Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Distance Control for Putting

I was fortunate to be part of a team that introduced a game improvement technology called PuttLab to the United States. PuttLab is an ultrasound device that attaches to your putter and measures in great detail every movement of the putter during the stroke. Using this information, we can help players build a more functional putting strategy, based on personal tendencies, rather than forced body positions or concepts. We recently completed the first phase of a study, using PuttLab data compiled from students of the United States Golf Academy over the past three years. We made some fascinating discoveries about how people putt. One however was eye opening and was the only one that has applications for everyone.

We have the ability to measure the time of the stroke to 1/1000 of a second. The time is then broken into three categories 1. Time of the backswing. 2. Time of the forward swing to impact, or the time when the putter starts forward toward ball to impact. 3. Total forward swing or the time from the start of the forward swing to the end of the follow through. When measuring the time to impact we confirmed what had been found in an earlier study done by the company that developed the technology. An average stroke takes 1 second or 1000 milliseconds from start of the backswing to impact with the ball. The lower the handicap of the player the closer they were to exactly one second, as the very best players measured 950 to 1050 milliseconds. More importantly, we discovered the total time to impact did not change with the length of the putt. A five foot putt took one second to impact as did a fifty foot putt. So what does this have to do with controlling the distance a putt will roll?

The data proved that the best way to control distance is to vary the length of your stroke to the length of the putt, rather than using the same length backswing for all lengths, slowing down or speeding up depending on perception. Use a long stroke for long putts and a short stroke for short putts, with the time of the stroke being consistent at one second. The easiest way to control the time is to simply count to one second like we used to do as children, one thousand one. Start the count as the putter goes back and hit the ball on one. It takes a little practice, but you will find as you change the length of the putts your stroke will almost naturally speed up or slow down as the length of the stroke changes. Over a short amount of time you will develop a feel for the distance the putter needs to swing to control the distance you need. Another benefit is that your direction control will improve as well, as the putter position at impact is more consistent as the timing becomes more consistent.

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