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Bag Chatter: An Interview with Potters Putting

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Marcus Potter of Potter’s Putting.

I’m going to switch this up a little bit and give you a tiny bit of an introduction. I know Marcus Potter as the guy behind @potters_putting on Instagram. If anyone reading this is not following him yet, please go rectify that and come back for the rest of this article. Now that that’s out of the way, Marcus, tell us about Potters Putting.

Well, Potters Putting is an Instagram account and website that I started to spotlight putting specifically, as opposed to most accounts similar to me that focus more on full swings. It all started when I was in college. I played golf at San Jose State University and one of my buddies was playing poorly in a Golden State Tour event. I watched him on the practice green and gave him a few pointers. The next day, he shot 8-under par with 25 putts. After that, we had a 10-hour drive back and my buddies were like, “You know, you’re a good putter and you’re also really good at teaching people how to putt. You should start an Instagram account or something.” So, I was kind of like “What the heck? Sure why not,” mainly because I don’t think many other people were focusing solely on putting. So, I literally started the Instagram account on the drive back and just started posting content. I just posted videos of tour pros putting well and explained what made them great at putting. This was in March of this year (2017).

Talk to me about how it evolved into over 21.7K followers on Instagram in just a few short months?

Well, shortly after this whole thing started, I happened to be graduating from college. Things were kind of hectic at that point and I took almost all of May off. Then I got back into it, started posting like 2-3 videos a day and it really took off after that. Somewhere around July is where it kind of exploded, so to be honest, most of the growth has come in the last three or four months. The website came about to give people a way to reach me because I was getting completely overloaded through Instagram and I also wanted to be able to give online lessons.

Tell me about some of your personal putting heroes. Do you have anyone in particular that jumps to the front of your mind? What about them sticks out to you?

Tiger Woods comes to my mind first. His stroke is my personal favorite, but also I watched him make so many putts under pressure when I was growing up. It was remarkable. Yes, his mechanics are great, but his confidence and mental strength are just remarkable and those things are so important to putting I don’t think it could be overstated. Bobby Jones also sticks out to me. The things he talked about and the mechanics of his stroke are still relevant today and he was putting on greens that were like a 4 on the stimp.

How do you explain the exceptions to the rule, if you will?  By that, I mean there are a lot of very unconventional strokes that make it out on tour. Isao Aoki is always the first that comes to my mind. Bobby Locke is widely considered one of the greatest putters of all time and he did not have what most would consider to be a textbook putting stroke. What gives?

Well, about Bobby Locke specifically, if you’ve ever spent time trying to recreate his stroke, you’d notice that it does put a very good roll on the ball. I think the biggest key for people in that camp, though, is that their strokes worked for them. Before anything, I think putting is really all mental. If you really only care about visualizing the putt and starting the ball on line with a true roll and the right speed, then having the “perfect” stroke doesn’t really matter too much per se. There are fundamentals to great putting and they’re almost universally helpful, but if you spend a bunch of time trying to become someone you’re not, you’re not becoming a better putter at that point.

Talk a little more about the space between the ears when putting. When it comes to things like confidence, state of mind, strategy, etc., how would you break that down for the average golfer looking to get better?

It’s hard to adequately put into words, that’s for sure, but your state of mind plays such a huge role. For example, if I have a 10-foot birdie putt as opposed to a 10-foot par putt, it’s easy to think about those differently in your mind. With the birdie putt, I’m hoping I can pick up a shot. With the par putt, I’m doing everything I can to avoid dropping a shot. Those are two very different things.

I think routine is a huge deal when it comes to your mental approach to putting. I say that because it gets you in the right mindset (or at least a good routine should do that). Whatever your routine is (reading putts behind the hole, behind the ball, below the hole, whatever), when you lock it in and do it the same way every time, you aren’t focusing on anything outside of this one putt (including any pressure you may be under to make it). You’re in the moment because you’re focused on this putt, but you’re not focused on the pressure of the moment, which generally frees you up to roll the ball more effectively.

Lastly, make sure you don’t get static over the ball. This gives time for bad thoughts to creep in. When you’ve finished you’re routine and are standing over the ball, don’t just stand there. Some people take one last look at the hole right before firing. Some people use a forward press, which is also very effective. What you do is kind of up to you, but again just make sure you’re not standing still over the ball and thinking because that won’t end well.

So, after you’ve gone through your routine, read the putt and gotten set up, you have to swing the putter. I know each putting stroke is unique, but in your opinion what are some keys or fundamentals to a good putting stroke?

I would have to start by saying it’s always preferable to have an equal length backstroke and follow through (which varies depending upon the length of the putt, of course). That really helps with distance control.

Also, any kind of loop in the transition from back stroke to follow through is death. Seriously, it just kills a good putting stroke. The reason I say that is because once you do that, you immediately have to compensate after that. You went from being in a good position to now having to overcorrect to square the face of the putter again. It creates a lot of wasted motion, which there isn’t much time for in such a short swing. Also, if you do loop in the transition, very rarely will you loop the same way every time, so your timing will be off as a result. There’s just a lot of stuff that can go wrong. One of my favorite drills to combat the loop in transition is to take the putter back, hold it for a couple seconds, and then follow through to the ball. Sort of like a Hideki Matsuyama putt, if you will.

Also, don’t get too fast during the transition. It’s pretty subtle, but you need to smoothly go from taking the putter back to swinging it through the ball — not jerk it. The stroke needs to be fluid. Don’t try to hit or jab the ball. Just swing the putter and almost forget that there’s a ball in the way.

Lastly, I know we’ve already addressed this, but don’t be someone you’re not. If you have a unique stroke, but it works, own it. If you try to make yourself have a “TV” stroke, you might ruin yourself. Stick to what’s good for you, not necessarily what works for Tiger. The more natural you are over the ball, the better of a putter you’ll be.

Video of the pause drill used to improve timing and combat loop in the transition

That feels like a good place to transition over to talking about putters specifically, so I’ll start there. Do you think how well a putter fits your eye plays into this? Can you be confident and find a groove with a hideous putter?

Absolutely it plays a role. You can find a groove with a putter you don’t like the look of, but it will be a forced groove and therefore its effectiveness will be somewhat limited. It’s not the most important thing when purchasing a putter by far, but it does mean something. I’m fortunate to say that David Edel is a friend of my family’s and I’ve been custom fit by him personally. One of the things he says (which is kind of an extension of what we’re talking about) is that everyone lines up to different shapes differently. If I hand the same guy an Anser-style blade, a mid-mallet, and a Spider (for example), he will set those putters down on the ground differently and he will use them to frame the ball differently. Your alignment can be wildly different between different putters and that doesn’t even address how well it may or may not fit someone’s stroke. The shape of a putter and how well it fits your eye is definitely a big deal.

How often do you think people should switch their gamer?

That’s hard for me to say. I think you have to notice that most of the best putters will stick with their main squeeze for a very long time (Ben Crenshaw and his 8802, Stricker and his Odyssey #2, and so on). I’ve putted with the same putter since I was like 13 years old. It’s a Bobby Jones Edel putter. It’s one of like 8 putters that he got permission from the Bobby Jones family to use the name. It’s been very good to me over the years and at this point, I just trust it a lot, so I won’t mess with it.

Marcus Potter’s personal Edel putter

You’re obviously really active on social media. Present company excluded, who do you think are some of the best accounts to follow for golfers?

@shkeengolf is a teacher up in Canada who posts a lot of good instructional content. Andrew Rice (@andrewricegolf) is another teacher on Instagram that comes to mind. I guess what I like about those guys is that the way they explain what they’re teaching really makes it sink in. It’s not like WebMD like a lot of people where you’re chasing random symptoms and find out you may have testicular cancer or something. The stuff they post is meaningful and is explained in such a way that it really clicks.

If you could only have one mastered and struggle with the other, would you rather have perfect speed control or perfect line? Why?

Speed. All day long. If you hit a well-paced putt on a poor line it will only go so far offline. If you hit a putt on the right line with terrible pace, you’ll wind up farther away from the hole every time.

If today was your last day on earth, what would you have for dinner and where would you play golf?

If today was my last day on Earth, I would definitely play the Old Course. It’s No. 1 on my bucket list and if I knew I was not going to be around tomorrow, I would drop everything and go play it. I don’t care what I eat for dinner at that point. It could be McDonald’s for all I care.

Here’s your time for shameless promotion. Lay it out there. Tell people where to find you, what’s coming up next, what to look for, etc.

Well, we’ve mentioned the Instagram handle. I think the thing to talk about here is the website, which is www.pottersputting.com.   The big thing with the website is that through there, I can conduct online putting lessons with anyone regardless of their location. Most people don’t know that I do that as well. I get inundated through Instagram, so going through the website is definitely a better way to reach me. To do an online lesson, I need a face-on and a down-the-line view of you putting and I can do my lessons from anywhere. I do need to see your full body (head to toe) in both videos so I can accurately work with you. I have different lesson packages available and also an at-home practice guide. My main philosophy is that putting is really not as complicated as some people make it out to be. I try to keep it simple and free people up to become better putters in their own way.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. Follow Peter on twitter and Instagram using the links below.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Dec 28, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Bobby Locke used a anchored hand on his left knee, not the stroke that did his putting.
    when anyone think Tiger has a good putting mechanic I know they are lost.

  2. Doug

    Dec 26, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    I’ve followed him since late summer. In addition to the instruction, an added benefit was it got me excited about practicing putting. I found myself buying a smaller range bucket because I wanted to spend more time putting. The only problem was I’m in the midwest so the season ended right as my putting was picking up.

  3. alanp

    Dec 26, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    nice article!

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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