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A Putting Wake-Up Call
I’ve really been struggling with my putting lately, so I’ve spent a little more time on the basics. I’ve focused on stroke tempo and staying down on the putts a little longer and it has helped a lot . . . on everything but my short ones, those little “must makes” of less than 6-7 feet. To be honest, I’ve stunk it up on those for some time, and that has my confidence really rattled. I hate to use the “y-word” but I’ve got ‘em. I miss short putts to the right way too much of the time. Rarely left . . . always right. I was convinced it was due to a quick transition from backstroke to forward stroke, which opens the face a little.

So, when we were at the PGA Expo in Las Vegas last week, our space was across from the putting green section and there was a clever little alignment aid on display. It was a simple device to help you set up to your putts so that your eyes were directly over the ball. Well, when I tried it, I felt like I was going to fall over frontward – I had been setting up with my eyes so far inside the line, it put me completely out of balance to try to get them back over the ball.

As I worked my way into the right position after a few minutes of finding a completely new set-up and posture from where I’ve been, I began stroking short putts like a machine. Hmmmmmm. I have been grinding for months trying to get my putting back to where I can trust it, and all along it was nothing more than my posture and set-up. Guess I should have been reading my own posts a little more carefully, huh?

When I got home and began working on this on my putting track, I found that all my putters were way to flat in lie angle to allow me to get in the right posture, and keep my hands in the right position. So I dug out an old putter from years ago, which is much more upright, and much shorter. I soon began to feel totally different stroking short putts. I had to figure out what I had learned.

As I am an analytical person, I began to process just why my poor set-up, with my eyes several inches inside the ball/target line was causing me to putt so poorly on short putts, while my lag putting has been very good. It proved to be a simple matter of geometry.

When I’ve been over a putt of 6-8 feet or less . . . and the shorter the putt, the worse it is . . . the ball and target are on one line and the tracking of my eyes to the hole on another. As I track back and forth to the hole with my eyes, I’m “programming” a stroke path, so when I move the putter, my body wants to make that putter follow the programmed eye track, not go along the line. So . . . the putter follows that same angled line that my eyes had programmed, and the putter tracks inside going back and outside going through. Miss right every time. %$#@*&^&%$#@.

It’s like a rifle scope and a rifle. The line of sight through the scope is a couple of inches above the line of flight of the rifle barrel. They are set to converge at 100-200 yards out, but if you aimed the crosshairs at a target 2 feet away, the bullet will hit low every time. Does that make sense? If you turned that rifle sideways, with the scope toward you, it mimics what has been wrong with my putting. My eyes (the scope) are aimed at the target, but the putter (the barrel) is going to shoot right of that target at close range.

So, the moral of this story (besides that I should re-read my own stuff regularly) is that you cannot spend too much time on the simple basics of alignment and set up, whether it’s for 3-to-5 foot putts or full swing shots. The game is still much easier if you get in a good starting position.
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[ comments ]
mjaber says:
And here I thought you were going to tell us you were transitioning to the belly-putter. :)
kiknit says:
I have the same issue with missing short puts to the left...closed face or just a flat out pull. Without promoting the 'device' what is it?!?!
GolfSmith7 says:
Anyone use the ping and cradle for the iphone?
mjguzik says:
Yes. Pick one up about three weeks ago and started playing around with it. I was surprised with some of the measurements, ie strong arc, closed impact and 2:1 tempo. Definately not what I thought it was. I have since worked to address my closed impact with some level of success. Lots of improvements have been realized. It is on my recommend list.
sepfeiff says:
Agree T! I think i'm gonna say just about the same thing and offer a drill to check it.

Take your putting stance, loosen your grip until you are barely hanging on to the club. Lift the club slightly off the ground and notice that it moves itself away or towards you, I would think majority of the time it is towards you because most folks putters are too long or too upright to start. If you have loosened your grip enough the shaft will be hanging like a pendulum. The difference in your setup and the natural balance of the putter should be reduced so that the putters desire to balance itself is minimized during your stroke. This balance makes a huge difference in the putting stroke because we are making constant effort to counteract the putters attempt to balance itself.

Noticing this caused me to shorten my putter 1.5", and flatten it by 4 deg. to get my stroke closer to the putters balance point and my eyes over the ball. My putting has improved A TON.
robbie.dejarnette says:
I had a problem with that until my swing coach got me to put the putter shaft into the palms of my hands rather than gripping it with my pointer fingers runnig down each side of the shaft. This prevented me from turning the putter on my take-away as I wasn't pushing with my left finger. I also went with a baseball grip that allows me more feel of the weight of my putter "extending" from my arms rather than in my hands, allowing it to "droop" as sepfeiff says. I have since dropped from 35-36 putts per round down to 31-32 with the confidence of the stroke I have developed from this change, among other things I have done, including getting my eyes over the ball as stated in the article above.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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