Recently, I had a reader e-mail me with questions in regards to putting stroke mechanics. There was also thread in the forum with regards to Jack Kuykendall's 'Top Spin Putter.' Here's a video for that product.
I wanted to go over my thoughts on the Putting Stroke Mechanics in a 5-part series.
Homer Kelley famously stated that there is no one way to swing a golf club. I believe the same is true for the putting stroke. Here's ten great putters off the top of my head:
Each of them have different stroke mechanics. Some of them with extremely different stroke mechanics. Thus, I don't make any attempt to convince people to utilize the same stroke mechanics as say Luke Donald (who led the Tour in Putts Gained the past 3 seasons). Instead, I hope to have readers understand some basic concepts of stroke mechanics and better understand how to execute those mechanics...whichever they choose.
First, I like to get the objectives of stroke mechanics down. Let's NOT worry about hitting the ball into the cup. Why? Because ANYBODY can make 1 putt into a cup. The real key is to consistently make a lot of putts. And I believe when we focus more on the PROCESS than the final end result, it will allow us to improve our final end results over time.
To put it simply, the main objectives of stroke mechanics are:
1. Optimize the speed/touch put on the ball.
2. To get the ball to initially roll towards our intended target.
If we can do those 2 things consistently, I GUARANTEE you will improve your putting. And if we can do those 2 things consistently, I think it's likely we can be a great putter by ANY standard (amateur, Tour pro, competitive putting competitions, etc).
For this part in the series, I want to discuss the equipment and how it plays a part in stroke mechanics.
As some of you may know, I am a huge proponent and owner of an Edel Putter.
Now, that does not mean one cannot putt great with another putter. In fact, here's a look at the players that finished in the top 10 in Putts Gained in 2011 and the putter OEM that they use:
1. Luke Donald (Odyssey)
2. Steve Stricker (Odyssey)
3. Bryce Molder (Scotty Cameron)
4. Charlie Wi (Scotty Cameron)
5. Greg Chalmers (Bobby Grace)
6. Fredrik Jacobsen (Odyssey)
7. Jason Day (Taylor Made)
8. Kevin Na (Scotty Cameron)
9. Scott McCarron (Taylor Made)
10. Brandt Snedeker (Odyssey)
As we can see, there are a variety of different putters used by the players in the top-10 in putting. However, those players have great access to these putters and can find a putter that they aim very well. Whereas the average amateur golfer does not have the access to go out and try different putters.
With the putter itself, we have the following factors that can influence the stroke mechanics:
1. Putter head design
2. Hosel design
4. Shaft flex
6. Lie angle
9. Aiming lines and sight dots
Now...so we don't forget...let's go back to the 2 basic objectives of stroke mechanics.
B. Initial roll of the ball at the target.
THE PUTTER AND SPEED/TOUCH
Weight - The general rule of thumb, which was backed up by the Karlsen and Nilssen study, is that lighter putters work better on SLOWER greens.
Yes, lighter works better on slower. It has to do with the amount of force required to swing the lighter putter and the amount of force to hit the putt on a slower green.
Conversely, HEAVIER works better on FASTER greens.
One of the nice features of Edel Putters is their Vari-Weight option. Zebra putters had this option as well. If you were playing faster greens, you can simply add some additional weight.
SHAFT FLEX - One thing the Edel Golf line of putters offers that I haven't seen in other putters is that you are fitted for the actual putter shafts. If I recall correctly, the more wrist action, the stiffer the shaft.
Thus, if you are more like Billy Casper, the shaft flex will be stiffer than say more of a pendulum looking stroke like Ben Crenshaw. This runs along the same line for golf club shaft fitting. Somebody with a 'snap release' ala Sergio will need a stiffer flex shaft than somebody with a 'full sweep release' like David Toms. It's because the acceleration profile of their swing is different. So, somebody with a wristy stroke like Casper would accelerate the putter more than Crenshaw.
HOWEVER, we do need to note what 'acceleration' is. Acceleration is the increase in speed. Thus, somebody can have a slower paced stroke, but actually accelerate it more.
I will get into acceleration with the putting stroke in part II.
Obviously, there have been some great putters with different length shafts. Andy North's putter looked pretty short. I'm 6'4" tall myself and only carry a 34 inch putter. Raymond Floyd carried a putter at 37 inches. Then there are the belly and long putters.
I think the general point about the shaft length of a putter is that in putting, we want to have the putterhead moving moving back and thru at the same pace. We just need to understand that depending on what type of stroke we employ, what that pace will be. We can have a very quick pace as long as it's the same quick pace back and thru. And we can have a very slow pace as long as it's the same slow pace back and thru. We do NOT want fast back, slow thru or slow back and fast thru.
The general point to keep in mind is:
wristy = faster stroke tempo = shorter stroke length
swinging pendulum = slower stroke tempo = longer stroke length
If you are not using a belly or long putter, I feel the principles are simple. The longer the putter, particularly for a person's own height...the more wristy the stroke will become.
Mainly because the elbows are forced to bend more. If the arms are straight, then it constitutes less wrist action in the stroke.
Of course, some of this will depend on the golfer's posture. I don't believe Nicklaus had a longer putter, he just bent over more. That causes his elbows to be bent more and he used more wrist in his stroke.
I feel it's good to keep the principle of the shaft length in mind because if you have a wristy stroke, you probably don't want a 32 inch putter since it's not really compatible to your wrist action. You're essentially using a putter (32 inches long) that is more compatible with a swinging, slower tempo stroke.
Either that or you need to crouch over more like Nicklaus did or be very short in physical height.
BELLY AND LONG PUTTERS
I'm not very experienced with belly and long putters. I feel the belly putters are more designed for a swinging, pendulum action because the belly is used as a pivot point. So, if you feel comfortable with a wristy stroke with a 35 inch putter, going to a belly putter may not suit you.
With the long putters, I think it's how you grip the club with the trail hand. If it's gripped more like a 'claw' grip with the trail hand, now the stroke is more of a 'push' motion than a swinging motion. If you grip with the trail hand so the hand is somewhat like a normal putting grip, then it's more like a swinging motion...kinda like the belly putter.
I think the reason why many golfers don't see a lot of improvement in their putting when they go to the belly or long putter is that they often don't realize that the stroke is more of a swinging pendulum type stroke or a push stroke and they putt best with more of a wristy stroke.
Loft is a bit more simple to understand when it comes to the stroke mechanics and speed/touch. A golfer generally wants more loft on slower greens and less loft on faster greens. This has to do with the ball rolling onto the grass blades of the green. With slower greens, the grass blades are longer. Therefore, we need more loft to launch the ball initially above the grass blades enough. Loft is probably not considered enough by people buying putters. And some popular putter companies have 4 to 5* of loft on their putters, which may be entirely too much.
Loft also plays an impact on the stroke mechanics. Typically, one wants more loft on the putter if they have a lot of shaft lean in their stroke or utilize a forward press. It's also good to have more loft if the ball position is further back in the golfer's stance.
Somebody like Crenshaw used a low lofted putter (2* Wilson 8802) with a lot of forward press.
However, at impact Crenshaw 'loses' some of that forward press he had at address.
Still, the course that Crenshaw played great at was Augusta, the fastest greens on Tour. And he did that despite being a short hitter off the tee and a sub-standard ballstriker.
I believe that Crenshaw, in his prime, probably struggled much more on slower Tour greens than he did on faster greens because of his putting stroke and putter he used.
OVERVIEW FOR PUTTER AND SPEED/TOUCH
Let's go over the basic synopsis of what has been discussed in Part I:
1. We want to find what type of putting stroke we are comfortable with: A) Wristy B) Swinging C) Push with Trail hand
2. Wristy = longer putter length so the elbows are noticeably bent. Stiffer shaft flex, slightly heavier putter. Avoid belly and long putters.
3. Swinging = shorter putter lengths or belly/long putters. Weaker shaft flex, slightly lighter putter.
4. Slow Greens = More loft, lighter putter.
5. Fast Greens = Less loft, heavier putter.
For somebody like myself, who uses a swinging-pendulum type stroke and plays on slow greens...I use a 34 inch Edel Putter with 3* loft and slightly lighter putter. This is more compatible with the slow greens and my slower, pendulum-swing type stroke.
part II tomorrow