Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Putting Stroke Mechanics - Part III

In part I, I discussed that when it comes to mechanics, I believe golfers are better off at executing the process instead of focusing on the ultimate result (making the putt).

Meaning...when it comes to mechanics golfers should focus more on having the optimal speed/touch on a putt and rolling the ball initially at their intended target. If they do that...they will start making more putts.

Parts I and II went over the influence that the putter has on the mechanics and touch along with getting the ball to initially roll at the target.

Now we can discuss the actual mechanics. And in part III we will discuss the mechanics and their influence on the touch/speed.

But once again, let me reiterate that there is no one way to putt well.


Here's the Mangum video on 'optimal speed.'

I'll go over the key points:

1. Speed of the ball influences the effective size of the cup.

2. We want to have the optimal speed in order to make the effective size of the cup the largest we can make it.

3. The larger the effective size of the cup, the more likely we will make the putt.

4. Optimal speed will be a speed where the ball hits the back plastic of the cup.

5. If the ball hits the back dirt, it can still go in...but it's NOT optimal speed. Same with if the ball lands on the middle of the cup.

6. Optimal speed is about 2-3 revolutions per/second

7. Pelz's 17 inches past the cup is factually incorrect.

8. Also, Pelz's 17 inches past the cup is not a 'speed', it's a distance.

From what I've been told, if you have optimal speed on a putt (2-3 revolutions per second) it will roll about 6 to 12 inches past the cup in most instances.

BUT, it will be closer to 6 inches past the cup on slower putts (slow stimp and/or uphill putts). And it will be closer to 12 inches on downhill putts (fast stimp and/or downhill putts).


I'm going to classify the stroke actions as follows:

1. Pendulum Swinging (i.e. Crenshaw)

2. Wristy (i.e. Casper)

3. Push/piston with trail hand (i.e. DiMarco with 'Gator Grip')

Any one of these types of actions can achieve a good, consistent speed on putts. There is no 'bias' towards hitting them too hard or too soft with these types of actions.


We have our basic grips in putting like the overlap, interlock, reverse overlap grips, etc. Those grips can be used in conjunction with swinging and wristy strokes. I don't recommend the push/piston action because of the position of the trail arm.

Lead Hand Low Grip - Ala Jim Furyk. Probably best for a swinging motion. So, if you like a wristy motion or a push/piston motion, lead hand low is a poor idea.

Corey Pavin Grip - Pavin had a grip where he put his right palm under the grip so the fingernails of the right hand would be on top of the pistol grip. This is more compatible swinging or push-piston grips. Not good with wristy strokes.

Split Grips - Hands split apart like Hubert Green. More compatilble with swinging or push/piston grips.

Hands bunched together - grip is more compatible with a wristy action.

Claw Type grips - this is a push/piston action grip. Avoid using swinging or wristy actions with this grip. If you use these type of grips, understand that it's for those who putt best with a push-piston action


There's a lot of people who believe that Tiger putts so well (or at least did) because of his posture at address and want to employ a flat spine type of posture. To me, this is ridiculous since we have such a minimal amount of pivot in the putting stroke that posture does not play a role in our touch/speed on the green. I will get to the other part of this in part IV.

Furthermore, the 'flat spine' posture can actually hur tthe back since the spine is not designed as flat.

BALL POSITION - the ball can be moved forward or back, depending on one's stroke and the putter. If one has the ball back towards the middle of the stance and does not hit much down on the ball, they will probalby need a higher loft than somebody who has the ball position up in their stance and hits up on the ball.

Crenshaw played the ball forward and hit up more and putted best with a low lofted (2*) Wilson 8802 putter. Padraig Harrington played the ball back in his stance and did not hit as much up on the ball and putted best with a higher lofted Odyssey putter (4*).

I would recommend not playing the ball further back than the middle of your stance. I think any type of stroke action (wristy, swinging or push/piston) can utilize an upward or further back ball position, depending on how the golfer executes those strokes and what type of putter they have.


A major fallacy in putting is that the grip should be loose. However, according to Mangum the grip should be 'firm.' Unfortunately, it's difficult to judge what is 'firm' and what is 'loose.' But, the way the putters are designed, a loose grip has a tendency to lead the putter blade open at impact.

What often happens is a golfer that has the 'yips' and leaves the blade open at impact will then tell themselves to loosen the grip and that just makes them yip it even worse. Thus, it hurts both their ability to hit the ball over the intended target and their speed.


For more on this, I highly recommend watching Geoff Mangum's 'Reality of Putting' video.

For these purposes, when I say 'rhythm' with the putting stroke, we want the putter head to be traveling at virtually the same pace going back as it does going thru.

It doesn't matter if the pace is fast or very slow, we just want the pace to be the same. Here's some good rules of thumb:

Swinging stroke = slower pace, longer stroke

Wristy stroke = faster pace, shorter stroke

Push/Piston stroke = faster pace, shorter stroke

Obviously, we run into 2 issues with rhythm:

1. Thru-stroke is at a faster pace than backstroke

2. Thru-stroke is at a slower pace than the backstroke.

What I've found usually happens is that when golfers first start to get into the game and struggle with their putting, it's because their thru-stroke slows down...mainly because they 'move their head.' Then, to counter that...they 'jab' at the ball by making their thru-stroke too fast.

But, according to the Karlsen and Nilssen study, they have found that low handicap golfers tend to make the mistake of having a thru stroke that is TOO SLOW. I believe that this is done because the golfer is trying to be 'too careful' in the thru stroke, particularly with the stroke mechanics, how well they hit the ball and their speed. But, by being 'too careful' they actually become WORSE with their stroke path, ball contact and speed.

Just remember, same pace back as the same pace thru.

TIP: When taking practice strokes, close your eyes and repeatedly make practice strokes focusing on your rhythm. Do NOT stop, just keep making the practice strokes. Say to yourself 'ONE (backstroke), TWO (thru-stroke) at the same pace.


One can have any sort of stroke length as long as it fits their stroke action.

Nicklaus' hybrid action of wristy and push-piston created a shorter stroke length. But, the rhythm was the same pace back as the same pace thru.

It's quite simple, the amount of distance once can hit the ball (provided it hits the sweetspot) is due to the speed of the stroke and the length of the stroke.

So, if I have Nicklaus and Crenshaw putting from 30 feet, with Nicklaus having a faster stroke, Crenshaw's stroke will need to be longer to get his slower paced stroke to the cup.

Golfers need to figure out if they are struggling with speed/touch, is it due to rhythm or is it due to the length of the putt. And then understand the basic principles of each type of stroke action (wristy, swinging or piston) and see what works for them the best.


Obviously, moving the head is a bad thing. I find that it affects the line of the putt more than the speed, but it certainly affects the speed. It's not that the head cannot move, but it should not happen before or at impact. I recommend Mangum's 'Reality of Putting' video and check out the 'Hansel and Gretal' technique to avoid that head movement.


Near the end of the 'optimal speed' video, Mangum states that the golfer should visualize the speed needed for the ball to go into the cup to where it hits the back plastic of the cup 'optimal speed.'

He also says that visualizing to hit a putt a certain length is NOT how the brain works best.

I agree. So when you're looking at the cup as you get to putt, I feel it's best to visualize the putt going into the cup at a certain speed than focusing on a length.

HOWEVER, if you happen to struggle with the speed, as a LAST RESORT I will aim to a certain distance. If the greens are playing slower than I thought, I may visualize 1 foot past the cup. If the greens are too fast, I may visualize front edge. But again, it's a LAST RESORT.

I highly recommend looking at Mangum's discussion of how the brain NATURALLY has touch and how to use stroke rhythm and tempo to use the brain's natural sense of touch to your advantage on the green.

part IV - NEXT



Greg said...

What are your thoughts on a short follow thru and how that works in a pendulum motion?

I see several instructors (Utley, Stockton) claim a low (and I assume) shorter follow-thru is a good sign. I see many pros do this but green speed may be a factor there (faster greens=shorter stroke).

Personally I've been making a lot more mid range putts with a short follow thru stroke...not sure why though, since it feels less controlled.

Rich H. said...

I think you use whatever length follow thru you an use as long as your rhythm is in tact.