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What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Roy

    Jun 24, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    This drill is legit. Sounds crazy to “not think” but that doesn’t mean to not have a plan or try; it means trust yourself and don’t “control”. The brain nows what we’re trying to do… it’ll make the necessary calculations and come up with a firing solution IF you load the correct data (speed in this case). This drill definitely works and’ll will help a player learn to get out of their own way.

  2. Ray Bennett

    Jun 23, 2018 at 9:48 am

    I agree that the eyes organise our body movements. When we turn our head the very first thing to move is our eyes. Try turning your head and moving your eyes in the opposite direction in the one movement. How did you do?
    Our eyes have two different muscles, one set to focus sight and the other set to move the eyes. The latter are directly connected to the shoulders. Therefore, it is important to activate the focus eye muscles and not the eye movement muscles during the putting stroke – putt with still eyes.

  3. millennial82

    Jun 22, 2018 at 10:27 am

    “feel” is lining up to putt and understanding how to get the ball in the hole with 1 stroke.. you only “learn feel” after you hit a million balls.. practice till you “feel”.

    or when you miss your putt blame the putter/ greens/ slope/ sky/ earth/ wind/ government/ tariffs and everything else.. but, not your lack of practice you hacker!

  4. Boyo

    Jun 22, 2018 at 8:16 am

    I know exactly what I’m feelin’
    I’m sorry that I care, care
    It’s really not that fair

  5. JZ

    Jun 21, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Is it just me, or are the majority of courses I play practice greens different than the actual playing greens? The practice greens are usually in pristine condition while the actual greens are slower and not in the shape. The courses want the playing areas around the proshop in perfect shape and don’t put as much time and money into the actualy playing greens.

    Or that’s my excuse for being a streaky putter….

    • etc.

      Jun 21, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Feel is found between the bedsheets…. or mastergearheadbater’s WITB beauties…

    • Boyo

      Jun 22, 2018 at 7:59 am

      You are absolutely correct. I can’t count how many times I’ve putted on practice greens only to get on the course and they are as similar as cats and dogs….

  6. ~j~

    Jun 21, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Not sure I’d go through all of that above, but my best putts come when I lose all focus on everything except the putting motion. Line up, zone out, putt. On the practice greens before rounds I’ll set up & line up, then close my eyes and make putts a certain distance until I’m comfortable with my motion.

    • lance

      Jun 21, 2018 at 11:45 am

      I just focus on the hole…. my girlfriend’s…. 😮

  7. david

    Jun 21, 2018 at 7:38 am

    very original

  8. GearBoi

    Jun 21, 2018 at 12:13 am

    I get the best feel with my new Scotty Cameron Futura X7 Counter Balance Putter. They are beauties.

    • Realist

      Jun 21, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Subjective and what does using a Scotty have to do with this article.

      • lance

        Jun 21, 2018 at 11:46 am

        He loves his putter…. otherwise his life is lonely….

  9. Jake

    Jun 21, 2018 at 12:02 am

    Putter head weight has increased substantially in the last 10 years. That will obviously deaden “feel” and control of the stroke. What is your take on “heavy” putters and feel? Thanks.

    • Acemandrake

      Jun 21, 2018 at 9:59 am

      This has been my experience. Heavy putters are great for short putts but I struggle to gauge the feel/distance on medium & long putts.

      I’ve gone back to my Odyssey 2-Ball putter after using a Futura 6M and improved my distance control.

      • geoh

        Jun 21, 2018 at 9:42 pm

        Would we have more or less feel using a pen that was 5 times larger in diameter than normal?
        or for an artist to use a brush as large as the latest putter grips?

        The heavier putters and larger grips provide less feel and is an attempt to boil putting down to
        a big muscle movement. Loss of feel ?
        Heavy putter heads and grips, (the placebo effect is true 60% of the time).
        another very costly WOOD

    • geoh

      Jun 21, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      Is it a coincidence that heavier and larger grips come with those heavier heads?
      The heavier heads require counter weighting. How much different is he SW in the end?
      its about marketing, and maybe putters are the last frontier for mfg.

  10. K

    Jun 20, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Think Lee Trevino said something like “You want to get good at this game? Then you gotta move a lot of dirt!” Hogan might have said something similar too…..

    • Aaron

      Jun 21, 2018 at 12:15 am

      So, do you take a divot with your putts?!!

      • Realist

        Jun 21, 2018 at 10:06 am

        This person is saying you have to practice to have feel…

        • lance

          Jun 21, 2018 at 11:47 am

          No, practice will make you numb to feel. You got it or you don’t.

  11. Geohogan

    Jun 20, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    The intent to clear the mind of thought is a thought.
    That thought will be followed by another and another. its how our minds work.

    We need the proper intent for every endeavor. That doesnt mean to consciously
    try to direct each body part. That would be internal focus.
    Proven most effective (ref Gabrielle Wulf) is external focus.(a thought)

    • Jake

      Jun 21, 2018 at 12:10 am

      Correct. You can increase the accuracy of your golf shots with an external focus of attention. Concentrating on body movements (internal focus of attention) generally results in non-optimal performance and learning, whereas an external focus enhances automaticity and leads to better movement outcomes. Most golfer’s focus is in limbo.

      • lance

        Jun 21, 2018 at 11:50 am

        Most golfers feel nothing but confusion during their insecure golfswing…. they think “feel” is impact and nothing else. Oh, then their is their “feel” for their lovely clubs… aka romantic attachment.

  12. Paul

    Jun 20, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    Definitely a good idea.
    My method works and is for people with less time. First find a level area on the practice green with a hole about 6′ away. Make 5 putts and just focus on stopping the ball in the hole or a few inches past. Next move back to 15-20′ and repeat. Then take some putts at the farthest holes on the practice green and then done. Takes less then 3 minutes.

    • etc.

      Jun 21, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      Feel is fleeting and you most certainly cannot carry it from the practice green to the course greens… because what you call ‘feel’ is only feeeelings …

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member evgolfer, who takes us to Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona. The course sits at the base of South Mountain, offering up some stunning scenic mountain views, and in his description of the track evgolfer praises the fair test that the course offers up to players of all levels.

“I love it because the price is always right as a City of Phoenix municipal course. The conditions are usually fairly decent. Also, the course presents a fair challenge to me as a high handicapper and still appeals to low caps. It is easily walkable. Not surrounded by houses, not overly tight or cramped. Designed by Gary Panks. Not overly penal.”

According to Aguila Golf Course’s website, in peak time, an 18 hole round can be booked for $29, with the rate rising to $44 should you wish to add a cart. While, off-peak the price drops to $34, which includes a cart.

@TheHectorRios

@VernonLorenz

@HSTuscon

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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This stat indicates Tiger Woods will win major 15 in 2019

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For Tiger Woods’ fans, it’s been over 10 years waiting for his 15th major victory. Even with PGA Tour win No. 80, plenty are already looking ahead to next year’s major.

Looking into Tiger’s performance at the majors in 2018, and more recently the PGA Championship, there’s exciting news for his fans. Tiger briefly held the lead at this year’s Open Championship, only to finish in a tie for sixth. But, it’s his performance at the PGA Championship, when he stormed home for second place thanks to a final round 64, and the recent statistics behind that tournament, that will get his legion of supporters brimming with confidence.

Going back to 2015, strong performances at the PGA Championship have proven to be a great form line for the following year’s major winners. In fact, if you go back further into the records, it extends for several years prior as well. Let’s take a look at recent PGA Championship results and the players that emerged from those performances that lead to major victory the next year.

The 2017 PGA Championship was one of the strongest forms lines in recent years. Justin Thomas won the tournament by two shots, but Patrick Reed, and Francisco Molinari tied for second. Reed went on to win this year’s Masters and Molinari won the Open Championship to capture their first major championships.

At the 2016 PGA Championship, Jimmy Walker surprised the field with victory, but an emerging talent in Brooks Koepka finished tied for fourth and would go on to secure his 1st major in 2017 by winning the U.S. Open. Interesting, Patrick Reed and Francisco Molinari were also just outside the top-10.

The 2015 PGA Championship was won by Jason Day, but current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson finished tied for seventh. Dustin went on to win his first major, the U.S. Open, the following year at the Oakmont Country Club. Also worth noting: Jordan Spieth finished second to Jason Day and went close to winning the Masters the next year only to finish in second place.

Fast forward to this year’s PGA Championship where Tiger finished second behind Brooks Koepka. Is it a sign that his 10-year major drought could end in 2019? And don’t forget, if Tiger has a great chance in 2019, then surely players that finished around him in that tournament, such as Adam Scott, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland, must have high hopes for 2019 too?

All this is true and only time will tell if the tournament form line stacks up.

Anyway you look at the 2018 PGA Championship results, it’s a great form line for 2019, and Tiger could well be in the mix in the big ones next year. With his body coping well with the rigors of the tough PGA Tour circuit, Tiger Woods’ fans can be feeling good about his chances for the 2019 season.

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member JimGantz, who takes us to Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio. Just 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland, Boulder Creek features over 100 feet of elevation changes, and when you look at the photos of the course, it’s easy to see why this track landed in our hidden gem thread. JimGantz gives us a concise description of the course, praising it for its nice blend of different hole types.

“Conditions are always top notch. Fluffy bunkers, thick-ish rough.  Staff are super friendly. Good mix of long and short holes which is something I like. I’m not a huge fan of playing a course where every par 3 is over 200yds. This track mixes it up.”

According to Boulder Creek Golf Club’s website, 18 holes with a cart from Monday-Thursday will set you back $40, while to play on the weekend costs $50. Seniors can play the course for as little as $25 during the week.

@BoulderCreekOH

@amgolferblog

@troymezz

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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