Connect with us

Instruction

The Ultimate Putting Program (Part 3): Pick a putter that matches your path

Published

on

We have discussed how the design of a putter affects a golfer’s ability to control aim and speed. Now it is time to look at how it affects the path of the stroke.

I believe the optimal path of a putting stroke is one that returns the putter head to impact so that it’s perpendicular to the target line. This seems to provide the most room for error. Others may believe that it is ok to have variations within the path and aim so long as the two cancel each other out and the ball rolls toward the target. Whichever way you look at it, there are design elements of the putter that influence face rotation, thus affecting the direction of the putter at impact.

On almost every putting green, I’ve seen golfers trying to become better putters. But many of them try to improve the path of their stroke before addressing their ability to aim their putter at address. Someone can work on the path of their stroke all they want, but I’ve found that if they don’t aim their putter at the target, it will be difficult to improve.

If you have not already read The Ultimate Putting Program (Part 1): The Design of Your Putter Influences Aim, click here to do soIt will give you the framework to understand my take on path.

Let’s consider a golfer who consistently miss-aims his putter 4 inches left of the hole, and has developed a compensating action during his stroke to roll the ball on his intended line. The compensation may be a push stroke, an opening of the clubface or a combination of the two. This type of compensation may work fine, but is likely to be inconsistent in the long run. It is also very likely that after a bad round of putting, a friend, or maybe the local golf professional will mention that he has an in-to-out stroke, and for him to become a better putter he will need to improve the path of his stroke.

So what happens? The golfer likely sees this as great information, and begins working on improving his path. He may even go as far as to practice the various putting drills that are so commonly recommend. Well, guess what? It is very likely that the will indeed improve the path of his stroke, but unfortunately for him, he won’t be aiming at the target, so now he will simply roll the ball where he is aiming; four inches left of the hole.

That’s why I suggest first improving aim, and then developing a stroke path that rolls your ball on your intended line. In my opinion, this is the easiest route for most golfers to improve.

Path Type: Arc or Straight-Back-Straight-Through (SBST)

putting_arc2

There is a continuing debate amongst golfers on whether an arcing stroke or a SBST stroke is correct. I imagine that neither stroke is any better or worse than the other, but the fact of the matter is that a true SBST stroke is a manipulation of the hands and the wrists, whereas the arcing stroke adheres more to the laws of geometry and physics.

The amount of arc in a golfer’s stroke is primarily the result of how far the golfer stands from the ball. A golfer who stands rather close to the ball is likely to have a stroke that is close to being SBST, whereas someone who stands farther from the ball will likely have more of an arcing stroke. A golfer’s spine angle at address also is a contributing factor to the amount of arc in their stroke. A golfer who stands upright is likely to create more of an arc than someone who bends over more. I believe these are preferences for each golfer, though it is important to match a putter with a golfer’s path type.

Putter design affects path, which affects aim at impact

It is important to match the rotational aspect of the putter with a golfer’s stroke to allow the putter face to be square to the target at impact. The traditional way to test a putter for rotational value is to balance the shaft of a putter on your finger and notice how the club head hangs. The picture below shows putters with varying amounts of toe hang.

toe-hang-spectrum

It is even more revealing when you do this on the inclined plane of the putting stroke to see gravity’s affect on the putter during the stroke. It may be an eye opener for some golfers to know that most putters are designed to “open” during the stroke, making it difficult to return the putter square to the target at impact. Putters can have various degrees of toe hang, and they can also be “face-balanced” and even “heel-balanced.”

As a general rule of thumb, it is a good idea for players with very little arc in their stroke to use a face- or heel-balanced putter. Players who have more arc in their stroke generally prefer a putter with some degree of toe hang, as they like the sensation of the putter face “releasing” through impact. I have been experimenting with a heel-balanced putter and I am noticing that it offers a very solid strike through impact (I would say that my natural stroke is one with medium amount of face rotation).

The weight of the putter head also affects the amount of face rotation. Heavier putter heads rotate slower than lighter ones. The amount of rotation that a golfer seeks will dictate where and how much weight should be added to the putter. By counter weighting or adding weight internally through a the puter shaft, a golfer can increase the overall weight of the putter without affecting its rotation.

For more information on how the weight of the putter affects speed control, read The Ultimate Putting Program Part 2.

Drills to Improve the Path of Your Stroke

practice_like_a_pro_2

1. The first drill is to develop a target line from the ball to the hole, which can be done in two different ways (more on that below).

The goal of this drill is to produce a path that rolls the ball on the intended line. For an arc stroke, it will allow you to see your putter move slightly inside the target line on the backstroke, square to the target line at impact, and slightly inside the target line on the forward stroke. For a SBST stroke, it will allow you to see the putter head stay on the target line throughout the stroke.

Using a chalk line is a good way to learn to roll the ball on the intended line. Another good drill for golfers who keep their eyes over the ball is to tie a knitting needle to both sides of a 10-foot string. Then find a straight putt, and place the needles in the ground so that one of them is slightly behind the hole, and the other is far enough to make the string taught. The string should be directly over the target line with enough room to putt towards the hole, while keeping the putter beneath the string. For players who stand far enough from the ball for their eyeline to be inside the target line (not over the ball) using a chalk line will be more beneficial since the string requires a golfer’s eyes to be over the ball.

Editor’s Note: If you decide to use the chalk line drill, do your best to choose an area of the practice green where you are not impeding the practice of others. Also, be weary of “wearing out” a spot on the green with your foot marks. Green keepers and follow golfers with thank you. 

Either of these methods can also be done on breaking putts. Just set the target line on a tangent of the intended path of the ball so that the ball will break to the hole. You may be surprised of how much break is required for the ball to go in the hole with optimal speed (6-to-8 inches past the hole on a miss). I will explain more on green reading in my next article.

2. The next drill is to place a tee on either side of the putter head and roll putts so that the putter head swings between the two tees. The goal of this drill, which is called the “gate drill,” is to learn to contact the golf ball with the center of the putter face. Then setup two more tees slightly wider than the golf ball on the target line. The objective is to roll the ball between the tees, which if done correctly will produce a putter face that is square to the target at impact. This drill offers immediate feedback since the ball will hit the tees if done improperly.

gwar01_080718johnson

I like to use both the chalk line and gate drills in combination of one another for an even better practice session.

By now, you should have a better understanding of the key variables that are essential for you to improve your putting; Aim, Speed, and Path. In my next article, I will discuss two ways of reading greens to help you put all of this information into action and become a better golfer.

To Continue With The Ultimate Putting Program:

transition1transition2

To Part 4  preshot

 

Your Reaction?
  • 12
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Henry is a PGA member and TPI certified golf instructor. Employed by New Mexico State University, Henry spends the majority of his time teaching the PGA Golf Management curriculum. He specializes in teaching golf instruction and player development. Henry also coaches a handful of amateur, elite junior, and professional golfers. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: June 2014

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Bruce Rearick

    Dec 25, 2013 at 9:25 am

    What happens when the shape/design you aim best doesn’t match your stroke path?

    • Henry Stetina

      Dec 28, 2013 at 10:56 am

      Bruce, It is great to hear from you. Good question. I believe this is the key balancing act in being a fitter. Rotational requirements of a putter has a great deal to do with hosel configuration, weight distribution, length and lie. That being said, I like to get an understanding of a person’s intended stroke type and then watch their stroke to see if what they are producing matches their intention. For example, if a person wants a SBST style of stroke and can benefit from a “face-balanced,” I first look into a hosel that produces a “face-balanced” putter. Then I can change head shape, sight lines, length, and lie to find something that they aim correctly. Then it is all about weight for speed control and how it affects face rotation. I constantly watch how a person controls all three variables, aim, path, and speed to make the adjustments necessary.

      Does this answer your question? What are you thoughts?

      • Bruce Rearick

        Dec 30, 2013 at 8:39 pm

        I think it is best to learn to aim what swings in balance with your stroke.

  2. Davis

    Dec 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    “the fact of the matter is that a true SBST stroke is a manipulation of the hands and the wrists, whereas the arcing stroke adheres more to the laws of geometry and physics.”

    This is untrue.

    The arc of someones stroke is a product of where his hands are in relationship to his shoulders. If a person’s hands are directly under his shoulders then his stroke will be SBST. The further in front of the shoulders the person’s hands are, the greater the arc is (assuming that you are making a shoulders only putting stroke).

    • Matt

      Dec 25, 2013 at 2:08 am

      I think the article is correct. If you look it up, I’m sure you’ll find better explanations than what I’d give. But with the angle of the spine, arms, and lie, it is not possible to have a true sbst stroke without a lot of moving parts (hands, forearms).

      That being said, I consider myself sbst because it’s close enough.

      • J C

        Dec 25, 2013 at 3:55 am

        what you think is sbst most of the time really follows the shaft lie plane. only way to be truely sbst is to have a 90 degree lie and move rotating joints along the vertical plane. and that causes a different problem. the club head will bottom out at the ball adn will be either decending or ascending if you falter in any other aspect of your swing, causing you to push the ball down into the green or hit up on it. im not sure if either is better i havent had the opportunity to see one of those nice putter fitting machines or know the logistics behind the best roll of the ball.

        • J C

          Dec 25, 2013 at 3:56 am

          im tired looks like a 12 yr old wrote that sorry.

          • Davis

            Dec 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

            If you haven’t, go check out David Pelz’s putting book. Not a crazy huge Pelz fan but his work on his first book is incredible. He uses his scientific approach from his time at NASA and really proves the SBST stroke.

    • Henry Stetina

      Dec 28, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Davis,

      Take a look at this diagram. In both images the hands hang directly beneath the shoulders and yet it seems impossible to swing the putter SBST without manipulation of the hands. If I am wrong, will you please expand on your comment?

      https://scontent-b-dfw.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/1480661_10151971554977530_967009183_n.png

    • Steve

      Feb 2, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      SAM Putt Lab designer did a study using Neuroscientists and found that the SBST type stroke indeed increased the use of the muscles in the lower arms during the takeaway. You have to remember that people putt on a tilted axis which is the neck and consequently the stroke will move around that axis creating natural rotation.

      Dave Pelz has been an SBST proponent and when faced with this study at a PGA conference in Germany, he was baffled by the results of this study that basically disproved the SBST stroke he had been teaching.
      In order to have a true SBST the lie angle of the putter would need to be 90 degees to be able to make an SBST stroke.

      Great article Matt.

      • Kemptx

        Jun 16, 2014 at 9:22 pm

        Some years ago I attended a Pelz short game school. While talking about the putting stroke, one of the instructors admitted that all putting strokes have a certain degree of arc in them. I don’t know if he meant to say that as it was in opposition to what they had been teaching during the school.

  3. Andrew

    Dec 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I had some putting lessons earlier this year. All my problems game from aiming too far left and having a putter that didn’t suit my stroke and aim (SC Del Mar)

    Moved to a center shaft SC Newport and read/aim using my dominant eye and my putting has improved massively.

    Currently averaging 28 putts a round!

    Really interesting set of articles Henry…putting is 40% of the game and it’s easy for most to see an improvement with a few lessons and a bit of practice!

    • Jadon

      Dec 26, 2013 at 8:56 am

      Does that mean you have a SC Del Mar you’re wanting to put in the garbage???? Let me take it off your hands.

    • Henry Stetina

      Dec 28, 2013 at 11:44 am

      Andrew, thank you for your feedback. Sounds as though you have already found a benefit from learning about putter design. Great to hear!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Instruction

Davies: Game-changer drill for the transition

Published

on

Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the arms working correctly and efficiently in the transition area of the golf swing. This will add power and also allow you to find the slot in the downswing. A real game-changer!

Your Reaction?
  • 4
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

Instruction

Clement: The shot that created the short game legend that is Phil

Published

on

We show you how Phil added a lot of longevity to his golf game when he stopped trying to nip and tuck his golf swing and opened up the valves! Then see the most awesome short game shot ever made in competition by far which created the legend that is Phil. See how you, too, can create your own backward flop shot to sharpen your short game and have some fun!

Your Reaction?
  • 4
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK5

Continue Reading

Instruction

Clement: How grip affects pressure and vice versa

Published

on

This video is a big one! It addresses a huge common flaw that so many golfers have at address where they are not ready to be dynamic with their target but rather are perfectly positioned TO BE STILL WITH THE BALL. This opens up a can of worms for bad contact for thin and topped shots with lack of proper divots, early extension, bad compression, and bad trajectory that can’t perform in the wind. Massively important video coming up!

Your Reaction?
  • 7
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK6

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending