Putting: What's with all the variations?
By mjaber on 3/13/13
Recently, Joe Jones wrote an article about putting, and it got me thinking. Why are there so many different putting styles? With the traditional putter and stance, you've got a straight-back-and-through motion, as well as an arcing motion. There are different grips- left hand low, claw, right hand low, pencil. Then there are belly-putters, broomsticks, and many ways to hold and manipulate those clubs as well. Mr. Jones has his own side-saddle approach.

So, I ask, what's the deal? Is one better, or worse? Is there a secret society of putters that's trying to mess with our head? Is the secret hidden in the pages of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis?

Here is my theory. It's all about comfort, and confidence as an extension of that comfort. If you are comfortable over your putter, you're going to be more confident. If you're confident standing over a putt, you've got a better chance of making it.

Conversely, if you're not comfortable, you will look for a fix. Some players will just change putters, and the different look over the ball makes them feel at ease. Others will look for a less traditional approach, by adjusting their grip, their stance, or the length of the putter. What they are looking for, I believe, is comfort. They will experiment with variations of every stance, and grip they can come up with, looking for the right combination to get the ball in the hole.

There is no magic cure, I don't think. No standard stroke, stance, grip and club combination that will work for everyone. Some players will go their entire life with the same stoke and club. Other players will change something from round to round, or week to week. I think most of us will fit somewhere in the middle of those 2 extremes.

The USGA and R&A have deemed one type of stroke, the anchored stroke, as illegal. I'm still trying to wrap my head around why. It doesn't affect me, personally, because I'm comfortable with my 33" putter, and I don't feel like putting the money into a new putter so that I can learn a new way to putt. I feel for the guys who use the longer putters, though. Confidence on the greens, to me, is the most important mental part of this crazy game. Without it, you're round can be schumtz before you tee off. Having it in the back of your head that you need to get it close, every time, has got to be nerve-wracking. Look at what it has done for Adam Scott. I don't believe he's putting THAT much better with the broomstick, than he was with his regular putter, but he's become a better player with it.

So, here is my question to all of you. Have you changed putters, or your putting stroke? If so, how often, and did it help your putting? Did it help you overall game, even though your putting stats are the same?


This was written by Mike Jaber, 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.

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Image via Flickr, eMaringolo


[ comments ]
jfurr says:
I use the standard grip, the claw and front hand low don't feel right to me. On the club I've tried 34 35 36 inch length, heel-toe weighted vs face balanced, blade vs mallet, normal midsize and fatso club grips, soft insert metal insert and no insert, and finally know now what I think is the most comfortable and fits my stroke. Currently I just want to get better at distance control.
3/13/13
 
bkuehn1952 says:
Nice article, Mr. Jaber. I last changed putters on July 4, 2012. I had been using a Ray Cooke Billy Baroo-style putter without a great deal of success. Changed to an Odyssey 2-Ball Blade that was in the basement. According to my oob stats, the balance of the year I improved by a little more than a stroke every 18 (32.6 vs. 33.7). I seemed to be more accurate on those 3-5 footers with the Odyssey. On shorter putts I try to be more straight back and straight through and the Odyssey seems to cooperate with that more.

My style pretty much remained the same. I have always used a standard reverse overlap grip. Nothing changed on the putter length or putter grip for either putter.

I have heard that "change" often leads to improved results almost no matter what one changes. I may be the poster boy for that theory.
3/13/13
 
Duke of Hazards says:
well written, Mike

I changed to claw (pencil variant) putting grip to quiet my right hand and it seems to work better for me, particularly on short putts. however, I'm also considering going back to standard 35" length putter vs. current 33" putter in order to stabilize my wrists a bit more. i played a round on vacation last year with a rag-tag rental club set that had a 35" putter and putted well with it, since the balance point was a bit different, seemed my wrists had less play and I felt more in control of the putter head. of course, could've just been the aforementioned 'this is different/distraction from the result' placebo effect
3/13/13
 
frankteo714 says:
I've had the same stroke and putter for the last 2 years and I don't plan on changing either of them ever.
3/13/13
 
GBogey says:
I went to a blade from a mallet last year but the main benefits were getting measured (33")and getting the right sight line for improved aim. My distance control has always been reasonably good, but I am constantly tinkering with lots of stuff in my technique to make more of the 2'-10'.
3/13/13
 
jcstoll says:
Last fall I splurged / suffered temporary insanity and bought a Scotty Cameron Del Mar. My old putter is an Odyssey White Hot XG #9, and I swear that in my first round with the Scotty, I putted better. The Scotty magic faded quickly, and I don't think I put any better with it - but man, it sure looks pretty. I kept the Odyssey, and decided to experiment with the fatso grip on it (couldn't bring myself to defile the Scotty). I'll see how that goes when the season finally starts.
3/13/13
 
Anti-Mulligan says:
I changed putters this year leaving the 2Ball and going to a teardrop rollface. My putting has gotten better but the real reason is for the putting lesson I got. Got me in the right positions.
3/13/13
 
GBogey says:
JCStoll reminded me - last year when I was debating whether to really splurge or not on my new putter (I did not), I played with a guy who had a beautiful Scotty. He told me that he used to buy a new putter every year looking for the one, but it never was so he bought another one the next year. Then one year his wife bought him the Scotty as a gift. When he saw the receipt, the Scotty became the ONE ever since.
3/13/13
 
bducharm says:
@jfurr - "Currently I just want to get better at distance control." - EASY peasy, lemon squeezy!!! Look up www.mariusgolf.com. Distance control is all about calibrating your stroke! Until I met Marius, I didn't understand that. Private message me if you want more info.
3/13/13
 
joe jones says:
Mike. Thanks for the article. The fact is there is no science to putting. Your right about confidence. I firmly believe that if you think you are good, you will be. Look at today's trends. The pop stroke as used by Brandt Snedeker and Russel Hendly is all the rage.All of the great putters in the old days used that style. Casper, Palmer and Player in particular. The reason. Bumpy, slow greens which required an attacking style just to hold the line. It went out of fashion as greens got faster and better. Bobby Locke who many consider the best of all time putted with a gate stroke and hooked his putts. Lloyd Mangrum said Locke could make a 75 footer over peanut brittle.Since 1970 I have made a study of putting aand my conclusion is "Who the hell knows".
3/13/13
 
joe jones says:
Years ago I was a conventional putter copying the style of the day. Knock kneed,crouching with my left forearm resting on my left thigh and using a pop stroke Until 1969 I was scary good and would more often than not dig deep into my opponents pockets because on my putting.Then I got the yips. I mean the YIPS. I know no reason why. They were horrible. I lost confidence. I went to my side saddle style and never looked back. I made my own Big Ugly putter because there were no long putters available.I used Ugly till 1998 when I went to my current 48" Leading Edge putter.It was heavier than Ugly and better on Bermuda greens. One of the main complaints about long putters is how they are not good on long putts.I have practiced and have so much confidence (theres that word again) that more often than not I will putt from off the green if the surface is mowed and somewhat smooth.My playing partners have commented that they wish they could do the same.
3/13/13
 
GBogey says:
I've read several books about putting and one of my takeaways is that great putters (say Stockton) have the ability to blame something other than themselves when they miss as long as they make good contact. Blame the wind, misread, grains of sand, whatever, but they don't blame themselves.
3/13/13
 
joe jones says:
I failed science in school so it might be strange that I think Dave Pelz book The Putting Bible is the best book on putting ever written. Dave is so scientific that it blows my mind but he uses humor to off set the theories he writes about, I,m particularly fond of his theory about the Lumpy Doughnut effect on putts. If you are interested in putting (and who isn't) its worth the read.
3/13/13
 
mmontisano says:
knowing that i'll putt badly with any putter you give me has freed me up to just accepting that for me, it's all luck.
3/14/13
 
birdieXris says:
Actually i'm in this group. Grasping for anything that may or may not work. i've calibrated my stroke quite well, but it all comes down to comfort and i've realized that i dont play enough to be comfortable with my flat stick. Even practicing whenever i can, it's a day-to-day struggle with comfort. What i've done though, is made three very distinct, very different putters. All the same length, so the stroke doesn't change, but the weight, grip size and alignment are all unique. it's a matter of comfort. if i'm comfortable then i'm putting well, doesn't matter what stick and having a few to go to that are different allows me to sort of manufacture that comfort. It takes about 15 minutes on the practice green before a round, tops, to figure it out. Hopefully it works out, i've only tried it once - so far so good.
3/14/13
 
legitimatebeef says:
I'll work on my posture every now and then, and also try to shorten the stroke as it tends to get long but that is about it.
3/14/13
 
joe jones says:
Putters and those using them are like snow flakes, No two are alike. What works for one will not work for others. Many players use a plumb bob as a method to read the break of a putt. All I see is the back of my thumb.Everyone would like to have the touch of a Ben Crenshaw. Few have been able to perfect his feel for the green.In his hay day, Tom Watson was the most aggressive putter on tour. He attacked every first putt because he knew he could make the come back putt every time. When he started to miss those he lost confidence and had the miseries for several years. He admits to trying several methods and grips to overcome his problem but being a traditionalist he wouldn't put them in play.Hard work eventually got him out of the doldrums. If you fine something that works for you you are fortunate. Keep practicing it so it becomes second nature. If not, try something else.
3/14/13
 
onedollarwed says:
What's great about putting is that it can be so obviously a "clutch" performance. Putting and scoring is all about context. Do you have to make it, or should you lag?

Putting cannot be isolated and measure because of the contextual nature of the game. A three-foot slider for small money at the muni in spring can be nearly impossible to make. What about that 10-footer for eagle in a round where you're not even keeping score? How about a 35-footer that nobody thinks you can make in a serious level of competition?

Why is the 8-foot uphill comebacker for double so easy after rolling that 4-footer right by? And this is why performance is so key! We all have to read putts the same way, well... with the same equipment. A caddie, local knowledge and practice rounds can help, but everyone uses eyes, brain, memory, etc. All the putter needs to be is an extension of the context and the read. Context (objective)
+ Read (experience) +Putt (physical/nervous input) = execution. Number of putts is irrelevant.
3/15/13
 
joe jones says:
Onedollar is correct. Most less accomplished putters are really bad green readers.Reading greens can be improved if you have a good system and stick to it.Many players under estimate the break on a putt. Read more break rather than a small break. Obviously the ball has no chance of going in from the low side. Once you have determined the amount of break stick to it.our first read will be the best one. When you approach your putting stance do it the same way every time down to the smallest detail. It develope's confidence.
3/15/13
 
joe jones says:
After this is done concentrate on distance, Most players 3 putt because they leave putts short or go too long, It's not uncommon to see a 4 ft comeback or short putt but you rarely see a putt 4 ft off line. You can score well when you hit any part of the fairway even if the fairway is 50 yards wide, You can score well if you get your approach shots on any part of the geen. If you 3 putt often you will go nuts and never score well.
3/15/13
 
SpaceMaNy0 says:
I use a standard grip (Vardon style, even with the putter), but have fattened the grip of my putter so it's double or maybe even triple the diameter of a standard grip. I like the feel a lot better with the big grip.
3/15/13
 
onedollarwed says:
Thanks joe. And I'm basically saying that if you can putt your read then all is well with the putter.
My putting improved dramatically with the change of the putter. I had always used lightweight blade-style putters. I found an old inexpensive mallet and tried it. At first it was quite foreign both in weight and visuals. But then... BOOM everything was going in (anything inside of 6' and level). This was because for the first time I could see the target line clearly - and had gotten used to the putter's properties (only 2 rounds). So here's my rule of thumb for putters:

If you can't see the target line in your setup (exactly where a straight shot on a level flat surface will go), then change your setup or change your putter until you can!

You've simply got to be able to make anything short and straight 95% of the time! Try using a putter where your eye can see the target line on the putter - and it's the line the ball will travel on. All other factors can add a little, but not much.
3/15/13
 
joe jones says:
I often watch players hit a putt from twelve feet or so, , hit the hole or just skim the edge and go four feet past. They say "I just missed that putt" and I respond " Yes, you missed it by four feet. That's pretty close".
3/16/13
 
Tim Horan says:
Two feet short is actually four feet short of pace. Four feet past is only two feet too much. Never up is never in!
3/18/13
 
joe jones says:
Did anyone watch the Gary Player episode on Golf Channel. He explained his theories about putting perfectly and with many of the thoughts that I have written about on this subject in this posting. Nothing radical but sound advice for anyone that is struggling with putting. I particularly liked his comment about Bobby Locke. Locke developed his style so he could putt on South African grasses which were notoriously bumpy and grainy.I strongly suggest that everyone watch Player's episode.
3/20/13
 
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