This article is co-authored with James Jankowski. James is a specialist putting coach to over 100 professional golfers and has worked with around 1000 recreational golfers. You can check out his website here and instagram page here.
When it comes to the motion we produce when putting, the fewer moving parts we have, the easier it becomes to control the putter. From a mechanical standpoint, I try to get golfers forgetting about how or where the putter is moving, and more about the movement of their body. Good body biomechanics will ensure the putter travels where it needs to, without much conscious control.
For me, it seems obvious that the most consistent way to putt would be using a technique that limits the amount of rotating parts of the body, to just one if possible. This one moving part should be in a central position in relation to the rest of our body (more on that later) and aligned with where the shaft plane points for most golfers (see image below). Therefore, where better to control the putting motion than our thoracic spine, specifically the middle/upper section, vertebrae T3 – T6 (approximately).
So, if our main driver of motion is our mid to upper back, then it makes sense that overall spinal posture plays a hugely important role. Good posture encourages a stronger and more stable upper body, better connection with the arms and body (shoulder stability and control), plus a greater ability for us to rotate through our thoracic spine. When poor posture limits our ability to turn properly we will often find an alternative way to control the motion. Most of the time, the stroke becomes a swing of the arms, with disconnection from the body and more difficulty in controlling the putter.
So how can we improve our posture for putting?
Firstly, through general improvement of our own natural posture with gym work and posture based exercises. One good example for golfers, especially those who work in an office, is ensuring their pec minor muscles aren’t too tight. Stretching this muscle (doorway stretch as pictured is a great one) and/or self-massage with a tennis or massage ball will help keep it in a lengthened state. Golfers should also consider strengthening the muscles around the shoulder and scapula to help hold them in better posture automatically.
Secondly, I feel many golfers do not understand the feeling of good posture and how to maintain it throughout the putting stroke (or the golf swing for that matter). For this reason, I have started using the Gravity Fit TPro in so many of my lessons, often leading to fantastic results and dramatic improvements. It provides golfers with feedback on the correct position and posture at both setup and throughout the motion. Rather than bore you too much with the written detail, I would like to instead share a couple of examples, both using data collected using the excellent CAPTO system to demonstrate improvements. For those that haven’t heard of Capto, it is the latest in putting analysis software, measuring all putter parameters imaginable.
Example 1 – Before – with the golfer in poor posture, they were forced into an arm swing type motion, with a high amount of face rotation and poor control of acceleration. You will see the center of rotation at the top of the arms and a center that isn’t very stable (green ball is larger in size.) Following some education of better posture using the TPro, the very first stroke was captured. The improvements were instant. A center of motion (based on the plane of the putter) now at the thoracic spine, increased stability (green ball smaller) and face rotation decreased dramatically. All of this on the very first putt!
Example 2 – Before – poor control of acceleration in the putter. The golfer found it difficult to control both the amount of acceleration and also its application within the stroke. Following some education of posture using the TPro, plus some rehearsals of the correct motion, the golfer was able to smoothly accelerate at the correct points in the stroke, showing a remarkable improvement in their acceleration profile. On the graph seen here, the ‘perfect’ acceleration profile would follow the green line. You will see here how much closer the golfer was to achieving this.
This is what the difference between the two setups and strokes might look like in the flesh
The above examples demonstrate how a putting stroke can improve dramatically when we focus on controlling the movement from the thoracic spine (instead of from the shoulders and arms). The Gravity Fit TPro was a critical aspect in making that change, due to the instant feedback it provided on posture and also movement quality. I’ve also seen this approach scale up to short game and full swing in exactly the same way.
You can check out James’ great putting content on a number of different mediums:
What should your hips do in the golf swing?
If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.
Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind
Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player
As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?
As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.
I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.
Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?
Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.
The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?
We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.
I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.
The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)
- Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
- Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.
The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.
Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.
The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.
Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.
No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.
There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…
- We are relaxed
- We are having fun
- We are just doing
In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!
Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!
Please reach out to me at email@example.com to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.
Equipment improvements are even better for women! Now they are getting over 300 yards!
We had a sweet driver shaft fitting at Club Champion in January. We picked up the shaft in their store in Phoenix and that afternoon, and Savannah hit two benchmark drives at 305 and another at 317 yards! Kinda makes you a bit of a believer, huh!? We are looking forward to seeing the numbers on our GC Quad back home this week to check out the difference. Stay tuned for next week!
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