Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Putting Stroke Mechanics - Part IV

In part III, I discussed the stroke mechanics that most closely relate to speed/touch. Now I will go over the stroke mechanics that relate most closely to getting the ball to initially roll at the intended target.


Perhaps the greatest myth in putting stroke mechanics takes place at address. This is the myth that the golfer should have the 'eyes over the ball at address.'

There is no scientific evidence that this is required or it will make somebody a better putter.

Instead, I tend to agree with Geoff Mangum in that the eyes should be looking in the same direction as the person's face.

For instance, in the FULL golf swing, we see a lot of golfers being told to have their 'chin up' at address with their eyes looking down at the ball. Thus, their face is directed one way while their eyes are looking in a completely different direction.

Essentially, we are better off looking at the ball at address, whether it be a full swing or the putting stroke, just like we would look at a book to read a book. We would not have our chin up and look down to read a book. The same applies for putting or the full swing.

By 'looking at the ball as if you were reading a book', you'll start to aim a bit better and your stroke path will fit you a bit better.


There is a series of free YouTube videos on the stroke by Geoff Mangum that start with this video (6 part series) that I highly recommend.

One of the important and overlooked factors that helps with aim at address is the head swivel *before* the golfer strokes the putt. Mangum discusses it in one of the videos.

Essentially, we look at the intended target one last time before we putt. Golfers can do themselves a lot of good by having a simple head swivel to look at the target.

Since I'm right handed, the head swivel would look at the intended target by moving my chin (from my perspective) in a clockwise position. The chin would move from 6 o'clock to about 9 o'clock.

As Mangum shows in the videos, it is best to swivel the head so if the golfer were to afix something in the center of the top of their would *not* actually move. It would just rotate as your head swivels to look at the intended target.

When the top of the cranium moves, it messes with the aim.

The head swivel not only helps with aim, but also with the golfer getting a sense of feel for the speed required on the putt. It's really a 'bang-bang motion.' You want to head swivel, aim and get the feel, return the eyes to the ball and stroke the putt. If you take too long it can disrupt your speed.

Put it this way, it's amazing when watching amateurs who have a crucial putt and they concentrate on the read and line of the putt. They will often read it quite well and have the putt online...but leave it short. They focused on everything but the speed/touch.

All that being said, the head swivel probably helps more with aim than with speed, but it's important to note both.


Here are the 'traditional' stroke paths that golfers have been taught.

1. Straight Back - Straight Thru

2. Symmetrical Arc

Here are some paths that golfers make despite not being taught them (and can still putt well with these strokes).

1. 'Cut Across' Stroke

2. Inverted Symmetrical Arc (looks like a 'U' shape to the golfer)

3. 'Inside-to-Out' stroke

Like I stated, there are golfers who have putted well with each type of stroke. They have a good sense of touch/speed on putts and one way or the other, they can get the putter face square to the target at impact to allow the ball to initially roll at the intended target.


Marius Filmalter is a former co-founder of the SAM Puttlab and TOMI putting system. He has a Web site at

He along with Mangum recommend a stroke that arcs in the backstroke, arcs back to impact and then goes straight thru, down the line in the follow thru.

The reason being is that what really matters is at impact we get the face square to the intended target. In putting, the stroke path tends to influence what the face does.

With a Straight Back Straight thru stroke, the golfer has to manipulate the putter face and their arms and shoulders in the backstroke. This can throw off the thru stroke.

With the symmetrical arc stroke, the follow thru has to arc inward. This can cause the golfer to manipulate the pivot action...albeit minute...of their shoulders and hips.

With the Filmalter and Mangum recommended stroke, we don't have to manipulate the back stroke or the follow thru. It takes a lot of the timing required in the Straight Back-Straight Thru and the Symmetrical Arc stroke.

Mangum's video 'Reality of Putting' has a part called the 'Hansel and Gretal' technique that will allow the golfer to easily achieve this type of stroke.

I've found that for me, my tendency is to open the putter face right before impact. The Hansel and Gretal technique does a great job of preventing the putter head from opening up at impact.


This is more about 'compatibility' than 'mandatory.' So it's more 'recommended' by me, than 'you must do this.'

It should be noted that if a golfer wants to use the Filmalter/Mangum stroke (arc back, straight thru) that they can have a bigger arc in the backstroke or a smaller arc in the backstroke. Also remember, we want the *rhythm* of the stroke to be the same back as it is thru. The *tempo* (pace the putterhead is moving) may be different.

Wristy Action

- bigger or smaller arc in backstroke

- shorter stroke length

- quicker tempo

- back or forward ball position

Swinging Action

- bigger or smaller arc in backstroke

- longer stroke length

- slower tempo

- back or forward ball position

Push/Piston Action

- smaller arc backstroke

- longer or shorter stroke length

- slower or quicker rhythm

- forward ball position


As I discussed in part III, we want the pace of the putterhead to be the same in the backstroke as it is in the thru stroke.

What higher handicappers tend to do is that they have a pace that is either too slow or too fast.

Higher handicappers tend to start out by decelerating the putterhead in the thru-stroke. Then they either struggle with that OR they try to counter it by accelerating the putterhead. We want the pace to be in rhythm....same pace back as the same pace thru.

I find that those who decelerate, their 'bad' strokes almost always leave the putter face open at impact. Those who accelerate will have 'bad' strokes that will either push or pull.

According to the Karlsen and Nilssen study, the good players, including European PGA Tour players, almost always had a thru stroke that was too slow. Again, I believe this is because the good players tend to be more careful.

A question was posed by David Orr ( as to why it seems like golfers made a lot more long putts when they were junior golfers and my belief is junior golfers had very good rhythm in their putting stroke even if the rest of the mechanics are sloppy. But, once they get better and gain experience, that experience works against them as they try to be more 'careful' and in turn, their thru stroke is moving too slow.


One of the things I found interesting in Mangum's videos is how grip pressure plays such an important role in putting and how most people fix issues with putting by incorrectly adjusting their grip pressure.

With the way putters are designed, if the grip pressure is TOO LIGHT, the golfer is now more apt to have the putter face OPEN at impact and miss the putt to the right.

Thus, golfers tend to grip the putter TOO LIGHTLY and need to grip the putter MORE FIRMLY. Of course, gripping it too tight can be problematic as well. But, too many golfers grip the putter too lightly.

I believe it's simple. Golfer are taught to grip the putter lightly. And when they have some yips, they are told that they are need to grip the club even lighter. But, the reality is that they cannot afford to grip it lighter. There *might* be other issues with their poor putting than grip pressure, but the prescription of gripping the putter lighter is typically not a good one.

Lastly, Mangum shows the importance of the neckline and how that can affect what the putterface is doing at impact.

Part V tomorrow.



cohen said...

What do you think of a 2 thumb putter grip?

NYC Lagster said...

Nice Series, keep up the good work.