn, and SECOND, find a way to do it. Any way, YOUR way. This is called participating in your learning and discovering process. When Ben Hogan said: “the secret is in the dirt,” this is precisely what he was referring to. 

I have a short section each day in my golf school dedicated to the ballistics of impact. A student needs to know exactly what happens at impact. And when you know what produces good flight, then find what you personally are doing to violate those laws. How to correct an open and/or closed clubface means nothing to a student who doesn’t know what open or closed actually is, or does. Swing path and its relationship to clubface resulting in ball flight curvature is knowledge every teacher has, but is like rocket science to the student who knows none of this. I once had a student who thought his shanks were coming off the toe! When I told him that just the opposite was happening, he immediately moved away from the ball a little and stopped shanking (there were other reasons he shanked but just that much knowledge got him off the hosel!)

In order to correct anything, anything at all, it is first necessary to discover the problem and find a way, any way to correct it. No teacher, book, TV tip, or article can do what you can do for yourself. All the teacher might do is make you aware of the problem. But in the end, just go play and try this, that and the other thing. The answer is there, believe me, the answer is in you. You have to find it!

The problem, very often, is that golfers are looking for someone to offer them a light bulb moment, a flash of “aha,” the “I’ve-got-it-now” solution. The aha moment is the only way to get sustained improvement, but it must come from you, the individual. There is no universal “light-bulb moment,” it is uniquely-yours alone to discover.  As I’ve said before, “it’s not what I cover, it’s what you discover.” Discover what? That “thing” you can grasp and go hit ball after ball until you have, at least to a functional degree, internalized it!

Good luck on your personal journey!

On a personal note, this will be my final article for GolfWRX. I have written 100-plus articles over the last 10 years or so and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping all of you who read my articles.

If you read through them on some rainy day, you’ll notice a theme: “If this, then that.” Meaning: If your golf ball is consistently doing that, try this. The articles are all archived on this site, and I am writing a book about my life on the lesson tee. It has been a labor of love as my whole career has been. There is no greater joy in my professional life than seeing the look on a golfers face and feel the joy within them when they improve. The minute that slice straightens, or that ground ball goes up in the air, is a special bond and a shared joy in the student-teacher relationship.

But I’ve said most of what I think is pertinent and anything after this would be redundant. There is now a plethora of how-to info out there, and I personally feel the reader may begin to think he/she should do this or that as opposed to thinking “I should try to discover this or that through my own personal exploration.”

If any of you wish to contact me directly regarding help with your game, you know how to do so. But do remember this: You cannot learn golf from words or pictures. My advice is to get a good teacher to look at you a few times, then go out and find the answer in the dirt. Golf is a game to played. And in that playing, in that trial-and-error process, you will find things that will help you achieve better outcomes. No one owns this game: We only to get to borrow it from time to time!  

 

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