In the final part of the series, I will discuss how green reading can influence the putting stroke mechanics. As many of you may know, I am a big proponent of AimPoint Golf's green reading system (www.aimpointgolf.com).
First, let's go over the 'Geometry of a Putt.'
What many amateurs do is that they will aim at the apex of the curve instead of aiming above the apex of the curve. We essentially aim above the apex so when we make contact with the ball, it will roll on the intended line.
From a stroke mechanics perspective, this really plays into the first objective...obtain the optimal speed on the putt so we optimize the effective size of the cup. We WILL make more putts if the effective size of the cup is about 4 inches wide than if it is 3 inches wide or 2 inches wide or 1 inch wide.
What golfers tend to do (and I was guilty of this as well) is that they aim at the apex instead of above the apex.
You're probably asking 'how does that affect the stroke mechanics?'
If you aim at the apex, the only way you are going to start making putts is if you stroke the ball harder to reduce the amount of break. Let's say the AimPoint chart says you need to aim 3 inches outside the right edge, but the apex is actually at 2 inches outside the right edge. If you aim at the apex (2 inches outside the right edge), you will need to stroke the ball harder to take off that 1 inch difference.
And what happens is that when you start missing putts by hitting them too hard, then you will probably counter that by hitting some putts too soft and then your brain goes a bit haywire on you and you start to lose confidence in your putting. You then start to blame it on other things like the putter, the stroke type (wristy, swinging, push/piston), jabbing at the ball instead of staying in rhythm, etc.
WHERE LEFTY GET IT WRONG
If you have watched Phil Mickelson struggle with the flatstick over the years, you will notice that his biggest struggles are from 3 to 10 feet. He will actually make a lot of long putts, but miss putts from short distance badly.
If you also watch Mickelson on those shorter putts, he usually has a tendency to miss with a hard lip-out or knock a 4-footer about 4-feet past the cup.
What happens with Mickelson on the shorter putts is that he has the philosophy of 'hit the putt harder so I can reduce the amount of break and that will make it easier for me to sink the putt.'
The problem is that Mickelson is actually shrinking the size of the cup he is putting to and actually making it MORE difficult to make that putt. He now has to be aimed more precisely, hit the sweetspot more precisely and hope that a small indentation or a spike mark does not knock the ball off that line at all.
If Mickelson understood optimal speed's impact on his putting and knew where to aim, he would make a lot more putts.
Good putting starts with good speed, not with a 'good line.'
One thing I've found is that many times I'll read a putt with AimPoint and I don't quite trust the read and then get penalized for that lack of trust.
For example, I may have a read of 12 inches outside the left edge. But, it may feel more like 7 inches.
Obviously, that can just be me being used to reading the apex of the putt and if I stroke the putt, I'll miss on the low side. But, it can also be a case of me mis-reading the *speed* of the putt as well. And often times I'll realize that I was prepared to hit the ball too hard for that putt and now I have to adjust my aim and adjust my stroke to hit the putt softer.
Over time, this will make an impact on the stroke mechanics you use to execute the proper amount of speed on putts.
ROLLING THE BALL OVER THE INTENDED TARGET
I find that if you use AimPoint and practice it, you can greatly improve this aspect if you are aware about it.
For instance, in the AimPoint clinic I attended, I would often see the other students get the read down and know *where* to aim, but they would mis-aim the putter and try to compensate with the stroke.
I mostly saw golfers aim too far left and then incorporate an inside-to-out stroke to get the ball at the target. And they would tend to miss putts breaking to the left too low and putts breaking to the right too high.
Here's the breakdown (for righties):
LEFT AIM BIAS = Miss left breaking putts on the low side, right breaking putts on the high side.
RIGHT AIM BIAS = Miss left breaking putts on the high side, right breaking putts on the low side.
Lastly, one can understand the physics imparted on putts better and use that to improve their stroke mechanics.
What a lot of people, even those who use AimPoint, don't understand is that the AimChart is just telling the golfer *where* to aim. It is NOT telling the golfer the line of the putt.
Essentially, it's telling you where to aim so you can roll the ball on the line needed to make the putt go dead center into the cup.
Where I find this extremely important is on putts that have more of an early break to them.
For example, I may read a 20-foot putt at 18 inches outside the right edge, but it feels like it will break more like 12 inches. That's because I don't see the break being as prononced.
However, what will happen is that after impact, the ball will IMMEDIATELY take off to the left in the first 3-feet. Then the next 17-feet of the putt the putt may roll relatively straight. But, if I didn't aim to the right of the cup enough, I would have never made the putt because I didn't correctly account for that break immediately after impact.
Those putts are putts that often confuse golfers. If they miss the putt badly left, they may incorrectly assume that they pulled the putt when they actually just mis-aimed the putt at address. So they start working on their putting stroke mechanics instead of working on their green reading skills and knowing where to aim.