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The Case for Putting Instruction Part 2: Fundamentals and Drills

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Last month I tried to persuade readers to treat the flat stick with respect when it comes to practice and lessons (You can read it here). In this follow up, I’ll address the so-called fundamentals of putting — grip, alignment, posture and ball position. You’ll also find some useful drills to help you practice putting with concrete objectives and feedback at home or at the course.

Keep in mind that while this piece is somewhat long, many of these ideas are the ones that have been the foundation of great putting careers of players like Payne Stewart and Zack Johnson and countless players who used the SeeMore putting system only in training because their staff contracts with other equipment manufacturers.

Grip

We only need to turn on the Golf Channel, or read articles about ongoing debate over anchoring to know that the putting grip is the most hotly debated topics in golf right now. I am not going to address the validity of belly or long putters here, because that’s not the purpose of this article. As far as a conventional putting grip goes, rule No. 1 is that the hands should oppose each other (as if palms were facing each other) because we don’t want either side fighting the other.

It’s notable that Tiger Woods recently regained his putting prowess after Steve Stricker pointed out that the stronger left hand grip Tiger uses for his full swing had crept into his putting. Once Tiger neutralized his grip so his hands were facing each other, he started putting lights out again. Rule No. 2 is that the club should rest in the fingers of both hands with minimal tension. A phrase I use with my juniors is “hot dog in the bun.” This will have a few positive effects — it will prevent your rear hand (the right hand for right handed golfers) from rolling over the front during the stroke, which can easily happen when you hold the grip in your lifeline. It will also get the shaft of the putter to look like an extension of your forearms (when viewed from behind) — a key to a consistent stroke. What many golfers don’t know is that good posture at address can greatly reduce the effect of the rear hand in the stroke, but I’ll get to that in a moment. So, to summarize, the keys to a conventional putting grip are hands facing each other and grip cradled in the fingers with minimal tension.

Alignment

There are great players who have not lined their body up parallel to the target line when they putted. Jack Nicklaus used an open stance and Jim Furyk stands closed to the target line. The point I try to make to my students (as kindly as possible) is that none of them have the combination of a PGA Tour player’s long-term muscle memory, practice time and physical gifts. Most amateurs need a simple and neutral putting stance because that makes it easy to repeat under pressure with a limited practice schedule.

Standing parallel to the target line with your eyes and shoulders parallel sets you up to make a simple and repeatable stroke without any manipulation. The real alignment key is that the putter absolutely must be aimed at your intended target because face angle, not path, exerts the majority of control over the direction the ball travels.

The first step is to figure out whether you are in fact aiming at your target. The first thing I do with my students is measure their alignment using a device made by SeeMore called the Triangulator which can be purchased for $15 on the company’s website. There are a variety of laser aiming devices that are much more expensive, but the Triangulator does the job just as well. The vast majority of players I work with, including low handicap amateurs and a few professionals, aimed substantially wide of their target on a ten foot putt when I first measured them.

Once you establish what your aiming fault is, you can begin working to correct the alignment of your body and the club face. I use a SeeMore putter and encourage my students to do the same because they are the only putters that help a golfer learn to consistently line up the club and their body while they practice, and keep them on track while they play. So, if you wanted two catch phrases for the keys to putting alignment, they are “putter face aimed at the intended target” and “eyes, shoulders and feet parallel to the target line.”

Posture

Good posture is probably the most important element of great putting. In the mid to late 20th century, grass on greens was longer and professionals and amateurs had to give the ball a pop with their wrists to get it out of its depression on the green and rolling on the putting surface. Advances in technology created faster and firmer putting surfaces and rendered that method useless. To make the consistently smooth stroke required on modern greens, we have to be able to rotate our shoulders around our spine, and to do that our shoulders have to be in line, not slouched. The sensation should be that the muscles between your shoulder blades are pulling them back so your shoulders are straight.

The more a player slouches their shoulders, the greater the chance the small muscles in their forearms, wrists and hands will take over the stroke because the shoulders can’t turn, especially under pressure. Excellent posture is what almost all of the great putters currently on Tour share. Along with changing his grip, Tiger correcting his posture was the thing he attributed to his putting renaissance this season. Tiger is the model of good putting posture and we should all emulate him at address. For simplicity’s sake, the catch phrase for posture should be “shoulders back, 45 degree bend at the waist.” You may find that you need a longer putter after adopting this posture.

Ball Position

Conventional wisdom in putting has been that the ball should be positioned off of the heel of the foot closest to the target — the left foot for a right-handed player. The problem with this is that if the player’s posture is good (as described above) and he is standing with his shoulders aimed at the target, his hands should hang naturally, straight down from his sternum. If the ball is positioned off of his front foot, the player has to make a compensation to get his hands over the ball at address. One of the great benefits of the Rifle Scope Technology used on every SeeMore putter is that the putter itself will tell you when your hands and head are directly over the blade — when you hide the red dot and trap the shaft between the white lines. To make a smooth stroke that is based on shoulder rotation and not hand manipulation, the putter should be in the center of your stance and the ball just to the left. The result is a solid, relaxed and neutral set up that is easy to repeat and because it is free of manipulation. Your ball position key should be “ball just left of center, eyes over the heel of the putter.”

photo 1 (1) photo 2

A Few Drills

Practice drills serve two purposes — there are those that help a player groove technique, and there are those that help him learn how to perform by simulating the pressure of playing situations during practice. Both are useful, but you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you decide how to spend your time.

One of my favorite drills is to have a student practice rolling a ball down a metal yardstick to a cup or target. The best part of the drill is that you can use the back edge of the ruler to confirm proper aim and alignment before you hit the putt. You can also use it to get visual feedback that you are making a good arc practice stroke before hitting a putt. Using the SeeMore Triangulator (above and below) also helps identify and confirm proper alignment.

photo 4 photo 5 (1)

The ladder drill (above left) is probably my favorite pressure simulation drill. If you want to learn how to make short putts when they matter, being able to make it around a circle of 12 tees from varying lengths, holing putts of different speed and breaks is the best way to test your nerve. You can also adjust the length of the putts or set them up on more severe slopes to increase the difficulty.

A Pair of Trained Eyes

I hope these fundamental and drills will lead you toward more effective practice. Remember to check in with your local putting teacher whenever you need help. Putting may not seem as technical as the full swing, but as I think I demonstrated this piece and in Part 1, putting is more important to your overall scoring than any other part of your game and we all need a pair of trained eyes to help us accomplish those things as often as possible.

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Paul Kaster was selected by U.S. Kids Golf as one of the top 50 Kids Teachers in the world in 2017 and was named by Golf Digest as one of the top teachers in New Jersey for 2017-2018. 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 after passing two bars and practicing for several years decided to return to golf to share his passion for the game and for learning with his students. He is a a level II AimPoint certified putting coach, a member of Foresight Sports’ Advisory Board, Cobra-Puma Golf’s professional staff, Proponent Group, and is a National Staff member with the SeeMore Putter Company. Paul coaches his clients out of a state of the art private studio located in Little Silver, NJ, featuring a Foresight GC Quad simulator and putting software, K-Coach 3D system, and Boditrak pressure mat. His studio is also a SeeMore Tour Fitting location and features a fully adjustable putting table that Paul uses to teach putting and fit putters. Website: www.paulkastergolf.com

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. matt S.

    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:04 am

    I find that if I follow the rifle scope with my eyes while putting, I can’t miss…but I hear that you should keep your head straight. What are your thoughts on where the eyes should be before, and during your stroke?

  2. rtylerg

    Apr 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Hi Paul,
    Tyler here. This article has got me questioning my current putting technique. I’ve been trying to incorporate a traditional “life line” of the hands putting grip. However you say that it’s better to have the grip in the fingers and the hands facing each other. I’d like to learn more about this grip style. Can you describe in detail how you grip the putter in this method? Thanks!

    • Paul Kaster

      Apr 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Hi Tyler, thanks for the question. To grip the club in the fingers, start by setting up with proper posture (shoulders back, 45 degree bend at the waist). Then, whether you interlock, reverse overlap, etc., you just set the grip in the first joints of the fingers (between the first and second row of phalanges) in both hands. Cradling the grip this way, you should be able to support the putter and make a natural stroke by turing your shoulders, even without your thumbs on the grip (see the first photo above). All you need to do after this is naturally set the thumps on the top of the grip with minimal tension and your hands should be facing each other. Putting in this position, putter should naturally rotate on an arc and square itself at impact when you turn your shoulders. Using a center shafted putter will definitely help as well. Good luck!

      • Caddy

        May 8, 2013 at 11:09 am

        I can let you know I have played with and caddie for Paul and he used to putt in the palm ………I’m glad he’s using this finger method because I have started doing it as well and my putting is super nice now………as for the first comment this is no PR stunt Paul feels strong about the Seemore line up system its like a helper in pressure situations

  3. Stan Couples

    Apr 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    nice article – the question that everyone needs to ask themselves is “do you know why you putt that way?” I believe most people can not answer this question. Paul here has a system or an idea why he putts a certain way and teaches it.

    • Paul Kaster

      Apr 26, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      Thanks Stan! I think you’re exactly right about knowing how and why we putt the way we do. I chose this method because I’d always been a very streaky putter and this made me much more consistent and confident under tournament pressure. I was so impressed, I decided to become a certified instructor. If one’s putting method amounts to a collection of conventional wisdom and tips picked up along the way, there is nothing coherent or solid to reach for when things go wrong.

  4. Pingback: Las ridículas expectativas que tenemos los golfistas | Golf76.com

  5. Nice PR campaign

    Apr 25, 2013 at 10:26 am

    A bit too much of a “one size fits” all opinion article.
    Why make everything so “convential” if the golfer has to rebuild, relearn and hope it works better? I need to see some data and evidence that one size fits all.

    • Paul Kaster

      Apr 25, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks for your feedback. I’d address you by name, but I noticed you chose not to give it. Over 235 teachers internationally have chosen to teach this system because it works for them and for their students. There is very little rebuilding involved because the system is premised on neutral and natural posture. The purpose of the article was to give readers a chance to see what the SeeMore putting system is about, and whether it can work for them. Give it a try, you might just find you make more putts!

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