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Is your golf ball skipping off the putter face? Here’s how to fix it

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By now everyone has heard the benefits of getting your putter — and really, all of your clubs — custom fitted to your stroke/swing. However, many people over look loft when it comes to the putter. In fact, the putter’s loft at impact is one of the major factors involved in how the ball launches, and ultimately rolls on the surface.

But let’s stop for a second and understand that there are actually TWO different lofts within your putter; first, you have your static loft, which is the loft of the blade designed into the putter from the factory (most of today’s putters are set between 3 to 4 degrees). Second is the loft you deliver at impact that is controlled mostly by your hand action at the ball. You can either add or subtract loft; this is called your dynamic loft.

The SAM Puttlab and Quintic Ball Roll both measure this fundamental.

PutterLaunchandSpin

Here you can see that the static loft of the putter was 3 degrees, but when the player hit this particular putt, the shaft was leaning forward 2.3 degrees giving us a dynamic loft of 0.7 degrees at impact. That’s a far cry from the starting amount of 3 degrees at address. Therefore, this player’s dynamics (hand action) during his stroke caused the putter to become de-lofted more than necessary. In fact, in a perfect world, we want the loft to be delivered at a constant value that matches your stroke to make your putts more consistent.

The best way to understand dynamic loft changes is to show you a few photos with me testing this principal on a 25-foot putt.

PutterDrill

When you hit the ball with the correct amount of dynamic loft the ball will skid very little and begin to roll quickly, as pictured above. But when you hit the ball with too much added loft, you will see the ball jump up into the air, as pictured below.

PutterBallSkip

So how do you determine if your putter has the right amount of static and dynamic loft? Try these 4 steps.

  1. Take a golf ball as I have done above and color half of it black
  2. Hit a few putts on video* as I have done above (your iPhone works just fine)
  3. See if your ball is skidding, rolling, or jumping up
  4. If so, you have excessive hand action during impact, and/or too much static loft on your putter… any repair shop can take a degree or so of loft off of your putter

*If you don’t have a camera then you can do the same drill on a dew filled green early in the morning; the quicker the ball rolls on the ground the better you will be. If you have a hard time keeping the ball “down,” then you most likely have excessive hand action and too much dynamic loft.

Try your best to keep your putter’s shaft and your impact alignments solid like the photo below.

RoryPuttingStroke

Here you can see that the putter shaft did not pass the hands during impact. Remember, keep your hands working toward the target and you will be more successful on the greens!

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. emerson boozer

    Aug 29, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Everyone i know thinks they are a good putter because there are no penalties and they randomly make some. As long as they don’t miss a bunch of 5 footers they’re ‘good’ and go back to smashing drivers on the range.

    I can tell you if you have 3 or 4 degrees loft, if you ‘hold off’ the stroke, if your not arc’ing on a square stance then you are not a good putter. You’re a good compensator.

    And, you’ll read this comment and say ‘i’m a feel putter, rubbish’.

    you can be better but you don’t take the time to understand it

  2. KK

    Aug 27, 2016 at 2:49 am

    Rory’s the wrong guy to set as the standard. His putting blows. Where is the shaft for Jordan, Jason Day or Phil?

  3. Steve Wozeniak

    Aug 26, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Hello……..ball position,

    ALL great putters have it back, middle, or forward………watch out, it’s a tough one!!!!

    And it has EVERYTHING to do with the correct loft off the face………

    • S

      Aug 30, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Wrong…Good putters can control their dynamic loft regardless of ball position.

  4. Double Mocha Man

    Aug 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Tom… for the test on the dew covered morning green are you looking at a 30 foot putt? 20, 10, 3 foot? Not that I ever play that early.

  5. pepperwhiteknight

    Aug 25, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    That looks like Rory putting in the picture. I always thought of him as a terrible putter with his 4 putts.

  6. Josh

    Aug 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    dude u suck shut it

  7. Arnold

    Aug 25, 2016 at 11:17 am

    I got the opportunity to go to San Diego and work put my putting stroke under the scope in the Scotty Cameron Studio… it turns out the reason why the ball jumps is because the putter is coming at a descending angle and actually strikes the ball at a negative amount of loft. This causes the ball to press ever so slightly into the ground and the result is the ball jumping up and down before it actually starts to roll. The loft of the putter is obviously meant to help the ball ~ 2 degrees into the air so that if you were to look at the ball with a high speed camera the first foot and a half or so, the ball would actually skid evenly on top of the surface with no roll, and then once it gets enough traction the ball will roll line over line.

    • Arnold

      Aug 25, 2016 at 11:18 am

      meant end over end… couple of typos here and there.

    • tom stickney

      Aug 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Yes, that is one of the two ways to make the ball jump up…

  8. JP

    Aug 25, 2016 at 11:03 am

    What isn’t explained here, is what the ideal launch should be. You explain how to check what you’re doing, but have no explanation on what the end goal is. Should it be a launch angle of 1*, 2*, should it match the attack angle if coming up at the ball slightly?

    • JP

      Aug 25, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Maybe another article about the relationship of attack angle, effective loft and their impacts on the launch angle and spin loft numbers would be appropriate?

      Google search what ideal conditions are and you won’t find anything of substance for the actual player. It would be great if one of our expert instructors could break new ground for the WRX community.

      • Patricknorm

        Aug 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm

        Well I play a lot of tournaments and God help me if I really care about what the perfect roll is. What I’m always concentrating is a repeatable confidant stroke. Plus every green is slightly different and every round I feel different, as is the weather. It’s always about perfect distance and if I get the right read, it’s a bonus.
        The best way to improve your putting is practice. Preferably from 5-7 feet.

        • tom stickney

          Aug 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

          Wouldn’t a consistent stroke include the proper impact dynamics/launch so the ball comes off the blade in a more predictable manner?

          • Patricknorm

            Aug 26, 2016 at 11:59 am

            You’re right Tom. My number one swing thought when putting is making sure the line I put on my ball lines up with the centre of my putter club face. I agree with your message but, under pressure I’m always worried about speed and hitting the ball in the middle of the club face, gives me that comfort of a repeatable stroke.

      • Felix

        Aug 26, 2016 at 11:34 pm

        It varies from player to player based on how they release the putter and the green speeds they play.

  9. FP

    Aug 25, 2016 at 10:51 am

    It helps to get yourself a putter with 2 degrees of loft rather than 3 or 4 degrees, if you struggle to forward press so much

    • KJ

      Aug 25, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Effective loft 1.5 to 3 degrees
      Rise angle 2-3.5 degrees
      Launch 1.25 – 2 degrees

      Rise angle greater than effective loft will result in forward roll, less loft for faster greens.

      • FP

        Aug 25, 2016 at 4:59 pm

        Depends on the skill of the player, apparently

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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