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Opinion & Analysis

Making the case for putting instruction



For most golfers, the thrill of the game is hitting the ball high, far and straight. I would go so far as to say that some players would rather set their hair on fire than spend an hour on the putting green three days a week. But most avid players would also give up something important to break a major scoring barrier like shooting in the 80’s for the first time. For the majority of golfers, whose time is limited but who still hope to play the golf of their dreams, putting lessons and proper putting practice are without doubt the most efficient way to spend practice time.

I should tell you that I am a certified instructor with the SeeMore Putter Institute and therefore have an interest in promoting putting instruction. However, the reason I became a putting teacher was that as a tournament player I know how much value there is in working on that part of my game. I also know I can help my students improve and enjoy golf more through putting instruction and putter fittings because putting involves a shorter, less complicated motion that they can practice at home, the office and at a golf course. So, first I am going to discuss some statistics that show why putting is so important for great scoring and overall golf enjoyment. Then I’ll address why you should spend your precious time learning how to putt from a qualified instructor.

Avid golfers know that a scorecard treats putting with the same importance as the long game. On a regulation par-72, 18-hole golf course with four par 3 holes, four par 5’s, and ten par 4’s, the scorecard allocates as many strokes for putting as for full shots from the tee and fairway. Because most of us miss a significant number of greens per round, the average golfer generally takes 45 percent of his strokes on the green. However, putting tops the list as the skill that determines overall scoring performance.

The PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained-Putting statistic is great at showing just how important the flat stick is. Columbia University Business School Professor Mark Broadie created the method of gauging putting performance, which measures the putts a player takes from a certain distance relative to the PGA Tour average “taking into account the initial putt distance on each green.” So, if a player makes a 35-footer, and the PGA Tour average from that distance is 2.0 putts, then he picked up a putt on the field.  The number of times the player either gains or loses a stroke to his competitors during a round determines his ranking.

In 2012, Brandt Snedeker led the strokes gained category with an average of 0.860 strokes over 81 rounds, meaning he gained almost an entire stroke on a field of the best players in the world every time he teed it up. He won the Farmers Insurance Open, the Tour Championship and the $10 million FedExCup race, which is a test of consistency over the entire season.  Despite being short and crooked compared to the rest of the TOUR (ranking 108th in driving distance, 106th in driving accuracy, and 126th in greens hit in regulation) Snedeker finished the season third on the money list behind only Tiger and Rory and won $4,989,739, and he’s off to an even better start in 2013. Luke Donald led the Strokes Gained-Putting category in 2011 on the way to topping the European Order of Merit and the PGA Tour money list titles.  To those who say that golf has become strictly a “bomb and gouge” game, I say look at the numbers.

There is also a hidden message in these statistics that many folks who have spent time around golf already know. If two of the shorter hitters on TOUR were able to overcome that deficit with stellar putters, good putting must instill the type of confidence and grit no other part of one’s game can.  The inverse is also true — strong ball striking and weak putting lead to the frustrated feeling that no matter how well a player hits the ball, he will never reach his full scoring potential.

Look at the number of wins and career money Boo Weekley, Kevin Sutherland, John Senden and Joe Durant have collected.  These fine players have led or been near the top of the greens-in-regulation statistics for the past five years, but with all due respect, they would probably tell you that they wished they were better putters. The fact is that strong putting leads to the kind of good feelings that a player cannot get from hitting towering drives and laser-like approaches. Putting well reinforces that it is OK to take certain risks since a strong putter feels he can get up and down from 80 yards or from a tough lie on the short side of a green. Good putting controls momentum and confidence during a round of golf. Many golfers know this, but the vast majority of players do not do what is necessary to become consistently effective once they are on the green.

Putting a golf ball well is not an innate talent that some players are simply born with. Like other golf skills, putting takes some hand-eye coordination but it can be taught and improved with practice. Most players don’t really know where to start. Should the stroke be straight back and straight through, travel on an ellipsis, or from inside and then down the line? Like the full swing, there is so much conflicting information out there that it is hard for even a very good player to know what advice is best. If a player somehow finds the advice that is right, reading a book or magazine article does not guarantee that player is properly executing what he or she reads. We all need a qualified pair of eyes to give us feedback and guidance.

Enter the trained putting instructor

Compared to the general population of golf pros, trained putting teachers are rare. According to the PGA, only 6 percent of golf lessons include putting instruction and that does not mean the entire lesson was dedicated to putting. There are probably two reasons for this:

  1. Most golfers choose to focus on the long game when they hire a teacher, and many golf pros just do not feel comfortable teaching putting.
  2. To find a good teacher to help you with the most important part of your game, you will need to do a little research.

The SeeMore Putter Institute is a great place to start, but so are a number other great teachers who focus on the flat stick. Regardless of whom you learn from, the lessons and the practice should center around promoting pre-shot mental focus, and sound, neutral fundamentals — grip, alignment, posture and ball position — because that will facilitate repeatability in your stroke even with a limited practice schedule. If you work on these things for 20 minutes at home every other day and practice your putting for an hour once or twice a week on a putting green, I promise you will see long-term scoring dividends, and enjoy the game more.

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Paul Kaster is the Director of Instruction at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe, NJ. He learned the game on Chicago’s only 18-hole public golf course, Jackson Park G.C., and went on to play Division I college golf, and on mini tours including the Tar Heel Tour (now EGolf Tour), and the Golden Bear Tour (now Gateway Tour). After suffering a wrist injury, he left the golf business to pursue a career in the law but realized after passing two bars and practicing for several years that he wanted to return to golf to share his passion for the game and for learning with his students. He is the Northern New Jersey Director of Instruction for Medicus Golf's 5 Simple Keys® system, a member of Callaway Golf's professional staff, Proponent Group, and is a certified instructor with the SeeMore Putter Company and U.S. Kids Golf. In the off-season, Paul coaches indoors at the Golf Cave in Clark, NJ and TEST Sports Clubs in Martinsville, NJ. Website:



  1. Paul Kaster

    Mar 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks Larry! As the saying goes, understanding is the first step to acceptance. More to come!


  2. Larry Perfetti

    Mar 8, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Okay, I’m convinced that I need to spend a lot more time on my putting and that that time will pay off in many ways on the course.

    Now, I hope Paul follows this article with several articles describing the aspects of putting and drills that will help me become a better putter.

    Great article.


  3. Paul Kaster

    Mar 1, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Mark and Jeff, glad you liked the article and thanks for your comments! Remember to use whatever aides (or better yet instruction) you can – any practice is only as good as the reliable feedback that guides it. Keep at it and have fun!

  4. Jeff

    Feb 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Great article ! I’m glad all my golf buddies don’t believe articles like this . Just having a second set of eyes
    Look at your alignment and where you’re aimed will take strokes off, let alone actual instruction from a pro. I love practicing the short game bc as you said , it frees up the long game knowing you can save par on off days

  5. 3Puttnomore

    Feb 27, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    I agree that some don’t want to spend time on a putting green every day.. which means that some do!… During the good weather I stop at my local course and spend an hour on the green 4 or 5 days a week!… I love it!
    It relaxes me on my way home… I enjoy the late afternoon or early evening… And I get GREAT satisfaction from getting better at learning to read greens… I spend more time on a putting green than a driving range because you’re right, the best place to pick up strokes is there!
    Thanks for the article… Enjoyed it…
    Mark R.
    Brampton, Ont.

  6. Paul Kaster

    Feb 25, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks Kevin! I would love to see that data when you’re done. Accomplished players definitely reach parity at a certain level when it comes to ball striking. But I also think average golfers have the most gain by working on the fundamentals of putting and the short game – as Dr.Bob Rotella said in Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, you have to accept missing greens and fall in love with your wedge and putter to make real progress as a player.


    • kevin smith

      Feb 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      We had a booth at The PGA Show, and worked with alot of average golfers. I have little doubt the average golfer has the most to gain from working on Putting Fundamentals. The Players just need to add a little commitment and they can improve.
      I will get you a copy of the data we come up with at the end of the spring season.

  7. Kevin Smith

    Feb 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Could not agree more!! We are doing some putting coaching with our device at the division1 ranks and are in the process of compiling data. The one thing we see alot , is 5 minutes of putting practice then straight to the range .

    Those in the “know”, know putting is where it is at!! As your competitive level increases ball striking becomes pretty equal.
    Great Article
    Kevin Smith
    Get The Point Golf

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Opinion & Analysis

Clampett: Is confusion the leading cause of golfers quitting the game?



It seems that lately I’ve had a run of golfers attending my two-day Signature School with similar stories.

“Bobby, I have too many swing thoughts! I don’t know what I should think about when I swing.” Nearly without exception, these golfers tell me that their increased frustration had led to a deterioration of their game. It’s really a shame, because many of these frustrated golfers were at one time low, single-digit handicap players that had fallen to bogey-level golf.

In these schools, I have the time to start peeling back the onion with each student, and I’m hearing the same story over and over. My first question is always, “How did you find out about us?” Usually, it’s through referral or the result of an internet search for instruction help. My second questions is, “What do you hope to accomplish in our two days together?” They almost always respond, “Bobby, my head is spinning with too many swing thoughts. I don’t know what to do. Your approach to impact makes the most sense I’ve seen. That’s why I’m here.”

Statistics indicate that 4 million golfers quit the game in the United States every year. And if you polled each of these 4 million golfers, you’d find confusion to be the common denominator in their decision to quit.

I googled “golf instruction” and received more than 33 million results. Then I went to “YouTube” and typed in “Golf Tip.” There were 932,000 results. Scores of golfers get emails everyday suggesting a new thought or idea to improve their game. They watch television and pick up some more advice. They subscribe to golf magazines suggesting all kinds of ideas. Then they go to the range or course and put as much of it into action as their memories and bodies will allow… only to find it just doesn’t work! They’re farther away from playing good golf than they were when they began seeking out these swing fixes.

Many of my students are avid golfers who come to my schools on the brink of quitting the game all together. One student’s story was so sad. He confessed that no one at his club wanted to play with him anymore because his game had declined so sharply. He was considering selling his membership. In tears, he shared with us that all of his friends were members of his club.

Why is there all this confusion around the golf swing? There are two simple reasons.

The first involves the idea that “style-based” teaching is still the most common approach to improving a golfer’s game, and in my opinion, this doesn’t work very well for most golfers. Style-based instruction centers around a certain look. These teachers ask golfers to set up to the ball this way, get in these backswing positions, make this move on the downswing, look like this at the finish… and so on. Meanwhile, the Dustin Johnsons, Jim Furyks, and Bubba Watsons of the golfing world don’t possess golf swings that look anything like the “style” being suggested. When swing tips are given for “style” reasons, they’re arbitrary, a visual preference, and can’t be measured.

The second reason golfers are more confused today than they’ve ever been is the climate of today’s golf instruction world. We live in a new age, the digital age, and golfers are being bombarded by countless forms of media suggesting how to improve their games. These tips have a very wide range of theories and suggestions, most of which are conflicting.

Set up with your weight on the left foot. No, on the right foot. No, in the middle.

Have a short, compact swing. No, get a big shoulder turn for more distance. No, just swing around your body.

Finish high. No, finish low and left.

You get the picture. Without the ability to discern fact from fiction when it comes to all of this information, golfers go to the driving range in search of that secret pill that’s going to make it all work. The truth is that a secret pill that’s “style-based” just doesn’t exist. The best golf teachers know that the “style” of swing really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters in playing good golf is creating good impact. That’s what Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson all have in common, and that’s why they are all great golfers and great ball-strikers.

Good instructors understand what it is that these great players do to create that good impact, and they have the ability to offer clear remedies that might be built on only one or two simple thoughts. When a golfer is limited to thinking about only one or two key things, their mind is free and so is their swing. It’s not paralysis by analysis that ruins golfers, but rather paralysis by having too many needless and ineffective swing thoughts that ruins golfers.

Good instruction and good swing tips help golfers understand the impact their swing needs to create to be a good ball-striker. When a golfer’s impact isn’t good, a good instructor will help the student understand the specific element of their impact that wasn’t good and provide the appropriate remedy to fix it. Using today’s modern technology helps reveal precisely what was good or bad about a swing’s impact. After the remedy is given, technology will specifically be able to measure and show improvement in the various elements of impact. Game improvement can now be measured and verified by viewing the specific areas where impact is improved. When students see this measured improvement, hope is restored, confidence grows, scores drop and fewer golfers quit the game!

Be aware that it’s fine to read these articles and view these swing tips for their entertainment and educational value, but golfers should only apply the tips when they know they will help them improve a specific element of their impact. Then and only then will their game improve. One thing is for certain in golf, better impact equals better golf. That is where the “hope” of a good golf game is to be found.

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Opinion & Analysis

The difference between “ugly” and “unorthodox” golf swings



I’d like you pretend for a moment that you were asked to name the five ugliest golf swings by players who had won a major championship. Who would you select, and what criteria would you use to make that judgment? You might say you’re not sure, but you would have no difficulty identifying an ugly swing if you were to see one, right? The question is, what factors would move you toward that decision?

I struggled with this exact question when it was posed to me and others who were members of Golf Magazine’s “Top 100” panel at the time. In making my decision, I was concerned that I did not confuse UNORTHODOX with UGLY. The fact is that some of the greatest golfers throughout history have been considered to have had unorthodox swings.

  • The word “unorthodox” is defined as that which is contrary to what is usual, traditional or generally accepted.
  • The word “ugly” is defined as that which is unpleasant or repulsive in appearance.

In comparing the two definitions, they are clearly quite different. The word “unorthodox” suggests something that is different from the norm, while the word “ugly” relates to the appearance of an object regardless of its status. The problem with labeling any golf swing as unorthodox is that the definition of that condition varies with time. What was once considered to be unorthodox may later be considered perfectly acceptable, and we’ve seen this happen over and over again in golf instruction.

Case No. 1

It was considered unorthodox when Harry Vardon moved his thumbs toward the top of the shaft and placed the little finger of his right hand over his left forefinger knuckle. The standard grip in his era featured both thumbs to the sides of the shaft. The club was held more in the palms of both hands and with all ten fingers, rather than more diagonally through the palm as in Vardon’s Grip. As Vardon began to win, however, his competitors copied his grip. What once was considered unorthodox became orthodox.

Case No. 2

Hogan and Nicklaus were paired together in the final round of the 1957 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. The dichotomy between their backswings couldn’t have been more evident. This was due to the way in which they utilized their right elbows in the backswing. Nicklaus allowed his right elbow to work up and away, pointing more outward at the top. Hogan’s right elbow was closer to his body and pointed more downward.

At the time, Hogan’s backswing was considered orthodox while Nicklaus’ swing was considered unorthodox. As Hogan faded from the winner’s circle and Nicklaus began to emerge, what was once thought to be unorthodox later came to be considered orthodox.

There are some swings that most observers would agree are both unorthodox and ugly. For example, most observers would say that Jim Furyk’s swing is not pretty — they might even go so far as to categorize it as ugly. This is despite the face that Furyk has had an outstanding career and has a U.S. Open victory to his credit. What is it that observers find so offense in his swing? The answer is the differential in planes between the backswing and the downswing, or what might be referred to as a “loop” in his swing.

In Furyk’s case, the club is taken well outside what might be considered the traditional backswing plane. Then it is looped well to the inside and back into position on the downswing. This is is a perfectly acceptable way to play golf, which is evidenced by the size of his bank account and the number of trophies on his mantle. As you might surmise, because of his golf swing, Furyk has not been asked to write any full-swing instruction books.

The problem is that, in the eyes of the observer, the combination of the two distinctly different planes gives a disjoined appearance to the swing. Does it follow then that the variance in the backswing and downswing is the primary factor in determining if a swing qualifies as being ugly? The problem with reaching that conclusion is that it doesn’t hold up to comparison with other players who employ a similar pattern… beginning with Freddy Couples. He begins his swing by lifting his arms well outside the traditional plane line. With a delayed turn of his torso, he then brings the club back into a more traditional plane at the top.

In the case of both Couples and Furyk, their backswings operate well outside the traditional plane line with both players “looping” the club back into position prior to impact. And yet Couples’ swing is universally admired, while Furyk’s swing is in some quarters ridiculed. This begs the question of why Couples’ “looping” swing motion is considered more acceptable than Furyk’s. The answer to that question is two-fold.

  1. Furyk’s loop is created ostensibly by a change in plane with the arms and the hands, giving the swing a frenetic appearance.
  2. Couples’ loop is created with a graceful turn of his body with the arms following in perfect harmony.

And so, when taking the swings of Couples and other “loopers” into consideration, it would seem that the dramatic change in plane between the backswing and the downswing in and of itself does not warrant the classification of ugly.

Author Footnote: A point worth considering as part of this discussion is that there have been other accomplished players throughout the history of the game whose backswings have operated on the same principles as Couples. This would include perennial Champion’s Tour winners Kenny Perry, and earlier Jay Haas, whose swings were generally admired despite their unorthodox approach to the backswing.

What does this all mean? First, while a loop in the golf swing may be unorthodox, is not necessary considered ugly provided that the club is routed into plane with the turn of the body rather than just the arms and the hands. Second, as stated earlier, the definition of unorthodox can and does change depending on the era. And third, an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly. The two classifications are very different.

As you evaluate golf swings, remember this adage; an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly, but an ugly swing is always unorthodox.

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TG2: Should Tiger Woods play in The Masters without a driver?



Tiger Woods’ No. 1 concern heading into the Masters is the driver, according to Notah Begay. Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky argue whether Tiger should even use a driver during the Masters. Also, they discuss Rory’s new prototype putter and how it was made, and they talk about a new shaft company called “LA Golf Shafts.”

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

For more info on the topics, check out the links below.

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19th Hole