Thursday, June 16, 2011

Putting Fundamentals

A putt goes into the hole when two requirements have been achieved. First, the ball is traveling in the correct direction. Second, it is moving at the proper speed. No matter what you hear or read from the industry marketing people, speed and direction are the only two things that matter. So when you create your own putting strategy you must focus on what matters, Direction and Distance, and the factors at impact that influence them.

So the question then becomes what to master first, Distance or Direction? There are a number of myths and legends about how the ball comes off the putter. Golfer's have a tendency to romanticize putting, when it simply is a collision of a moving object with a stationary one. Since the ball is on the face for such a limited time there isn’t much that happens. 82% of the influence on direction comes from where the face is pointed at impact. The remaining 18% is from the direction of the path. So controlling the face relative to the path direction is how we start the ball on line. The speed the ball leaves the putter is influenced by how fast the putter is moving, but also the loft on the putter at impact as well.

Since the face has an influence on both parameters of the stroke it is important and more efficient to address the two issues in this order, direction first, and then speed. Why? Because how fast the putter is moving has no influence on direction the ball leaves the putter. However, how the face is delivered to the ball not only controls direction, but also has a large influence on how fast the ball leaves the putter. Our putting study has shown clearly that with a putter moving at the same exact speed, how far the ball rolls will vary, depending on the loft of the putter face at impact. There are a number of things that can happen to a stroke that influence loft, but in the end if we find a stroke that can consistently start the ball on line first, then we can also assume that the ball will roll a consistent distance based on speed, because all of the other factors influencing speed are controlled by those factors controlling direction. So the moral of this story is to find a consistent stroke that starts the ball on the intended line and then work on the only variable left which is repeating that motion at different speeds.

You can learn to do this by hitting putts over a mark about 6 inches in front of your golf ball. That teaches direction. Now do it with different stroke lengths. This creates the speed. Then take it to the golf course and see if you can relate stroke length to putt length, with the stroke we learned can control direction. I know you will begin to see some improvement in your putting.

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