I figured I’d get this started with a good title. It should be a good discussion…
So why does putting seem to get worse the older you get? You’d think more experience = better putter. Do we become like a well-traveled car with squeaks and loose joints, play in the steering wheel? Or do years of having good putts miss take their toll on confidence and make one become tentative?
Or do we become more left-brained, believe we simply have stroke issues and work technically to correct the problems, losing the ingrained coordination we once had?
When I was kid, I spent a lot of time on the practice green because juniors could not play before noon, and I would get dropped off at the club along with dad, so I had a few hours to kill. I would win milkshakes off the assistant pros on the putting green because I putted better than they did… probably because I was out there putting and and they were selling golf balls and shoes. We didn’t have a driving range so I had to shag balls on a practice hole that was about 160 yards. The putting green sat right between the pro shop and the snack bar. I learned to putt because that was about all I did for 3 hours until dad came in, or I could get a game after 12 noon.
I reckon the big thing to learn from kids, whether it be putting or hitting the ball, is the reactive way they go at it. They spend no time over the ball, it’s just a quick look and go. Moe had that quality. It’s not that they’re not trying, but they’re not trying to control it, and that’s the main point as I see it in terms of the difference as people get older. We’re sort of conned into this concept of control, and we want it desperately because it makes us feel safe. This goes for every aspect of life I think, not just putting. It’s nice to feel safe for sure, but it’s also kind of boring because nothing is going to happen as such but we take that as a trade off for no bad things happening. In putting the bad thing is that you might miss, and you might, but fooking deal with it. You have to take on the possibility that you might miss it if you want to try to make. Or you can have what I call ‘not shots’, and I’ve sadly hit a few in my day. A not shot is missing the shot to the opposite side of the one that you’re afraid of. You still miss the shot, but somehow this is a solution to a potential problem or a fear. It’s madness. In putting it’s missing a putt because you were afraid of missing it It’s a waste of time. Don’t even step onto a green if you’re going to do that. In fact, don’t even walk onto the course. You’re better off actively trying to miss, to have missing the putt as the goal for hitting it. You really have to be willing to give up control in putting, you need to get to the point where you send it on it’s way. And the really tough thing to break through, is that the less able you feel on the greens, the more you’ll be inclined to want to control it, but that doesn’t work. People become obsessed with their strokes and their grips and this that and the other, and they’re all attempts to fix ‘the problem’, to create some physical certainty to guarantee an outcome. When I was saying that if you’re not a good short putter that you shouldn’t practice short putts, I mean that completely, and it’s not a cop out, it’s the best way to get better. Practice long putts with 1 ball and no practice stroke- that’s the other thing with kids, there aren’t too many practice strokes going on. Learn to see and feel and judge the putt with your eyes, that way you’re not in your stroke. The length of backstroke, force of it, whatever it may be, this isn’t actually physical. Just commit to practicing long putts with no practice stroke and 1 ball and you’ll improve straight away.
I don’t think the stroke itself is a big deal, but how you move the putter is important, and it’s really no different to how we move any club. I have more to say about that…
Good post Bom, when I am putting well, it almost feels like the putt is on a ‘dangerous’ line…almost an uncomfortable feeling, like just a fraction of a mm either way and it falls off line. I like sensing that ‘dangerous’ feeling…which I guess is the opposite of the safe feeling you describe.
When I putt well I see a road from the ball to the hole that’s about the size of the ball. The better stroke I have the clearer I see the road and the wider it seems to be. The relationship between stroke mechanics and psychology is quite intriguiong.
Today I putted better than I’ve done for years. I braced the left side. I putted with a 100% flat left wrist and a piston acton from the right hand straight towards the ball. As soon as I got the arms and the pivot synced I was locked in on the target. Finished the round by hitting a full 3 w into a stiff wind on the closeing par 4 and sinking a birdie putt from some 20-25 feet. That putt won me the second skin of the day.
I am curious to see how Lag’s work on the putting goes. It’s been years since I left the classical putting stroke, but somewhere on the road i seem to have lost my own putting stroke as well. But today it was back. I basically set myself up for the same impact alignments when I putt as when I drive. Flat left wrist. Right hand pushing straight down the target line. Pivot and arms synced through impact. When it works it really works and today it did.
Here’s a statement that people may or may not agree with because it might be the opposite of what you think… though it would be cool to get some discussion/thoughts on it…
Swinging The Toe style putting a la Crenshaw, Faxon, is the ‘Hitting’ of putting and meets all the ABS requirements for hitting a ball. While the square to square style of putting is actually the CF dump, flip chop, ‘swinging’ of putting.
When you let the face flow open on the way back and then close it around on the way through, it forces and encourages you to use your shoulders(which leave the line) and your whole body pivots a little in the process. Though the pivoting may be imperceptible to the eye, it does happen. Any attempt to stay still will retard the natural flow that’s required, and it will force the arms and hands to work independently leaving it all up to your hands and timing.
When you try to putt square to square, you stay on the line in a dysfunctional way, AND your shoulders work STEEP and UP AND DOWN- sound familiar?
When hitting the ball the best, you come into the slot open and you pivot through. The exact same principle applies to putting. You can’t release yourself or fully commit to the putt, if the face isn’t allowed to open going back. But just like the golf swing, it isn’t ‘open’, it’s completely square and neutral to what you’re doing. If it’s closed or ‘square’, it’s not neutral to you, and needs hand manipulation to open or actually be 'square- this action produces, at best, streaky putting, just like in the golf ‘swing’. For a good exaggerated image to get going on this I’d look at Justin Leonard, he’s an unbelievable putter, and does everything you need to do and it’s very clear- he stands far away from it establishing clearly that he’s to the side of the ball, and he really lets the putter open and close around him as he moves. And he has no interest in a flat left wrist as it’s known- also a familiar concept/truth to be questioned.
And like everything we talk about in the swing, I’m not saying you have to look like Faxon or Crenshaw when you’re doing it, but the principles or intentions should be in place.
Thanks for gettting this thread going BOM… I think it will produce some interesting posts and insights.
The concept that most kids putt well is intriguing to me. I have to admit that I wasn’t one of them and that I probably putt better now than I did as a junior (and that isn’t saying much). And I see plenty of junior golfers these days that are horrible putters. It seems like a lot of conjecture as I don’t think there are any stats available on the topic.
Not that a care-free attitude isn’t important in putting, but there must be more to it. I’m fascinated by the quantity of difficult, lengthy, curling putts you see made in a televised PGA event. 10 footers are practically tap-ins to these guys. Is it because of perfect conditions? Green-reading skills? Repeating strokes (compensations and all)? Or am I simply witnessing the best players in the world who are playing/putting their best that week?
What’s funny is that I was the same, I was terrible when I first started. In fairness, I started the game late after playing a lot of other sports to a decent level, and I had a knack for striking the ball. But putting was a nightmare so I learned how to be a good putter. This is part of why I feel okay about sharing some thoughts.
To me, the idea that all kids are great putters is the same as all great strikers are bad putters, it’s not real. But there are certainly things to learn from what kids do and how they go about it.
The reality, just like ball striking, is that it takes work and discipline, and may not be something that you’re going to wake up tomorrow and do perfectly. But there are attitudes and approaches that are invaluable to get started which is kind of how I’m approaching giving my thoughts here.
There’s no chronic problem that isn’t surmountable as far as I’m concerned…
I’m with you on this Bom.
Just read your post relating the stroke to ABS principles… very interesting. I’ve worked hard (at least more than I have on any other putting approach) on a “gravity-based” motion per Geoff Mangum. My speed control has improved a ton as a result, but I still struggle some on short range putts. I wonder if attempting to move the putter straight back/thru isn’t contributing to that.
Scotty Cameron once gave me a laser tool when I visited his studio that would attach to the putter…How It Works: just attach the laser pen to the shaft and align the laser beam downwards until it lights the ground in the middle of the face (sightline) and out in front of the face…so you can see the line the laser takes when you make a stroke.
Now go stroke on a kitchen floor or something with tiles or lines and place the putter/beam along a line and stroke…watch the laser…you don’t even need a ball…just watch the laser/stroke path
It certainly proves that a straight back straight thru stroke is essentially pushing the laser (i.e the middle of the face of the putter) off line going back and offline going thru…outside to outside
By working my stroke and keeping the laser along the floor line…the path felt inside with open face and then on the way thru inside with a closed face…but the laser beam showed me it was a perfectly natural stroke that kept the laser beam centered along the floor line…the good old ‘feel versus real’ illusion.
Now…where the hell did I put that thing?..I don’t belive he ever marketed them and I actually putted decent after working with that tool for a while there…as it brought a more rounded flowing stroke to my game…just like I try and feel when I swing
This is absolutely true.
You are not allowed to discuss putting right now! lol
Make sure you all listen to the Sam Randolph part 3 with a long discussion on putting. He was an absolute genius on the greens. It’s interesting that he talked about using a putting track recently, but when I asked him if he ever used a putting track when he was on top of his game in the 80’s he said “no, never used one”. He admitted that he pushed his putts down the line, which was exactly what I did when I putted my best, and Trevino talked about that also. Of course there’s Locke and Player who hooked their putts, so I think we can say with certainty that aiming straight and trying to match a perfect straight stroke to a straight line is not imperative to top shelf putting.
Allen Doyle would be a great study on putting also. Just a fantastic putter in his prime.
“Good” thread. I love it.
Just listened to the Sam Randolph part 3, where he describes the yellow putting track that he likes. When I first saw it on TV, I thought…hey, that looks like Module 1( hook) plus module 2 ( fade). Now just add a little Module 2(pivot), and it’d be like a real shot.
If we trust ourselves to square the clubface on long shots, why don’t we do so on putts?
Robbo, I don’t know the method you’re talking about, but in my view, trying go square to square is just bad news all around. And the funny thing is that short putts benefit the most from flowing the face ‘open’ yet they appear to be the ones that you’d really benefit going square to square with. When you open the face… btw, I want to say that I’m using the term ‘open’ as a term for communication but I don’t see it as open, and I don’t think it should be understood by you to ‘be’ open. I see it as neutral to the proper motion of the shoulders and the rest of the body. And while I’m here, Eagle, this is connected to your question about squaring the face, it’s not open to have to be closed or squared, it’s just being moved correctly. It definitely feels open but it’s not really, and as long as you get your head around the overall shape of the motion, all you have to do is move it ‘open’ and then keep moving through. I’m a very line or path oriented putter, I get really clear images of routes to the hole and then I just try to start the ball on the first part of the path, kind of like a chute type of image. But I don’t see me or the putter as traveling on the path, just the ball. It’s just like the any other swing, if you try to keep you or the club traveling on the path, then it doesn’t work well. It makes some sort of ‘sense’ to try to do it, but it doesn’t actually work that way…
Anyway, when you ‘open’ the face going away, you generate nice momentum in the sweet spot because it flows around the shaft, which is my whole thing with everything. The heel of the putter is traveling in a tighter radius because it’s on the inside of the motion. On short putts this gives nice heavy free feeling to the putter head and it doesn’t feel like it needs to be manipulated, it just needs to be allowed to keep moving. Which is why it’s so important for us to move correctly in conjunction with it. It’s a real chicken and egger- you’re moving it and it’s moving you, who knows, but it’s important that both do move.
Great stuff, as they say. I would go find it!! Or how does that Nike slogan go?
I was wondering how you were getting on with gravity putting Robbo. Personally it didn’t steal me, but to be fair my life took on unexpected distractions exactly in the middle of it and didn’t persist long enough. For the others unfamiliar with it, Mangrum wanted zero muscular effort or resistance in the through swing, letting gravity swing the pendulous putter through. Distance was controlled by length of backswing. I found this hard because distance control hasn’t been a problem since feeling TGM’s PP3 while putting, but giving up control to gravity in 3-8 footers that I miss far too many and fear to start with was a tough ask.
after you showed me your laser, I got one from the studio. Do you want to borrow it until you find yous?