Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Owner's Manual for Putters - The "Almost" Face Balanced Mallet

Last month we talked about the best stroke pattern for a face balanced mallet. I think I surprised a number of you by recommending a putting stroke that exits left, rather than the traditional thought of straight back and then straight down the target line. In our system, the closest to the vertical plane that would match this perception is represented by Profile 2. For a 10 foot putt, we would see 2 degrees or less rotation in the backswing, on a very slight arc, parallel to the target line. With a mallet, this arc is basically imperceptible and hence the straight back and straight through description.

As we described last month, the down side of a true face balanced putter with a center of gravity deep in the head, is that the toe often lags behind the heel of the putter, causing the face to be open at impact if the putter is swung on a parallel plane to the target line. With a cog farther from the face the slow down is enhanced. While the effect is minimal, a little open is enough to create a push - miss tendency and you Burn the Edge.

There are probably dozens of ways a player could compensate for the push miss, but three come immediately to mind. Swing away from the miss, as we described previously.  Aim away from the miss, is a common reaction for most players. We see it on the tour all the time. This fix requires a ton of practice and is a topic for another time as it is more a strategic fix than a putter fit issue.
From left to right faster rotation to slower rotation through the ball.
With the same neck to face position, face balance will move toward horizontal from left to right. 

The other common reaction is an over-active trail hand to over come the toe drag and square the face at impact. This is an issue we want to fix with putter fit. Given that every putt requires a different speed and length of stroke, trying to time impact of every putting stroke with your hands is a source of grief for countless golfers. Just look at the overwhelming number of grip shapes, grip weighting and hand positions. All in an effort to control impact position. As we continue to evaluate putting strokes and players, the most successful fits are when we find the appropriate shaft location and face balance to match the stroke and eliminate the steer.

Cameron Select Fastback 15 degrees of Toe Hang
While Profile 2 requires a very small rotation and slow rotational speed through the ball, it requires some rotation to maintain a consistent position relative to the path. We found our best success by using Scotty Cameron's concept of "almost" face balanced that you find in many of his models as the best solution. These models balance at approximately 15 degrees of toe hang, just enough to free up the feel of the putter in motion and allow the toe to keep up with the heel without any extra effort.

If you have a perception of straight back and straight through and fight a push, we would highly recommend a putter with the cog closer to the face and a slight amount of toe hang. It might be a simple solution to your problem.
Feel free to contact us at Burnt Edges Consulting for a list of putters featuring this design parameter.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Owner's Manual for Putters - Face Balanced Mallet

Several years ago, I was at a golf show wandering the aisles. There was a company promoting a golf swing technique, along with golf clubs that matched the swing strategy. As I listened to the owner of the company and his sales pitch, he made a comment that I have remembered ever since. He said, “We don’t swing golf clubs the way they were designed to be used.” I am in complete agreement, but between regulation and tradition we have what we use. As I continue to with this series of blogs I keep thinking about the comment and particularly how it applies to putting. After many years of work searching for answers, I have reached the conclusion that more than in full swing, matching design to movement has a critical influence on successful putting.

In our previous discussions we have focused on putters when balanced at a fixed point on the shaft the toe of the putter hangs below the heel. The degree the face angles toward the ground is called toe hang. When the face is parallel to the ground - as shown below left - it is commonly referred to as face balanced. As we continue to measure strokes we find the amount of toe hang a putter has can influence the speed of face rotation at impact. To improve a player’s feel in their stroke we find it beneficial to match this to the amount required by set up. Basically, the more rotation required the more we look for the face to hang toward vertical.

Easily the best-selling putter design of the past 20 years is the face balanced mallet. There are several reasons this appeals to golfers who struggle with their strokes. Face balanced promotes a low rotation pattern. We have been constantly told that rotation is bad so low rotation must be better. In addition, with a mallet, the more you can move the center of gravity away from the face, the more stable the putter is at impact on off center strikes. With this combination two things happen, first, there is less feeling of torque in your hands with an off-center strike. Also, more energy is transferred to the ball when you miss the sweet-spot. Sounds pretty good, right? More forgiving and better feel, what else could a player want? The problem we see with the one style fits all mentality happens when your set up promotes a flatter stroke plane and therefore a bigger arc. 

This pattern requires the toe of the club to move faster than the heel to maintain a consistent position to the arc. This "rotation" is a function of the distance from the ball and the putter moving on a tilted plane, and not a function of your hands! When you have an arc that requires the toe to move faster and it doesn't, this conflict of rotational requirement and rotational putter value produces a twisting feeling in your hands. Typically, a player will fight this feeling by using more grip pressure.  For many this tension can make judging distance more difficult.  When grip pressure doesn’t work, we see players result to more drastic measures. Anchored techniques were common back in the day. With the new rules we see non-traditional hand placement like the claw/pencil grip as the norm. It becomes a vicious cycle as the more the putter twists the harder it is to find the center of the putter and the more you need a “forgiving putter”.  Rather than continue to fight this battle if you prefer a face balanced mallet we suggest you use it with the Profile that best fits.

In the Burnt Edge System, the lowest rotational requirement is found with a Profile 3. This is a player who uses a shorter putter in length, bends more from the hips to get his eyes directly over the ball. They tend to play the ball more forward in their stance and hold the putter square with the back of their left hand at impact. Their shoulder alignment is square to slightly open. The same with their feet. With this type of putter open is preferable to closed or perfectly square. The more the path moves to the right, the more the toe of the putter must release or rotate to find square. Because the putter fights a release we see the lead hand in combination with a shoulder rotation as the source and sequence of movement. No trail hand effort, face balanced mallets do not work well when you try to hit the ball with the trail hand. Speed control is better produced by tempo and shoulder rotation. 
P.S. If you currently use a face balanced mallet and are struggling. Try our suggestion, move closer to it, move the ball forward and open your stance. The results may surprise you.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Owner's Manuals for Putters - Anser/Newport

Over the course of golf history there have been several iconic putter designs. But none have been replicated more than the Ping Anser and Anser 2 model. Every putter maker from boutique to major manufacturer has a version of these designs in their product mix. As more than one industry insider has told me, “You have to have one.” To give credit where credit is due, Thanks to Tiger Woods, I firmly believe this model is the best-selling design type of all time.
Toulon Garage San Diego No lIne

Even with the vast number of different designers offering their version of the design to the public, the basics remain the same. Full offset neck, often referred to a mechanical or “plumbers” neck, moderate 45 degrees of toe hang along with the iconic heel and toe weighting. The toe hang might vary depending on the designer’s choice of neck and blade length, but normally within the parameters of what would be required by a moderate arc.

One of the things we found surprising as we started to match successful strategies to this putter, is that while it is by far the most common choice of design it is in no way the most versatile. The most successful strokes, when measured are specific when you look at the averages. Path one – two degrees right for a right-handed golfer and face less than one degree closed at impact. You might be thinking, these are successful numbers for any putter, but the measurements of the successful users of this model all had these tendencies. In our system this is a Profile 4.

One dominant tendency we saw in the measurements is for the putter to swing in a closed position relative to the path. Two potential reasons. First there is a tendency for right eye dominant players to aim the line in the cavity left. We like to start with no line. Personally, I think it is a function of the plumber’s neck. Byron Morgan has built many putters for my clients with the same offset and toe hang, and we did not see the same closed to the path tendency. Could be look, could be feel, but the stats are straight forward.  In fact, we have seen the same closed to path tendencies in mallets with a plumber’s neck as well.
Top Ten World Ranking Profile 4
When we measured players prior to the Tiger Woods phenomenon, we saw a number of strokes in the Profile 3 and 6 categories. Arc’s that swung straight back on the back-swing and followed the plane to finish left on the follow through. Some used the Anser/Newport but with the ball much farther back in the stance to compensate for the closed face. They found the earlier impact is in the arc the less closed the face to the target line. Then two things happened. Instructors started to recommend a ball forward position to allow you to hit up on the ball, with the hope of producing a better roll. But in my mind, it was Tiger describing his stroke as a high hook that turned the tide. Ball forward, arc tilted right, Newport design. Please remember that even though the arc is tilted to the right, because of the arc in the stroke, the path direction maybe perfect at impact. But the probability of the face being slightly closed to the target line are better than good. So fr many the more you tilt the arc the more likely you are to be sqaure at impact.
Profile 6 Straight Back to Left

In our other reviews, I have given you other Profile options. The Anser/Newport is not that versatile. The putter gets too shut in the back swing for a Profile 1, forcing a block push release. In the Profile 7, it can be hard to rotate enough. Open face at impact. In all the other profiles there are several manipulations required to get it to work. In these instances you see similar head shapes, but with modified necks. Or more common a player who struggles to find consistency. Don’t fight it. Use Profile 4.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Owner's Manual for Putters - Toe Hang Mallets

At Burnt Edges, when we consult with a client we use the same time line, regardless of talent level, to define the parameters of their putting stroke. We start with a determination of the posture and distance from the ball where they perceive the target most accurately. Second, we want to know where they play the ball; relative to their stance forward or back, that provides the best visual to aim the putter. If that seems redundant, I understand why you might think that way, but for the sake of today's discussion think of it in terms direct vision (aim) and peripheral vision (target awareness). We then want to understand how these visual decisions, along with body type, influence alignment. Most assume you must be parallel; but historically we have seen great putters open, closed and parallel. We know from interviews this was primarily based on where they "see it" best. So rather than assume there is a best way, why not make every possibility available to us. Based on these findings, we then want to discover how they start and finish the physical movement in their putting stroke. In Burnt Edges terminology, source, sequence and finish. When you add these parameters together and deal with any movement conflicts the system identifies, we find the “defined” putting stroke has a greater than 95% probability to be diagrammed by one of the Nine Profiles to within one standard statistical deviation. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE 9 PROFILES. Armed with this information the task is to find the putter that has the most positive influence on that stroke.

Today’s discussion involves a solution that many tour level players have found for the following definition. A stroke with a small to moderate arc plane, (shown above), parallel to the target line, where the stroke is finished with the trail hand.  “A little hit at the bottom” would be the old school phrase to describe it. This “hit” comes in two forms. First would be players who have a small hinge of the trail wrist that releases the wrist hinge at impact. The second and more common, where they release the toe, and the majority of the required forward swing rotation happens at impact. For today’s example we are looking at helping a rotational hit.

Controlling trail hand rotation at impact might be the most common issue we see. The problem comes from using this movement pattern with the putter moving on a arc parallel and matching the target line at impact. In simple terms, the rotational hit closes the face too much and you get a pull miss. At this point you are probably thinking you might try to eliminate the “hit”. A good idea, except for many players the “hit” or rotation at impact is a critical factor in having a feel for speed. Ask Tiger Woods; it is an ingrained movement.  As we discussed last time, one solution is to tilt the arc plane away from the rotation. But that will not work if all the other parameters lead you to a parallel Profile to target line.
Arc Plane parallel to target line - face closed at impact.

Every week on television you see a variety of ways to try to solve this dilemma. Claw or pencil hand position, left and low, over-sized grips are just a few of the attempted corrections. But as we said, what if they solve the trail hand issue from a directional stand point, but has a negative influence on feel for speed? There are a couple of ways you can slow rotation at impact. One is by weight. I think the trend toward heavier putters has been fueled by this conversation. Personally, I don’t like using weight to cure a problem. It can backfire over time by influencing the player to exaggerate the movement. Not all the time obviously, as there is a head-weight and overall weight that best suits your tempo and rhythm. But as a general rule I prefer to match weight to rhythm and tempo for speed control rather than alter rotation. We think a better alternative for too much rotation at impact was found by moving to a putter-head with a much higher moi. The observation from our measurements that toe hang being equal, blades rotate faster than mallets. Our problem was almost all higher moi putters were also face balanced and this created a situation where the putter influenced the rotation in the stroke to the point where there was not enough back-swing rotation to match the arc. The result being a shut to plane, opening to plane movement. Hands and arms moving the opposite direction of the movement of your body. Disaster! 

Fortunately, we found a solution in the latest design trend. Mallets with toe hang. The cog of the putter is deep enough in the head to slow rotation at impact, but still allow the feel of a hit at the bottom of the stroke. All the while, having enough feel of the toe of the putter, to allow for the necessary rotation to keep the putter on plane. The best part of the trend is that the OEM’s have put the short slant neck they used to create this model on various sizes and types of mallets. Below I have three examples of putters designed by Odyssey / Toulon that we have used with great success. Basic rule of thumb. The shorter and more aggressive your stroke, the farther you want the center of gravity from the face.
From left to right Odyssey OWorks #7SRed - Toulon Atlanta H4 - Odyssey OWorks Two-Ball Fang S
Deep - Deeper - Deepest
All of this to say, if you try to release the putter and miss left, try a mallet with toe hang. As always, if you feel that you fit this scenario and have some questions feel free to contact me at my Burnt Edges email address.

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 feature 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 when 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 sweet-spot 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 bruce@burntedgesconsulting.com

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.