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How much arc should you have in your putting stroke? Well, it depends…

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Much has been written over the years regarding putting and the benefits of using a square-to-square putting stroke versus having some arc in the stroke. Personally, I’ve always gravitated toward what I call an “on-plane” putting stroke where the shaft of the club works back and thorough with minimal face rotation. In my opinion, this makes the stroke more natural and requires fewer manipulations from the player.

In order to train players to use this stroke, I first use the SAM Puttlab to help them understand their arc and rotation tendencies. From there, I begin to tighten up any loose motions using a simple on-plane putting stroke trainer I have called the Perfectstroke Putting Aid. Most people have trouble with too much face rotation and this aid tends to help keep it under control.

Here’s what the training aid look like from address.

StickneyPerfectStrokeGolfWRX

There’s a rail that the putter shaft rides back and forth along keeping it on plane, while the clear white line helps to show face rotation. While I make my backstroke you will notice a few things…

StickneyArcOnPlanePutting

  • The shaft remains on the rail and has remained “on-plane.”
  • The head has shifted inward on a very slight arc.
  • The face has rotated open slightly.

So how can you apply this to your stroke?

When you move the putter back and through, you’ll always see some type of arcing unless you train yourself to NOT have this motion. This is because the shaft lies on an inclined plane, naturally making the putter head move in the manner shown above.

Note: The more upright your putter, the easier it is to make a straight-back, straight-through stroke.

As the putter moves, you will also see a touch of face rotation; this is normal as long as it’s not forced. We want the stroke to be as natural as possible. Putters with different toe hangs allow for different amounts of rotation. Whether you prefer less or more arc will determine what style of putter you should use. Mallets tend to not open up as much, while putters with more toe hang tend to open much more.

SAM Putt lab can help immensely by not only identifying your stroke proportions, but also helping to fit you into the putter you prefer.

puttlab-rise (1)

I try to train the stroke on the Perfectstroke and then see how this affects putter head rotation. Using the SAM I can fine tune the face rotation and from there the stroke is much simpler to repeat.

Here are my keys to making a more “on-plane” putting stroke:

  • Practice with a training aid such as the Perfectstroke, other arc trainers, or using a bench — anything with a straight edge that the shaft can follow to train yourself to keep your stroke more “on-plane.”
  • Focus on how to make this stroke and what you feel in order to do so.
  • Try to curb excessive face rotation by experimenting with putters that have less toe hang, face-balanced putters and/or by using larger grips.
  • If doing this does not seem to help, practice putting with your left hand only and you will learn to curb your overactive face rotation.

As always, enjoy the experimenting process; it’s part of the fun!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Zinger Pinger

    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I thought that the most expensive, exotic, studio-designed putters machined from a solid block of sooft virgin 303 SS and proper heel-toe weighting design shapes would automatically bring itself to square at impact…. and even control distance …. after all, shouldn’t a $750 custom putter do all that for you …?!!

  2. PGFREE

    Apr 4, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Ian NAILED IT!!

  3. Dill Pickelson

    Mar 30, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    i would characterize it differently. my data shows it’s not that people arc too much as tiger arc’d more than almost every tour pro. the issue is people don’t square the face at impact. the average is 2 degrees open at impact (e.g. 50/50 from 7ft or so). it’s rare for someone to over rotate to closed at impact. it’s pretty impossible to have people restrict the arc on the backswing and then somehow naturally square it. let it open, let it close and just put the ball in the right place. the key is in the shoulders moving naturally (no rocking!) and the elbows also arcing’, bottoming BEHIND the ball not at it, etc…

  4. Ian

    Mar 28, 2017 at 8:52 am

    When my putting is off I try focus only on distance control. When my putting is on I try focus only on distance control.

    • Kevin

      Mar 28, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Excessive Face Rotation is the biggest culprit in solid contact for most players. Arc, is a function of length of putt/backstroke. I do believe on longer putts the stroke has a tendency to move toward the inside. Although, a 3 time winner on PGA Tour told me his coaches said he was taking the putter slightly outside. Whatever you do hit solid putts and concentrate on square and center contact!!

    • Mat

      Mar 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      Right on, Ian.

      First putt is all distance control. Sometimes it’ll go in. The skill is ensuring the second putt goes in. If putt two is difficult, putt one failed. And of course, solid contact is the best way to get consistency in face response for distance control.

      For whatever it’s worth, I’ve found for myself that I putt best with my right hand on top, like moving a computer mouse. Left hand stabilises under. Try things, but base your findings on how that distance control works!

    • Hans

      Mar 29, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      For a lot of players, distance control is the last thing to work on. Telling someone that can’t make a consistent stroke to worry about distance control first is waste of time. I used to be a bad putter. I learned to fix my alignment and get my stroke consistent and within no time my distance control improved tremendously. That’s because if you have problems with stroke you don’t get the consistent feedback needed to get the feel for distance control. Fix your stroke and distance control is easy. Once you are already a good consistent putter, sure work on distance control to refine your feel. Work on distance control is good advice for those that already good at putting. But for many with putting issues, fix the stroke first and distance control will follow.

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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