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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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. MC

    Feb 23, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    I would like to Vouch for him actually. I never had any of the above mentioned issues with him, I know him personally and this is not his character. Just thought someone should come to his defense

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. alanp

    Dec 26, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    nice article!

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How often should you actually get “Up-and-Down” based on your handicap?

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‘Up and Downs’ have long been the accepted measure of skill in the short game. The chart below shows average performance in this area for the PGA Tour and an array of handicap levels. How do you fit in?

A few points of definition: The above refers to short game shots around the green, other than from the sand. [Stay tuned: sand shots will be my next article.] I consider the short game to be all shots from within 50 yards of the hole. This distance was a topic of debate 30 years ago when I was developing my golf analysis program. I was fortunate to be working with Golf Digest Golf Schools and some of the top instructors were good enough to embrace the better form of game analysis that I was creating. In particular, I owe a great deal to Chuck Cook, Jack Lumpkin and Hank Johnson. Their help and encouragement in my early stages gave me a much needed boost of momentum. Little did we know that what I then called “Strokes Lost and Saved” would ultimately become the accepted standard of analysis on the PGA Tour — now know as “Strokes Gained.” Anyway, we agreed that 50 yards was the right distance range for the short game for two reasons:

  1. It represented the short game for virtually every handicap level, men and women.
  2. It was a short enough distance that it didn’t need to be sliced even further.

That said, I do NOT believe that “Up and Downs” are an appropriate or accurate measure of short game skill for two reasons:

  1. It represents the combination of two skills: Short Game and Putting.
  2. It ignores the ERRORS or shots that actually miss the green.

In my 30+ years of studying performance at all skill levels, I have found that it is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of bad shots (errors) that do more to influence a player’s scoring level than do all the good shots. Accordingly, I built the ability to capture data on the common errors in the game into ShotByShot.com.

The true measure of a player’s short game skill is their Strokes Gained in that facet. BUT, that is simply a number — a positive number is good and a negative number, not so much. But how then to best display the skill that is associated with the Strokes Gained number? I believe the combination of three stats to be the correct way to display short game skill:

  • Average putting distance, when the green is successfully hit.
  • Percent shots hit to within 5 feet of the hole
  • Percent errors, or shots that miss the putting surface.

Where does your game fall in these two important categories?

Note, that the two lines cross at about a 16 handicap. That is actually a better than average golfer yet for every Chip/Pitch shot that they successfully get to within 5 feet of the hole, they are also chunking or sculling one and missing the green altogether. Work to dramatically reduce the errors and that 16 will drop to 12 or 13?

You might ask: How can the PGA Tour make more errors than the scratch golfer? Good question! I have two explanations:

  1. They really are that good! Regardless of the relative difficulty of the shot, Tour players will go for it. They have the confidence that when they miss they will get the next up and down. At the same time, the amateur that has reached the lofty level of Scratch has generally done so thru rigorous consistency and the avoidance of errors. At the low handicap levels, a bogey can be acceptable but a mistake that results in a double is NOT.
  2. The tour Shotlink data considers the fringe of the green to be a miss whereas I recommend that players count the fringe as a green hit and a putting opportunity. Your long game has been efficient enough to get there and should be rewarded with the GIR. At the same time, to count the shot from the fringe as a short game shot will unfairly reward your short game skill for what was actually a putt.

That reminds me again of my very early days when Chuck Cook said to me: “Pete, Tour players don’t make errors in the short game!”  See Chuck, I was right, they do! For a Complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to: ShotByShot.com.

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