At the United States Golf Academy we have devoted a great deal of time and resources to research all aspects of playing the game of golf to help our students shoot lower scores. Of course, for any player the fastest way to shoot lower scores is to make more putts. In order to do that, the first aspect of putting that needs to be addressed is the visual aspect or for lack of a better term – aim.
Many years ago when asked about putting Arnold Palmer said that the key to good putting was to hit the ball where you are looking. If it is really that simple then why is it so darn difficult in application? The answer lies in the way we perceive the target and the task. Most of us can aim very well when we look directly down the intended direction of a putt. Unfortunately, the view becomes distorted when we move to the side. Try this test. Draw a straight line on a ball and looking down the intended line point the line on the ball at the target. Now walk around to the side as you would to putt. Does the line still appear to be going toward the target? If so it is safe for you to use that line as a reference to putt. The next step for you is to find a putter where the visual references on the putter match the line on the ball. This is much harder than you think because even with a perfectly aligned line on the ball they can still be off when they set the putter behind the ball. We have found that each layer of visual reference is an opportunity for distraction.
For those of you who have a different impression of the line when you are in position to strike the putt it is important to eliminate the visual interference. Lines on the ball and lines on the putter are more distraction than help. For you to be successful you must become more instinctive when you aim rather than analytical. Don’t feel bad, there are more of you out there than people who can successfully use the line. We recently commissioned an Inaugural Edition Putter for the Academy. Each of these is custom fit to the owner and has no visual references or alignment aids. It is my personal contention that the vast majority of us would putt better without all the alignment “aids” we have on today’s putters. The extra lines and gimmicks might give us the sense of better alignment, but in reality our work with PuttLab clearly shows us that most players aim the putter better without the visual distractions. They just don’t think they do, but that is a topic for another column.