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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

Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Instruction

Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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