Putting - Lessons Or Not?
By bducharm on 1/17/11
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Bob Du Charme didn't disappoint. These articles continue to keep coming in and I want to encourage you guys to keep writing! The feedback and new perspectives are fantastic. Bob spent his weekend with a putting guru and wanted to share his experience. Let me be the first to say, "Thanks!"

This past weekend I had the privilege to spend quite a bit of time with Marius Filmalter. While you may not heard of Marius, MANY PGA Tour players have and depend on his vast experiences with regards to the game of putting. Marius has worked and continues to work with well over 100 PGA Tour players including Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan, and others.

Friday afternoon I played 9 holes with Marius. He came to our club (River Place Country Club in Austin, TX) because of his mentoring of our head pro, Chris de Keretry. Chris has also mentored under Hank Haney. Marius played in our skins game and we had a great time. His sense of humor is tremendous and the needle came out early and often. Just for a matter of record, I won a skin with a 8 foot birdie putt on the last, while Marius did not!

I could write a ton of information here, but it would better to have you go to www.mariusgolf.com. There you can see much of the details about Marius' work over the years. I would point you to the tab "The Research" - very interesting. Also, Marius writes a column monthly for Golf Magazine.

Marius spoke at a dinner Friday evening. There were over 80 people there to hear him impart his knowledge about putting. He spoke for over 2 hours and could have kept going! He related stories about working with some of the pros and how he actually got started. He was actually commissioned by a pharmaceutical company in the 1990's to research people with the yips. Marius then took that research and expanded it to study the science of putting. He has actually studied and collected over 60,000 putting strokes (mine included). He has created a device called the TOMI, which measures 28 different aspects of a putting stroke. 28! I never in a million years would have guessed that. Most of what Marius spoke about Friday evening was debunking most of the myths that we have learned over the years about putting. One of those is aim. Many people will say that aim is one of the most aspects to making more putts. If you aim correctly, you will make more putts. FALSE! Marius' research has shown that aim has nothing to do with making more putts! Interesting huh?

Saturday afternoon I got a chance to have my stroke measured on the TOMI device. I was kind of nervous since I have never even had my putting stroke videoed much less studied by a computer program. The program determined a couple of things that I suspected but never was sure of. One was that I tend to cut my putts. If I think back to misses, they mostly were to the left (I am left handed), which computes directly to cutting the putts. I also found that I have been putting the correct amount of loft on the putter when striking the ball. Marius' research shows that good putters will put about 2 degrees of loft on the ball when striking it. He also has found out that the best putters in the world try to hook their putts. How can you hook a putt? Well, you aren't really hooking the putt but approaching the ball from the inside and low. This is all done with the core, not with the hands or arms.

After getting measured, we went into a big ballroom (it was raining outside) and practiced drills that directly correlated to helping improve our particular needs. Based on my tests, there were 2 things Marius wanted me to work on:

Number 1 - posture. I was slumping a bit when putting. He got my back a bit more straight and bending more from the hips versus slouching at the ball. This will not only help me with putting, but in my full swing as well. I am standing against a wall (from the heels to my head), very tall for 30 seconds every day. Then I step forward 1 step, bend from the hips. This is teaching me to do this more naturally.

Number 2 - putting path. Like I mentioned before, I have a tendency to cut my putts. A drill for this is to place a ball just ahead of the ball you are going to putt, just barely in back of the heel of your putter. If you correctly stroke the ball, you will miss the one in front.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about working these drills (and some others that you will have to pay for) and then going out and making more putts! I am confident that I am already a better putter without even having the chance to put this into practice yet! I highly recommend Marius Filmalter to anyone that wants to become a better putter. If you get a chance to take a lesson from Marius or one of his trained Instructors (I believe there are only 4 in the world), do it!!! Well worth the time and money. He also has a DVD and a couple of other training aids on his website.

If you are in the Austin, Texas area, River Place is opening a Marius Golf school very soon - I am stoked!!!


This was written by Bob Du Charme, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source


[ comments ]
Beekeeper45 says:
Might have to order the DVD set. Anything to help my flat stick woes!!!
1/17/11
 
Kickntrue says:
Sounds like a lot of interesting feedback! Having someone analyze and breakdown my putting stroke seems less scary than breaking apart my whole swing... maybe I'll have to check it out! Thanks for writing!
1/17/11
 
legitimatebeef says:
Bah, I've never had a putting lesson and I'm a lowly 8 handicapper but I would take on anyone in the world in a putting challenge and believe I could beat them. Good putting requires conviction man. You don't even need that great of a stroke, it just needs to be consistent and you need to trust it. And maybe it's because I don't have access to a golf supercomputer or super high speed video or whatever but I always believed that aim is extremely important to making putts. I simply cannot imagine how that is not the case.
1/17/11
 
Bryan K says:
While I was watching Mickelson's "Secrets of the Short Game" last summer, I became painfully aware of one thing. His assumptions about my putting were dead wrong.

Very rarely do I miss a putt and say "I read the break wrong". I miss just as many putts on the top side of the hole as I do on the bottom side of the hole. For me, the problem is speed. If I could accurately generate the proper speed in my putts consistently, I'd knock five strokes off my handicap.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@Bryan, Unfortunately Phil follows the Dave Stockton method of putting. While it was good for Stockton, it may not necessarily be good for Phil. I think we are seeing it isn't.

Also, Marius had GREAT tips and drills for speed control. That is the most important part of putting, controlling the distance.
1/18/11
 
lcgolfer64 says:
Thanks BduCharm, interesting article. I'm going to sound like Switzerland here, but I agree with pretty much everyone on here so far. I putt by feel but completely understand the scientific approach. I’m the first to admit putting is probably the worst part of my game in my mind.
My best rounds on the greens as I recall, I felt like I could completely see the line and walked up and knocked it down or left myself tap-ins, loved the feeling! I’ve tried practicing the scientific method [data-junky and process person by trade] of measuring stroke and distance results, etc. In the end I found myself way-over thinking when it came time to drain the birdie putt (even missed two potential eagles this year’s over-thinking the putt, ugh…) I found that learning the greens on the courses I play was the most helpful for me, but I think the that getting a repeatable consistent putting stroke mechanically is also important. [Cont’d]
1/18/11
 
lcgolfer64 says:
[Cont’d] Here's a question I have for the group I've always wondered about. I see people on the practice greens with 4-5 balls practicing the same putt over and over. Most miss, then adjust stroke/alignment/break and putt it again over and over. 'How often do you say to yourself [outside of the 5-6ft and in practice putts] "I practiced this exact putt on the putting greens, I know I have it!"
I will have 3-4 balls and putt each one to separate hole each time, as it replicates more of the real situation in the game, One putt at a hole and then finish it out. Not sure how much its helped but again it seems more realistic. Anyone else?...
1/18/11
 
lcgolfer64 says:
[ 'How often do you say to yourself [outside of the 5-6ft and in practice putts] "I practiced this exact putt on the putting greens, I know I have it!" ]

This is where the statistical data junky in me comes out - what are the odds of replicating the exact same putt the you saw on the putting greens - 18 holes varying conditions, different greens, slopes, lie angles, distances, etc...
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@lcgolfer64 - The way I approach my practice putting before a round is to use 1 ball. That's all I have on the golf course so why use more than that? I would also say that if you putt by feel and fail miserably, then why not incorporate some data into that. Marius told a great story about working with a pro on this exact thing. He asked the pro how far he hit his 7 iron - the pro said 175. He said great, there is a 175 target - hit it. He did. Then he asked the pro to hit his 7 iron 139. He failed miserably. He asked the pro to hit it 89 yards. Again - failed. That story opened my eyes to knowing how far to hit my putter. Understand there will always be a level of feel in every shot.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
[Contd] Marius gave us some really great tools to understanding how far to hit each putt. I cannot share this here as I had to pay for it!!!
1/18/11
 
lcgolfer64 says:
@bducharm
Great story - another way for me to consider it - thanks! My plan this year is seeing my lessons-pro and go over putting quite a bit more. We worked most of last year fixing errors on swing plane and to the green lessons, time for the next step.
1/18/11
 
bkuehn1952 says:
It seems to be hard for me to dial in on a course's green speeds because I play multiple courses. Of course I know some courses tend to have somewhat faster or slower greens. However, many public courses can have fairly significant changes in speed week to week what with weather and changing seasons. Hitting a few on the practice green can help but as @lcgolfer said, one rarely gets over a putt on the course that duplicates the practice green.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@bkuehn1952 - you bring up a great point. This is why the Tour pros are so damn good. They adjust and adopt to different conditions, different grasses, etc. from week to week. One thing they have going for them is the consistency from green to green on the same course. I am pretty lucky as our greens are pretty consistent.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
[Contd] It makes it easier to adjust to different speeds when you understand your stroke a bit better.
1/18/11
 
bkuehn1952 says:
I also second @bducharm's approach of using one ball for warm-up. I try to replicate how the game is played and follow my normal putting procedure. Of course, if I am just trying to get a sense for how fast the greens are running, I might wack several from the same spot to see how far they roll out.
1/18/11
 
Bryan K says:
bducharm: I read a little more closely into your article, and I have this to say. AT LAST someone who understand that putting is NOT all about aim! Heck.....I figure that I can miss my aim by 5 to 10 degrees either way on a 20' putt, and as long as I have the speed right, I'll have an easy second putt to save the two-putt. I'll have to read more into this when I have time. Thanks for taking the time to write.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@Bryan - yep! It's not about aim but about face position at impact. The brain makes compensations and attempts to help you control the direction. Another interesting statistic Marius threw out there - 35 yards wide fairway, no wind, no other outside factors, hitting the ball at the middle of the fairway, if you are off 3 degrees left or right, the ball will stay in the fairway if the drive is not longer than 341 yards. However, if your putter is off 3 degrees at impact, you virtually have no chance to make a 6 foot putt (he stated exactly that last part but I don't have my notes in front of me).
1/18/11
 
Bryan K says:
I've been known to use as many as 20 balls when I practice close range putting, though I usually stick to 10.

The deal is, I'm not working on my read or my aim when I practice my putting. I'm not trying to replicate situations I'm going to run into on the course. It's all about tempo and speed. I need to have confidence that I'll be able to nail my five footers all round long before I begin play, When I use one ball to practice, I don't get in enough reps to make sure my tempo is accurate. When I get in enough reps inside of five feet before a round starts, I don't miss them.

My issue is that I need to get better at control outside of ten feet. I'm a terrible lag putter. It's the worst part of my game (besides the "escape shot").
1/18/11
 
Bryan K says:
bducharm: Well...maybe the time I've spent leaning up against the wall at home with my putter is paying off, then. It's a drill I learned from a teenager who showed me up at the golf course a couple of years ago. I rest my head against the wall assuming my normal stance and swing the putter back and forth like a pendulum for 10-15 minutes (until my back starts to hurt).

Truth is, when I am not feeling confident...that's when I start making adjustments at impact that destroy my chances at making those short putts. I stop relying on my plumb-bob and start trying to reallign my putter at impact. I can feel it happening, though, and it's the reason why it's SO important for me to ensure that I have gotten those reps in before the round starts.

I usually strive to get in 50-100 reps from inside of 5' before each round.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@Bryan, make sure you are taking the putter back with your core, not with your arms. The putter will naturally come inside the line on the back stroke. Straight back and straight through (Pelz) creates inconsistent strokes. You have to use the little muscles versus the large muscles.
1/18/11
 
Bryan K says:
Can you explain the "straight back and straight through" comment?
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@Bryan, I will try (easier to show). Pelz and others teach a straight back and straight through stroke, meaning the club head theoretically doesn't deviate from straight path. It has been shown that you cannot accomplish a straight back/through stroke with the core - it HAS to be done with the arms. There you start to use little muscles, which will cause more inconsistency. If you are standing with your head against the wall in your putting stance and you keep the toe of blade on the baseboard, you will feel that armsy stroke. If you anchor your elbows into your side (Marius has a pretty cool device to help with that) and you putt with your core, the blade MUST come to the inside. Help?
1/18/11
 
legitimatebeef says:
Call me crazy but I still think ITS ALL ABOUT DISTANCE AND ITS ALL ABOUT AIM.

Why is it that tour pro's (for whom every little stroke counts) spend so much time reading greens and lining up putts??? GOLF IS A TARGET GAME HOW CAN YOU SAY "aim has nothing to do with making more putts"

Now I understand using hyperbole to make a point and to grab people's attention but you simply can't say that aim has nothing to do with making more putts. Its simply not true.
1/18/11
 
Bryan K says:
legitimatebeef: For me, it's all about what comes easier. While I will admit that I probably can't read a heavily undulating green from 40 feet out to save my life, when I'm inside 10', reading the green is the easy part.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@legitimatebeef - You can aim incorrectly and still make putts, while you can aim correctly and still miss putts. Simple. Scientific evidence to the point of aim not mattering. I can aim a foot away from the intended line and make compensations in my stroke to make the putt. You are correct (even though you are shouting), the biggest factor in putting is Speed (distance). If you do not have distance control, you will never be a good putter. I appreciate your differing opinion and would love the opportunity to putt against you sometime (since you said you could beat most others)!!! A friendly competition!!! :-)
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@legimatebeef - I also forgot - You're crazy!!! :-)
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@Bryan - exactly! Your brain is taking over (for some us that is not so good!) and making compensations. Better to already have the physical part ingrained and depend on that.
1/18/11
 
Bryan K says:
bducharm: Interesting analysis. I'll have to look at this the next time I line myself up against the wall (tonight). I anchor my elbows in by my sides on my swing while striving to keep a straight forward-backward stroke. I understand now why this is wrong. I'm going to have to find out what I'm doing with my stroke because it might be causing problems. I wonder if I might be subconsciously alterting it to a more correct arch path when I'm on the course because hitting the ball straight and true tends to not be a problem for me. And if it is a problem, I can always tell based on how the stroke feels exactly what I did wrong.
1/18/11
 
tennesseeboy says:
Thanks Bob, there's a lot of good stuff here. I may have to order the DVDs.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
@tennesseeboy - great, let me know how it works out.
1/18/11
 
bducharm says:
By the way - www.golf.com/putting has a video of Marius talking about speed control...
1/18/11
 
legitimatebeef says:
1/18/11
 
legitimatebeef says:
"palms face"
1/18/11
 
faugolf says:
I played a corporate tournament and received a promo code for Marius Filmalter's Automatic Putting Package. The tournament was a couple months ago so I don't know if it is still valid but in case someone here is thinking about buying it the code was "marius15off". FYI - I actually bought the package and the best part of it is disc 3 which features Brad Faxon and Marius working together.
1/18/11
 
daytripper says:
Gonna go to cross-handed putting. Less maintenance. To me , putting is squaring the face with the right speed.
1/18/11
 
Bryan K says:
Okay...I did the drill last night taking what bducharm said, and I discovered some really interesting things. I even took some video of my swing from different persepectives to make sure that I wasn't missing anything.

First off, I haven't been doing this drill lately simply because...well...it sucks picking up a golf club when it's -20 outside. Therefore, this is the first time I've done this drill since I had my putter shortened and regripped about a month ago. The first thing I noticed is that I'm so used to gripping way down on the shaft, I will have to retrain myself to actually grip the grip.

To ensure that I'm holding the putter correctly, I've actually had to put the head flat on the floor and take the grip ensuring that the head stays flat on the floor. I know this grip is correct because it feels like it's supposed to. It's the length I was fitted for. But until I get used to it, I'll have to rely on making sure the putter head is flat.

Anyway, on to the meat of the discussion:
1/19/11
 
Bryan K says:
I stood up to the wall as discribed earlier in this thread and moved my putter back and forth. Perfectly straight line. My elbows are anchored, and my pivot point is about halfway down my back. As hard as I try, I can't deviate from that swing path. This is incorrect, right? I should have an arch if it's my core doing the work, right?

Well, I consulted two different videos from two different angles to find out that my putter head is not, in fact, going in a straight line. It is simply my perception, from a slight angle. It appears to be a straight line because I can't put my eyes directly between the wall and my putter head.

With the camera mounted on a straight path behind the putter, ad with the camera mounted on the wall directly above the putter, it appears as if there IS a slight arch to my swing path. But since I've never had an eye on a direct line from my putter any more, I've never been able to tell.
1/19/11
 
bducharm says:
@Bryan - NICE! Well done. It is simply a perception and that is why it is good to have it on video. Another misperception is that the putter head must sit flat on the ground. WRONG! It matters not. Look at Steve Stricker. He has the heel of the putter off the ground. Isao Ioki putted with the toe pointed straight up and he made everything! More of what Marius looks at is posture, grip, etc.
1/19/11
 
Bryan K says:
bducharm: I think I disagree slightly when talking about the angle the putter head rests on the ground at. Since the putter has loft, if the toe is off the ground, the ball will start off slightly to the left of the target line. Conversely, if the heel is off the ground, the putter will start to the right of the target line. Now these pros you mention probably have a very good reason for doing it the way that they do it, but I've seen this concept in action by experimenting with my putter on a flat surface. The biggest problem I had when I got my new putter in '08 was the fact that, since the shaft was so long, my toe would be off the ground. I couldn't figure out why I was pulling everything until I learned to grip down on the shaft and level out the putter head. Now that I've shortened the shaft, I suspect I might have the opposite problem until I get used to it. But at least I know what to expect now.
1/19/11
 
bducharm says:
@Bryan - Marius' research showed that it did not matter if the toe or heel was off the ground. I understand what you are saying but I'm just telling you the research. I'm sure there is more to it. Not sure what it is but I am going to find out.
1/19/11
 
Bryan K says:
Let me know what you find!
1/19/11
 
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