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The key to putter fitting? Know your roll

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This is the second installment of a four-part series from Modern Golf on putter fitting and the Quintic System. 

Find a busy practice putting green, and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see at least a few golfers obsessing over the motion of their putting stroke. They’re usually the ones who are using some kind of training aid to help them groove their stroke in a certain way.

For many golfer, it can be time well spent. But what they might not know is that the way their putter moves is only half the equation to good putting. Did you know that two putts with the same clubhead speed can travel significantly different distances? Did you also know that most golfers actually do a good job of consistently swinging the putter through at their desired speed? So why do so many golfers have problems with their distance control? The other half of the equation is controlling what is called their ball roll.

How do golfers control how their ball roll? How should the ball be rolling? It is a very difficult question to answer without using high-speed cameras and motion capturing. Using a system called Quintic, we provide golfers the knowledge and data they need to putt their best. Understanding this data will improve your game.

The image below shows what an ideal 8-foot putt looks like on our Quintic System. 

Ideal Putt

Click the image to enlarge it.

Forward Rotation

As you can see, the ball instantly started to rotate forward off the putter face. A ball that has negative initial ball roll, or “backspin,” will lose speed and can deflect offline. Having the ball rotate forward off the face will give players better distance control with their putts because the ball will lose less energy and stay on its intended line longer. This will aid the ball in rolling over debris and other imperfections on the green such as ball marks, spike marks, etc.

Having anywhere from +25 rpm to +50 rpm initial ball roll is ideal. Any higher and the ball will roll out longer because it will be carrying more momentum. This can make downhill 5 footers scarier than they already are. With an rpm under +20 rpm, the ball doesn’t carry as much momentum to the hole.

Launch

The ball was launched at about 1.75 degrees. An ideal launch angle on most greens is between 0.75 degrees and 2 degrees. Much like a driver, controlling launch has a big influence on how far the ball will travel. That is because on the green, a ball will sit in a small depression as a result of gravity. The ball needs to be launched out of this depression — and not too high or too low. Optimal launch should change depending on the blade length of the grass and the type of putting surface. On lush greens with a longer blade length, the ball will sit in a deeper depression. On firm greens with a short blade length, the ball will not sit in such a deep depression, and for that reason not as much launch is required.

The image below shows what happens to a putt that has a launch angle that is too high.

High Launch

Click the image to enlarge it.

Zero Skid

Minimal skid is ideal. On a well struck putt, there should be less than 10 percent skid for the total distance the ball travels. So on an 8-foot putt, ideally there should be less than 10 inches of skid (see first image). Once “zero skid” occurs, the ball starts rolling on top of the grass smoothly. When there is too much skid, the result is a loss of distance and ball speed. Every time the ball bounces and strikes the putting surface it loses energy — energy that has been factored into your putt for speed and distance. These putts tend to come up short and offline, and this often happens with long putts or lag putts.

Below are images of a “dew board.” The board simulates putting through an early morning dew where it is easy to see launch and skid. There are two visible lines on the board. The putt that has a flat and consistent line has optimal launch and minimal skid. The putt that looks dotted or chattered has launched too high, increasing the zero skid parameter. The dots are where the ball has struck the putting surface and continues to hop until it reaches zero skid.

IMG_2347

Every putt, at some point, reaches zero skid. Reducing the amount of time it takes for the ball to reach zero skid will ensure that the ball will lose minimal energy and carry more momentum to the hole.

Impact Ratio

This refers to how efficiently clubhead speed is converted into ball speed. For all of those Trackman users out there, this is the same as smash factor. It is a simple calculation: ball speed divided by clubhead speed. Controlling the speed that the ball comes off the face is crucial. This is achieved when the center mass of the club head makes contact with the center mass of the golf ball. Any off-center strike results in a loss of ball speed and face deflection, causing the ball to roll offline with less speed.  

We’ve all hit full shots that weren’t solidly struck and they come up short of our target.  The exact same thing happens when we don’t hit a putt solid, but it’s much harder to feel the mishit because the clubhead speed is much slower through impact with a putter. This is where most golfers struggle.

The face of the putter also needs to be square to the path of the club. Otherwise, you’ll see a glancing blow that also reduces ball speed. The type of putter a player uses also has an effect on ball speed. Putters with softer inserts reduce ball speed because of reduced energy transfer from the club head to the ball. To illustrate where you strike the ball on the clubface, spray the face of the putter with Doctor Scholl’s foot spray. It will show you where the ball is making contact with the face, and has minimal effect on ball speed and friction.

Certainly there are other parameters to consider, but this article should provide golfers with a general concept that they may not have considered in the past. Without knowing what the ball is doing, it is very difficult to teach someone proper putting mechanics. Players who have a better understanding of how the ball is rolling have a better chance of improving their game on the greens. Therefore, go get fit for a putter and KNOW YOUR ROLL.

Call or email to book your appointment today at Modern Golf.

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Modern Golf was founded in 2011 and has established a reputation as Canada’s Premier golf club-fitting experience. With a brand agnostic approach to club-fitting, a 13,000 square foot state-of-the-art headquarters including a PGA Tour caliber workshop, Modern Golf can provide a demonstrable improvement to your golf game. Regardless of our customers’ age, gender, or skill level, our highly trained club-fitters and experienced club builders can custom tailor our customers’ golf equipment to produce improved on-course results. The Modern Golf team is excited to share their expertise with the GolfWRX Community. www.moderngolf.ca

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Scooter McGavin

    Feb 27, 2015 at 11:20 am

    There is some good info on this article. I also agree that people can tend to overlook putter roll. I’d be curious for a little more info that goes into greater depth about its role in the fitting process with respect to different models’ grooves, inserts, centers of gravity, etc. and how it would directly affect one’s putter choice. Cheers!

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: It is early season WITB time!

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Played some golf recently and the “gamer” bag is getting a little more settled in. Time to do an early season WITB, what is staying and what is on thin ice to maybe be replaced!

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Your wedge shafts DO make a difference

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Over the past few decades, golf shafts have come to represent an extremely broad and deep segment of the golf equipment marketplace. And the major manufacturers spend countless hours evaluating shafts – within an acceptable cost range, of course – for their product offerings in irons, drivers, fairways, and hybrids. As a result, the custom-fitting layer of golf club retailing is myopically focused on shaft selection — often at a premium price.

Special shaft technologies are even finally working their way into some of the newer putters — but not your wedges.

Take a stroll down the seemingly endless display of wedges in any big store, and you’ll see numerous brands, models, lofts, finishes and sole grinds — but nearly every one of them has been fitted with the same type of heavy, stiff steel shaft. I’ve always thought that was really shorting golfers where feel and performance need to be pinpoint perfect.

I have learned from countless observations of golfers of all skill levels that getting the right shaft in these super-important scoring clubs can reap huge rewards in performance. Just like in your driver, the material, weight, and flex of your wedge shafts have to be exactly right for you to optimize your scoring range skill set — whatever that might be.

Stop to realize that, when it comes to the shaft in your wedges, you’re asking a lot. They have to stabilize the heaviest clubheads in the bag at full swing speed, in order to give you full shot trajectory control so that your distances are consistent. But they also have to give you precise feel and control of those touch shots around the greens where clubhead speed is only a few miles per hour. That requires the shaft to have the ability to flex or move a bit in order to give you optimum motion feedback — the sensation back to your hands of exactly where the clubhead is and what it is doing.

I think it is very important that wedge shafts should be fitted to the individual golfer’s strength profile.

Every week on television, we see the tour professionals exhibit an unbelievable display of short game mastery, hitting greenside wedge shots with absolute control of trajectory, spin, and distance. And while most all of them play a steel shaft that is the same weight as that in their irons, most all also opt for a bit softer in flex than the shaft in their irons.
But you have to also realize that these guys are top-level athletes who are extremely strong in the forearms and hands, so they can do things with a wedge of that overall weight that very few recreational golfers can even dream about – simply because you do not have the arm and hand strength to allow that level of precise manipulation of the club.

To solve this dilemma, I strongly advocate the following: Select a shaft for your wedges that closely approximates the weight of your short iron shafts. If you play lightweight steel or graphite shafts in your irons, by all means, demand the same in your wedges. This, of course, means you need to retrofit the wedges you have, or buy from a company that will accommodate your needs.

Your wedge shafts, however, should be a bit softer overall than your iron flexes to give you the feel you need around the greens. One way to achieve that is to select the same type of shaft as your irons, but in a softer flex, then cut back some of the tip section if you can.

And finally: test everything! Trying new things is one of the fun aspects of playing golf, and wedges are no different. You can experiment with different shafts in your wedges at a pretty low cost, so do it! I think you’ll have fun, and you’re likely to stumble on a formula that really improves your scoring.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Focused Phil does anything but flop at the PGA Championship

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That was fun. Through 55 holes, it looked like Brooks Koepka was ready to return from injury and establish his dominance with three wins in four years at the PGA Championship. Instead, his putter went dead cold and Phil Mickelson did the improbable.

Despite having poor form in recent weeks, Mickelson felt like he was on the verge of a breakthrough. He spent much of his recent practice working on focus. Staying present in the moment. In the end, golf is a mental game where a single uncommitted swing or distraction can lead to disaster and cost a tournament. There is no doubting Mickelson’s tremendous talent, but he is notorious for losing focus at the worst possible moment. Not this time. Between his practice and timely advice from his brother and caddie, he was able to remain dialed in down the stretch and outlast a star-studded leaderboard to win the PGA Championship at 50 years old. Incredible.

So, how did he do it? Well first, he hit bombs.

Mickelson has been all over social media discussing his “hellacious seeds” and “bombs.” Over the past several years, he put in a tremendous amount of work to go from average in terms of swing speed on the PGA Tour to fast. All of this at 50 years old. While this has separated him from fields on the Champions Tour, it has been difficult for Mickelson to keep it in play on the PGA Tour. Not this week. Mickelson may have only finished 29th in terms of strokes gained: driving this week, but he kept the ball in play and gave himself chances to hit the green. On a difficult, windy Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, that is more than many can say. In fact, he hit the longest drive of the day on hole 16 on Sunday. Take that Bryson. Using V1 Game’s driving distance analysis, Mickelson averaged over 300 yards across all drives for the week. This allowed him to dismantle the par 5s, which were critical to getting his overall score under par.

Mickelson did most of his damage on the front nine and in particular, holes two and seven above where he was 7 under for the week. V1 Game’s Hole History view gives a Shotlink-like view of how he played the two holes. Long drives in the fairway allowed him to be aggressive into the greens with easy chips or two-putt birdies. At a course as difficult as Kiawah, you have to birdie the holes you’re supposed to to give room for mistakes on the more difficult holes. Typically, the winner of each PGA Tour event makes very few mistakes. However, at Kiawah, mistakes were unavoidable. Between narrow fairways, wind, and difficult conditions, the week was more like a U.S. Open than a PGA Championship. Mickelson made mistakes, but he was able to minimize them with his amazing short game and tremendous lag putting.

The Virtual Coach in V1 Game details the mistakes Mickelson made throughout the week. Despite playing well all week, when the pressure was ratcheted up on Sunday there were more mistakes. Still, Mickelson did a great job of turning doubles into bogeys to minimize the damage. He was off to a shaky start on Sunday. He 3-putted the first hole and took 4 to get down from just 36 yards on the third hole. Around that time, his brother Tim told him to start committing to shots if he wanted to win. Mickelson was able to do that and didn’t make another mistake until the 13th hole by which time he had a five-stroke lead. Sometimes golf is a game of survival.

Not enough will be said about Mickelson’s putting this week. Phil is notorious for struggling with the short ones in pressure situations, and one observation from tracking his rounds — his lag putting was phenomenal. He consistently left himself inside two feet for his clean-up. This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off the putter when nerves are at an all-time high. This may not show up from a strokes gained perspective where you are rewarded for making longer putts, but not missing short ones is important as this was the downfall of both Louis Oosthuizen and Koepka. Mickelson may have finished 37th in strokes gained: putting for the week, but he made it easy for himself on the greens. So, if he finished in the 30s for driving and putting, how did he win the golf tournament?

If Mickelson is known for anything, it’s his prolific short game. He certainly shined when it mattered, gaining strokes on all four days around the green. He finished 18th for the week in strokes gained: short and made critical up and down time and again to minimize big numbers and save par. However, Mickelson truly separated himself with his strokes gained: approach gaining 4.4 strokes on the field with his irons and finishing fifth in the field. Add it all up and Phil is the winner in strokes gained: total and gets the Wanamaker.

It was a brilliant display of golf and focus. The scene at 18 was incredible as the crowd chanted “Lefty” and circled the green to watch the historic moment as the oldest man to ever win a major championship tapped in the final putt. Mickelson was focused. Golf is a mental game after all. The golf course was difficult and he played it better than anyone else.

Mickelson knew what he needed to work on these last several years to stay at the top of the game and has been able to do it through not just working on speed and hitting bombs, but improving his mental game along the way. V1 Game can help you understand what you need to work on to get better at any age and any skill level. Mickelson’s performance was inspiring as is his desire to use every tool available to get better. It was interesting late on Saturday to listen to both Oosthuizen and Koepka discuss their play. Louis was frustrated with his ballstriking, despite leading the field on Saturday in strokes gained: tee to green. It was his putter that was letting him down. Koepka complained about his putting after a late short miss when his iron play was below average for him. Even the best in the game can be confused on which area of their game is impacting their score. Strokes gained and V1 Game take the mystery out of game improvement. Whether you’re a young gun or closer to the Champions Tour, advanced analysis from V1 Game can get you following in Mickelson’s footsteps. What a great game golf is.

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