Monday, July 16, 2018

Owner's Manual for Putters-How to use the Designed by Arnold Palmer

As a young golf professional, I had the privilege of working for Arnold Palmer. First at the Bay Hill Club and Resort, and then for 10 years at the Latrobe Country Club. Mondays at Latrobe was always practice day for Mr. Palmer, and each session would always end with a trial of each of the putters he brought with him from the workshop. It was always fascinating to watch him work through the day's selection of putters. Each putter was different, and what was so intriguing was that his stroke, setup, even tempo would change with each putter. When I asked him why, he was very matter of fact. Each putter has a different feel while in motion and therefore requires a different stroke. Subtle changes to be sure, but after watching thousands of strokes, it was very noticeable.

Those days have stuck with me through the years and has created a huge "what if" in my thinking as I have continued to study the art. What if every putter came with an owner's manual? I don't believe it is effective to think that you can use any putter with any stroke strategy. Can you? Maybe. Any human is certainly strong enough to overcome a putters influence. But while you are overcoming that influence how well can you judge the speed? We have enough data now in the Burnt Edge system to understand how to help match putters to posture, alignment and movement pattern and make your putting stroke a more subconscious effort.

So in honor of Mr. Palmer, to introduce the owner's manual concept, I will start with our favorite type of putter, the heel shafted blade. AP enjoyed most of his success in the late 50's and 60's with a heel shafted blade that evolved over time. Starting with a Wilson flanged blade, then some help from a Tommy Armour Iron Master and finally with a great deal of welding and grinding, the final result was presented to the public as the Wilson Designed by Arnold Palmer. Over the years there have been a number of versions produced similar to the "Designed by". As you might imagine, one I am very fond of is the Toulon Garage - Latrobe model. Click the link for more information -Toulon Putters It is a versatile combination of old school design and modern technology.

The basic design of this putter is for the toe to have more freedom of movement than the heel and we see the most successful results using this putter when you allow for this freedom. The most common patterns of success are found in our Profiles 1,4 and 7. Profile 1 is the stroke pattern most similar to Mr. Palmer, while Profile 7 is very similar to what we see in Ben Crenshaw's stroke, another famous user of the this blade style and the most common Profile we see associated with this putter.

As you can see in all three Profiles there is a definite tilt of the stroke plane to the right. Inside - down the line is the common description. But what I would suggest is that it is merely a continuous movement on an arc plane tilted to the right, rather than a two part stroke that requires a re-route of the putter to the finish. The other common features of players who use this style of putter is a combination of a square to closed shoulder alignment and/or a dominant trail hand to finish the stroke. In addition we almost always see the ball forward in the stance using these techniques. While release is the common term used to describe the movement it is really more accurate to explain it as to not block or slow the rotation. The tilt of the plane to the right allows the rotation to continue with less fear of a left miss. In each example the putter is square to the target line at impact but slightly closed to the arc plane.
Toulon Garage "Latrobe"

Whenever I suggest this putter, I often hear, "I am not good enough to use this style of putter or I need something more forgiving." My return is that it is not that you can't use it, you just don't know how. This is the ultimate feel putter and the positive feedback on the good strokes will help you find the sweetspot more often. Besides, nothing swings easier than a heel shafted blade or rolls the ball as nicely.  With a little practice using your appropriate stroke Profile you might be very surprised at the results. For more advice on finding the right putter and the Profile that works best for you, feel free to contact me at

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Balance and the Yips

As I continue to study the physical and mental reasons for shaky putting strokes, one of the findings that I found most beneficial to share is the correlation of balance to the smoothness of your stroke. Because it is such a simple motion, at a relatively slow speed, most think you can swing the putter from any position. I suppose you can, but there is a very clear relationship between set up, balance and a reactive stroke. I am convinced if you have to react or steer the putter to impact you are asking for difficulty.

The following drawings shows what we believe to be a balanced set up for putting on the left and a forced posture that becomes unbalanced on the right. Typically the player on the right gets out over the balls of their feet with their head and shoulders more over the ball. Probably in an attempt to get their eyes directly over the ball. If you follow this blog you have read plenty how we feel about that. We know from studies with force plates and pressure sensitive pads when the player on the right goes in motion there is often a subtle shift of balance toward the arches of their feet, often as the head comes up. So as the balance shifts the putter moves as well. Before you tell me not moving your head is a solution, ask yourself why your back hurts when you practice your putting.

The following is an example of what can happen to the putter when this change in balance occurs during the stroke. The following is a screenshot from my BioMech Sensor. What you are seeing is the movement of a point on the shaft of putter and the relative position of the face relative to that movement. My goal for every student, with this technology, is to see a single line where the shaft stays on the same plane through the stroke. Again rotation and shaft plane direction, not the "arc" appearance of the movement of the putter head, we use in other measurements.The line can be a little left or right relative to the target, but if we see loops then we need to see if there is a balance issue. So after this Golf Technology 101 speech, what are we seeing in this picture? In this case we see the shaft changing planes in the back swing and a reaction to that in the follow through.

The back swing is represented by the curved green and red line. You can see the putter move away from the body as it leaves the ball on the back swing. In this case it is caused from a body lean toward the ball as the shoulders engage and rotate. You can see a second line just below the back swing line. This is the start of the forward swing. Notice that this line has moved closer to the player off transition. This happens as the body reacts to the weight forward position by shifting back to the heels to counter the initial movement. Finally, in the follow through,  you see the player shove the putter away from the body again in a reaction to the move under the original plane and get back to the ball located at point 3 black dot. This putt was shoved to the right.

I can imagine it is hard to believe that all this can happen in a simple putting stroke and I am sure there are many of you thinking I am making it too complicated. Maybe I am, but give this some thought. If you are a player making this stroke and continue to find a solution by trying to solve a balance issue with your hands, this movement pattern will only become more dynamic and the results are not likely to get better. Any stroke where the hands react to a balance issue are doomed to struggle.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Yips Project 2018 - Matching Vision with Release Preference

As we discuss “seeing the line” or having a correct perception of target, one of the things we tend to omit is the advantage created by an open or closed alignment to aid visual perception. I am not sure when golf instructors decided that a parallel foot alignment was the optimal set up for putting. My mentors and those before my time, all used whatever alignment that made the task easier. Mr. Palmer and Gary Player used closed alignments, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw, a little open. Tom Watson and Bob Charles (maybe the best of the bunch) were perfectly square or parallel. Diagonal stances were the norm rather than the exception. One thing they had in common, they all would tell you that one of the reasons they set up as they did was to position themselves where they best saw the line. So for the sake of this discussion let's assume that alignment is primarily a function of vision.

Open                                  Square                             Closed

Another factor that can influence alignment is how you release the putter through impact. We all have a mechanical preference in how we swing the putter. Some of us hold or block the finish of the stroke, holding the face relatively square to the target. Some of us are more neutral, keeping the face in a consistent position to the arc path of the putter head. Finally, there are those who release the toe of the putter through impact.

Top - Hold Release  Bottom - Toe Release

“So how does all of this relate to shaky putting strokes?” Some release patterns don’t match well with set up preferences. For example, there is a current major championship winner, who tends to block or hold the release and combines that with a tendency to set up closed. This results in a push or right miss tendency. The tour is full of players who like to release the toe from a parallel set up. This, of course, results in a pull. You can see them every week. They are the ones using a claw grip to slow the right hand.

“OK, but how does that have anything to do with the yips?” This is how it starts. Mechanics don’t match vision and instead of trying to find a match we try to correct mid stroke. Hence a flip or a steer or jerk. Fixing the problem is obviously easier said than done. Certainly, no one simple solution. Ask your self three questions. What is the best set up for me to see the line accurately? How do I prefer to move the putter? What is the easiest for me to change? Hold releases work best with open stances, Full release of the toe with closed. If you are comfortable in between try parallel. We would suggest learning to release the putter based on finding an alignment that works visually. Some where is an answer that makes you more consistent and less anxious.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Yips- Let's Define Some Terms

As we continue our conversation about the Yips, and I get feedback from readers of the blog, I think it would help to organize our thinking and define some of the terms. "Yips" has come to describe all aspects of a shaky putting stroke you can't trust. Basically and for the sake of our discussion there are three categories of yips. Ranked by severity they are...

Neurological. Involuntary uncontrolled movement. The medical term is dystonia and as it applies to putting, task based - focal dystonia.

Psychological. In plain sports terms, a choke. Fear of the task, fear of bad result. We often see this in pressure situations or with perfectionists with unreasonable expectations.

Mechanical. I think of this as a reactive putting stroke. Basically you get the club in a bad position and your body reacts to try to correct it. Steering or mid-stroke fixes are hard on your nerves. feels like you have the yips, but an improvement in mechanics and the disappear as quickly as they started.

The term yips has become the "hot take" for golf. To say Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth have the yips, when they are just dealing with mechanical issues, is a way to draw attention to yourself, I guess.

Why does this matter? Because as you look for a solution it helps to know the cause. I think the best timeline to find a fix is to start with the simplest reasons to deal with, mechanical. So initially, we will evaluate the mechanics, the learn to deal with the fear and trust the feel, finally if that hasn't solved the problem, we will talk about changing the movement pattern and try to rewire the system to complete the task.

The only thing that can stop you is frustration. As a support system I am here for the duration. I may not have the immediate answers, but I have a system to find them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Vision and the Yips - Part 1

Ten years ago, we implemented a vision test as the initial portion of our fitting and instruction protocol. You can find the test we use by clicking the following link.

This vision test became necessary as we began using technologies to measure different parameters of the putting stroke. Our clients would argue with the calibrated location of the putter relative to the target. “This doesn’t look right,” became a common lament. By using the test, we found that eye position relative to the ball was a bigger contributing factor to aim and stroke path direction than putter appearance. Basically, if your eyes are out of position then nothing “looks right”.
The following analogy would demonstrate a typical example. A right eye dominant player with his eyes directly over the ball, and utilizing a parallel alignment to the target line, will often claim an accurate line to the target appears left. Regardless of how an accurate reference appears, one thing we know to be true is that you will try to hit the ball where you perceive the target to be. Even if you aim the putter accurately, your subconscious will still judge your aim as faulty and try to correct.

So how does this apply to the yips? It manifests itself over time. Putting is easiest when you simply roll the ball where you are looking. Of course, this is only successful when you are looking in the correct direction. Obviously, if your perception of target is different than the actual location some amount of compensation is necessary to get the ball on line. Most of the time this means manipulating the putter face with your hands. And so, it starts. Overtime frayed nerves can’t handle the required compensation and the stroke gets shaky.

A Suggestion for more Accurate Vision
If you try the vision test and find you have a problem seeing the line, try standing taller. This is an photo from the BioMechSports website.
It is very rare when we administer the vision test that we find the posture where the player sees it best to be more crouched than where they see it best without a putter.  I have always said that one of the great advantages of the anchored, broom putter technique is that by standing taller you have a greater area of vision and can see more of the line you have chosen for the putt, without moving your head. This expanded field of vision can have a calming effect. Later on we are going to discuss finding a new third point of connection in putting to replace anchored systems, I like those putters built to allow you to stand taller. We have had a great deal of success in helping pre -yip shakiness using conventional putters by making them longer, with a flatter lie angle. IN NO WAY IS THIS SUGGESTED AS A CURE! Just a piece of the puzzle. As always, make your comments below or send personal questions to my email address.

Next up. Using body alignment to solve the visual puzzle.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Vision and Putting- Finding your Best Posture and Distance from the Ball.

The following is an excerpt from the Burnt Edges Consulting Reference Guide for online clients.
Copyright ©2010 Bruce Rearick . All rights reserved.

Vision is the strongest and most influential of our senses. How we position ourselves relative to the target and the ball on the ground is almost 100% visual. We all have different and varying degrees of eye dominance which makes how we perceive the task of set up unique for each of us.  However, almost every putter fitting protocol insists on an eye location and posture that is the same for all. I call this forcing the posture. But if we are all built differently and we all perceive the target from side on, in different ways, is it logical to think there is one best way?

Finding the best ball position and appropriate set up is difficult in putting because of what we are asking our eyes to do. We align things best when our dominant eye is positioned on the same line as the objects we are trying to line up.  For golf this means behind the ball looking toward the target. But we don’t strike the ball from there, do we? We move to a side on position to strike the putt. Maintaining perspective while moving our dominant eye from down the line, to a side on position, is the problem that has to be addressed. If your perception of the path to the hole changes as you move into the position, the result is a stroke based on an inaccurate perception of the path to the target. Any subsequent miss creates an inconsistent “steering” of the putter in an attempt to find a square face at impact.  We may even eventually find it, but can we use this steering motion consistently? While this sounds silly, it is the life of the average competitive player. On and off, hot and cold as they continuously search for that perfect compensation.

Since the golf ball and the putter head are stationary, in order to insure accuracy you must position your eyes in the proper position relative to the ball. This was the critical discovery. With some help and effort every player can find their individual ball position and distance from the ball where perception of direction, side on is the same as perception down the line. The solution is simply to let your eyes tell you where to stand rather than force your set up to perceived norms. This concept explains the different postures and setups we have observed from successful techniques. Rather than force a position, they found a comfortable set up where they could see the path to the hole accurately.

Finding your Best Set Up.

Place a straight line reference on the ground and point it at a target. A yard stick is perfect. Do not use a continuous line to the target. Try to create the scenario shown in the drawing although your exact positioning will be different than the example. Any straight line reference will work as long as it does not connect to the target. Looking at the reference line, WITHOUT A PUTTER position yourself to the side of the line in a balanced golf stance. From this position, the reference line may point left, right, or directly at the target. Move around a little; as you move closer or farther away you should notice that your perception of where the straight reference line points will change. Your goal is to find the position/stance where the reference line looks like it is pointed to the target. If you have difficulty or feel you need to open or close your stance to find the position, move the ball position in the direction of your dominant eye. Eventually you will find a set up that allows you to see the line accurately. Next do the same exercise with your putter. When you take the photograph do your set ups match? Are your eyes in the same position?
Spend as much time as you need to find this set up, experiment as much as necessary, ask as many questions as you need. We recommend that you do this test from time to time just to make sure you are not letting your current putter fit alter your set up. However, do not do this exercise with putter in your hands until you can find this position with regularity. Then fit the length and lie based on the following recommendations in the next section on balance and hand position. There is no harm in experimenting to see how set up changes influence putter recommendations.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Yips Project 2018

I can't think of anything more frustrating in our game than losing control of your putting stroke. The “yips” come in all forms and in varying degrees. But no matter what you fight, or how you fight it, the frustration is still the same.

So my goal for the coming year is to begin a discussion to see if I can help you understand, hopefully control and for some, maybe overcome this problem. I am not going to pretend I have all or any of the answers. I am going to share my experiences in the hopes that an open conversation will help find a solution. I don’t like the concept, often stated by the golf pundits, that once you have them, you have them. I have seen them overcome and I hope with an organized effort you can find a solution. My line is, "Just because you have them doesn't mean you have to use them." So that is my goal. To organize an effort to help.

Over the next weeks I intend to use this forum to address the problem. Some examples of topics we will discuss:

We will start, as I do all my instruction, with the conflicts caused by visual issues. I have seen instances where the stroke gets jumpy as the player tries to compensate for aiming issues. Or compensate for an inaccurate perception of target. An example of this would be when a player aims a line on the ball and then struggles when the get to a playing position as the line “doesn’t look” correct.

We will discuss how vision defines the shape of your stroke and how you might have more success utilizing the natural arc of your stroke, rather than manipulating the putter to match a personal preference. The manipulation is often referred to as a steer. Basically the putter gets out of position in the stroke and you react at impact to fix it. I think this is the problem I observe most often.

We will talk about conflicts in your source of motion and the sequence of movements you utilize to finish the stroke. A common example is a player who starts the stroke with big muscles in the core or shoulders, then changes the movement source to the hands in transition from backswing to forward swing. Random movement patterns are another reason we see mid stroke corrections that, depending on your level of anxiety, can develop into a jerky motion.

We will also spend some time talking about how putter design can influence movement patterns. We will spend some time talking about alternative methods and finding a third point of contact to stabilize the motion. With the elimination of anchored putting the most popular system is currently the arm lock style as shown in this picture from the BioMech Golf website. Click the picture to link to their site.

We will also spend a great deal of our time working on the concepts we need when nothing else works. Some focus on the mental side. Learning that putting is hard and how important it is not to react to the previous miss. How to be proactive with our putting rather than reactive.

Most of all we want your feed-back. Good, bad or indifferent. I don’t pretend for a minute to have the answers. I do know that the timeline we will create on how to analyze your own issues has had some success. There is no way I can guess what you require so your interaction is crucial. There are a number of ways you can contact me. Through the email listed on the blog, by commenting below, or creating a thread in my forum on I promise to read and respond to every request. I might not go into depth or detail as I still have my clients to serve. But I will do the best I can. If you are interested in finding out how my system might benefit you on a personal level, I am currently taking on some new clients and have some new options of working with clients remotely.
Much More to Come.....