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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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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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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?

Take action

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.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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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.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

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?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

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.

Nico Darras, co-founder of 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.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

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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