Monday, November 19, 2007


Without question, the most frequent putter fitting problem observed at the Academy is the negative influence of a poorly installed putter grip with a flat surface. If the flat portion of the grip is not perpendicular to the putter face or at the very least does not match the perception of the player, any number of problems can occur.

This is an example of a player with a poorly installed grip. On five measured strokes we see this player has a consistent and successful ability to aim the putter. However, at impact the putter is consistently to the right of the intended target.

Upon inspection, we found when the flat portion of his grip was placed in horizontal position, the putter face was open to vertical just about the same amount as we found it open at impact. So how does this happen.

This player aims the putter visually. Using the line on the putter and matching it to a line on the ball. The result as we saw was very effective. Once he swings the putter away from the ball feel takes over and he swings the putter to a position where his thumbs are on top of the shaft. This opened the face and he maintained this postion through the rest of his stoke.

The best way to see how a flat sided grip affects your stroke is to try a round grip. The hands are placed on the putter matching where the putter is aimed. When the putter swings it does so without influence from the grip. You will find the comparision of the your stroke with a flat grip to a round quite educational and thought provoking.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Golf Profiles

There are two types of golfers.

The first is the player who is constantly changing their game in a search for the perfect method. The try every tip the get from their playing companions, from every article they read and every segment they see on television. Their golf experience is one huge experiment and never the same from one day to the next and every shot is a compensation based on the results of the previous stroke.

The second is the player who is has stayed with the same basics throughout their golf careers. They are very slow to change and if they do try something new they know why they are making the change and exactly what results they expect. If this player has trouble with their game they always go back to the fundamentals they were taught as beginners, and work the issues out from there.

There are also two types of instructors.

The first is the instructor that has developed the one perfect method that works for every player. If a student differs from their teaching, then the instructor expects a full-scale overhaul, over a long period of time, to bring the player on line with their teachings. They like to tell their students, “You will never be any good if you continue blah, blah, blah.” Which when you translate from golf speak to English means, “Its my way or the highway.”

The second is the instructor who understands there is no perfect method, only the perfection of a personal method. These teachers tend to watch more than demonstrate and listen more than talk. When they do talk they relate every suggestion to fundamentals and not theory. They think in terms of evolution and not creation when it pertains to your game.

During our careers our instructors have had the chance to spend some time with a number of Hall of Fame players. At each opportunity they have asked what made these players better than their competition? There was a common theme among all the answers and we addressed it in this essay. We hope the effort to find it and understand it is of value to your golf experience.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Why Custom Fit your Putter?

Easily the most neglected club in the bag from a playing perspective is the putter. Players spend hundreds of dollars to examine every minute detail of their full swing equipment and yet when it comes to the most subtle and exacting shots in the game – putting – for the most part they use what ever looks and feels best. The path the putter travels is defined by your posture and alignment to the intended line. There are number of parameters that define this posture.

Where do I position my head to best see the path I would like to swing the putter?

How does this head position influence the path of the stroke?

What is the best club length, so my arms and hands can work in conjunction with my shoulders to produce the smoothest stroke requiring the fewest compensations?

What is the correct lie angle of the putter at impact, so the ball will leave the putter in the correct direction?

What is the correct static loft for my putter to produce the best ball roll conditions that suit my game and putting strategies.

At the United States Golf Academy we use a state of the art technology called Puttlab to measure all movement and positions of the putter in three dimensions throughout the stroke. This system has taught us a great deal about putting strokes. One thing we know for sure is the most sccessful strokes are the consistent ones. Consistency can only come when the putter fits the player's posture. In future articles we will discuss in greater detail some of the Academy's discoveries, but in the meantime, we suggest if you are having difficulty with your putting, look to the fit of the putter you use before you make a change in your stroke or try a dramatic change in your posture. Everyone in some way has had a putter fitting. Most, through trial and error, have fit themselves to the putter they use: either by bending over or standing straighter or moving their hands to best fit the dimensions of their current putter. Unfortunately for the self fitter, they often do not understand that the path of the stroke should match the posture. A player with an upright posture will not be able to consistently swing the putter on a straight path, while the player who bends from the waist and puts his eyes directly over the ball would struggle with a stroke that swings on an arc path.

The other method is to have yourself fit by a professional. At the United States Golf Academy we use the following protocol for fitting putters.

1. Puttlab analysis of the stroke.

2. Video down the line to look for the best posture for the type of stroke.

3. Build a demo of chosen putter at fit dimensions.

4. Second Puttlab measurement to verify results.

5. Fit to lie at impact.

6. Final measurement.

This result oriented system has served us well and eliminates guess work and personal opinion.

Trackman and SMT

One of the success stories we are most proud of is the use of our TrackMan™ technology and how the information we obtain from the system helps us plan an equipment/golf swing strategy for our students and customers. Based on Doppler radar technology, TrackMan™ measures the exact 3-dimensional club movement and ball flight, and provides precise data on the ball launch, ball flight and ball landing. TrackMan™ measures the full trajectory of any shot, ranging from short pitches to 400-yard drives and measures the landing position with an accuracy of 1 foot at 100 yards.

With that information we can combine our instruction skills with the right equipment to create an optimal ball flight for each shot. In other words, “What is the theoretical limit I can hit a driver (or any club) based on my club head speed and the different parameters of the club at impact?” This kind of detailed information requires special partnerships from the equipment manufacturers to allow us to fully utilize the information.

One of these partnerships is with SMT Golf. SMT Golf, is the first and only company to win each division of the RE/Max World Long Drive Championship, and the "Longest driver on any PGA Tour", built its reputation on the highest quality products with unsurpassed performance and durability. At the Academy we have taken that success and applied it to the fitting issues of players of all levels. The result has been remarkable to say the least. We have been so successful that we have made this promise. “If we cannot find at least 10 yards in additional distance for you the fitting is free.”

The moral of my story is, “Don’t buy without knowing.” Given the prices of today’s golf equipment we think it is worth the effort to find out what your optimal ball flight really is, and to spend the time to find the right equipment to match it.