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Does posture really matter in putting?

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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).

Thoracic spine aligned with where the shaft plane points

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.

Pec Minor and the doorway stretch

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 1 – Posture Improvements

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.

Example 2 – Acceleration Improvements

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:

Website
Instagram
YouTube

The equipment featured can be found here for GravityFit or here for CAPTO. James is more than happy to field inquiries on CAPTO systems by email  

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver his unique brand of golf fitness services. Nick is also a GravityFit Brand Ambassador. He is working with them to help spread their innovative message throughout the golf world and into other sports.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Apr 24, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    waste of space

  2. Mark

    Apr 6, 2019 at 2:47 am

    How is this different from the proven approach of keeping the hands and arms quiet and simply rocking the shoulders around the spine?

  3. Scott

    Apr 6, 2019 at 1:53 am

    This is a click bait add for a product. Wasted my time

  4. Sal

    Apr 5, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Tell Ben Crenshaw.

  5. Bob Jones

    Apr 5, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    This is an internal focus approach that research is showing to be backwards. See the research of Gabrielle Wulf at UNLV.

    • geohogan

      Apr 8, 2019 at 11:15 am

      The putter is a lever, like every golf club.

      Impact of a putt is 1/1000 second for a distance of 1/4 inch.
      Why would we use our strongest back and core muscle and so much torso movement when such a minuscule amount of force is required for such a brief duration.

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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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