A big mistake that many amateurs, and even some professionals make when putting is to use their hands to deliver the putter to the ball. These types of players have made it a habit to use hand action to power the putter, which causes very mixed results on today’s faster green surfaces.
Your lead hand controls the face angle at impact; thus, if your lead hand is breaking down or bending, you will never be able to control the direction of the ball as it leaves the blade. To illustrate this point, take your putter and stroke putts with your lead hand only using a slapping, wrist-bending type of motion and you will notice that the initial starting direction of your putts will be scattered. Consequently, if you do the same thing with a firm left hand, your putts will begin more consistently in the direction you’re aiming.
Your rear hand controls the dynamic loft of the blade at impact. Therefore, if your rear hand moves from a bent condition at address into a flat or even arched condition post impact, then you will find that you will increase the loft of the putter. Whenever this happens, it affects the way the ball leaves the blade and tends to create excessive backspin, which actually launches the ball into the air. Obviously, if you add loft to your putter, you will have issues with your speed control. Try hitting putts with your rear hand only, and do not let the angle between your hand and your forearm change. This will keep the loft from changing relative to the setup position. If that angle does change, however, you’ll see how the loft changes, thus adding inconsistencies to your speed.
Our main line of defense to strengthen our consistency on the greens is to improve the quality of our impact alignments and to learn how to power the stroke in the best way for each individual. The best way to check to see if you have quality impact alignments and a sound putting stroke is to look at the hands when they stop moving during the follow through, and check the conditions of your wrists. If the lead wrist is bent and the rear wrist is flat with the club head passing your hands, then you have too much hand action during the putting stroke.
Now, let’s identify which type of putting stroke you tend to have: a push or a pull.
My keys to building a better stroke
Are you a lead-arm puller or a rear-arm pusher? If you don’t know, you will always have trouble controlling your impact alignments during the putting stroke.
If you’re a lead-arm puller then you tend to enjoy faster greens, have a long and flowing putting stroke, better speed control, and better impact alignments. If you’re a rear-arm pusher then you will be better on slower greens and have a more aggressive putting stroke. Most of your problems will come from speed control due to faulty impact alignments.
How do these two sources of power work to create better alignments?
The first type of power source comes from the angle formed between the lead upper arm and the lead shoulder during the backstroke. As this angle moves from an acute condition to an obtuse condition during the downstroke, it is deemed a lead arm pull stroke. The pulling action is a result of using this type of power source and is mostly felt in the back of the lead hand.
When you use this type of stroke — usually reserved for faster greens — your rear hand will remain bent and will always react and be pulled through the stoke by the motions of the lead arm. When using this type of stroke, you will find that a slower tempo is the key — long and flowing putting strokes are usually a result of this type of putting power source.
Players such as Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson (from the left-handed side) and John Daly exemplify this type of stroke pattern. The only problem with using this type of power accumulation during a putting stroke is that if the greens start to slow down, most players have a hard time advancing the ball to the hole.
The second type of power accumulation involves moving the rear arm from a bent condition into a straightening condition through the impact zone with a bent rear wrist: the rear arm push stroke. The rear arm is never fully straight during impact, but it is straightening and is only fully straight long after the ball is gone. When the rear arm starts to straighten, with a mandatory bent rear wrist through impact, it powers the putter shaft and transports energy to the ball preserving the effective loft of the putter head. Anytime you keep the rear wrist bent through the ball using the rear arm push stroke, the loft of the putter becomes more consistent through the ball and your speed control will be better.
This type of putting power source is best used when you have a tendency to “slap at the ball” with your rear hand, or for people who tend to have poor speed control. More aggressive putters who putt with less break tend to use this type of stroke for a stronger feel through the ball. Players using this type of motion on Tour include Brandt Snedeker and Nick Price.
What to Do
When golfers are putting well, the stroke and its power seems to flow from both sources (push and pull) simultaneously, and the feels that are derived from this action seem to be very simple in nature; there is little need to focus on the individual sources of power. If you are having trouble with speed control, impact alignments, or fast greens, however, then try one of these two putting styles and you may see better success on the greens.
I usually try to keep my students thinking about as little as possible during the actual stroke, but on the putting green I try to get them to focus on the proper motions that each individual body part must make. This education of the hands and body will allow you to better understand your total motion, as well as the individual pieces.
The key to putting consistency is to understand what your impact alignments do in your stroke and how these alignments are transported based on these two power sources. Take the time to understand these alignments and use the drills listed above to see if you are a rear-arm pusher or a lead-arm puller on the greens. Then practice accordingly.
Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)
Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.
As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.
Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.
All golfers can play well consistently
I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.
With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.
What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?
Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.
The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.
I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.
Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.
There are two key takeaways in this comparison
Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.
By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.
Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?
If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.
You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.
It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.
Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots
Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.
Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.
Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
You’ve gotten lessons. Several of them. You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag. You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards. And yet, you’re still…stuck. Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers. You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score. What gives?
One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan. His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today. A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.” Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range. In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:
“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”
Let me guess. You’ve tried that before, right? You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right? Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem. There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice. Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional. It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.
This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint. In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project. Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old. In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events. Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events. Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game. By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.
The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something. Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system. Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most. Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.
While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here. Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time. Far from it. In Nico’s words:
“We recommend 3 days a week. You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients. Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal. Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice. Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours. We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”
So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike. Kevin shares some key data in that regard:
“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect. Were we going to be an elite player product? Were we going to be an amateur player product? We didn’t know, honestly. So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players. Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range. That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range. We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps. It runs the full gamut. What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated. The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”
Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice. Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something. I think these guys might be too. To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.
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