Sunday, October 11, 2009

Line up the Logo: Help or Hindrance?

It is very popular on the professional golf tours for players to use the logo on the ball to help them line up putts. Most enhance the logo by using a marker to darken the line. Tiger Woods has used an enhanced line on the ball to help his alignment for as long as I have watched him play. I am sure his success using a line is the main reason it is so popular with the other players on the tour. Regardless of the popularity, we have measured over 5000 putts this season alone at the United States Golf Academy and have very clear evidence that using a logo as an alignment aid is not for everyone.

The first problem is that the player has to get the line down accurately. Any line, either on the ball or on the putter, is a reference to the target. If the reference is inaccurate, you place yourself in a situation where a good stroke rolls the ball in the wrong direction. The confusion this causes and the subsequent efforts to compensate can ruin a good putting stroke.
The second problem we see is the difference in perception between sighting the line from behind the ball and the way the line appears when you stand to the side preparing to make the stroke. The line often looks like it is pointed in the wrong direction as you stand to the side. The player has to remember that you don’t see as accurately side-on as you do looking down the line. You have to trust the line even if it doesn’t look right. Once that reference is in position, that line becomes the directional target, and where you think the target is no longer matters. This is easier said than done.

Finally, there is a problem that will probably surprise you. Players that have a straight line as a visual reference on their putter often have a difficult time matching the line on the putter to the line on the ball. The putter is pointed in one direction, while the line on the ball is pointed in another. This is a recipe for disaster and is very common. In fact, it is so common that we have coined the phrase “visual interference” to describe it.

Our recommendation for a line on the ball is to give it a try, but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you. You are not alone.