I recently had to have some work done on my car. A wheel bearing on the front had gone bad. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I wondered aloud why one bearing would wear so much faster than the other. There was a great deal of speculation, with no real answers, but one comment really got my attention. “There must have been some excessive vibration in that wheel.”
Over the past 6 years I have spent most of my spare time studying putting strokes using a technology called PuttLab. This system shows in great detail the movements of a putter during the stroke. One of the parameters shows the opening and closing of the putter as it swings toward the ball. In many putting strokes, even when the putter is attached to a robot, we see an irregular pattern to the rotation. The putting stoke might be very consistent in all aspects, yet we still see this irregular pattern of movement as the putter swings forward.It looks something like this.
Same player same day using a different putter.
I am constantly searching for a better way to explain this phenomenon. With the help of my friend at the auto repair center, I have come to understand this pattern as a vibration. A vibration caused when the design or balance of the putter is not matched to the motion of the player. No big deal right? The putter doesn’t do anything. We have all the control. In a broad sense this might be true, however there is one problem. We humans react to what we feel. So how does a golfer react to a club not balanced to the motion?
They take a firmer grip on the club. A natural reaction to anything in your hand that is vibrating is to hold on tighter. Your hands will absorb the vibration and it eliminates the feel. If you took a poll of 100 golf instructors asking for tips on putting, I am sure that every one would have “eliminate tension” on their list. So with the wrong putter we create a vicious cycle. Do what the pro asks and it feels bad. Do what feels better and the tension ruins your stroke. This is especially true when you start without any tension in your stroke, and then react to the feel while you are in motion. We see this reaction to the vibration, caused by an imbalance of putter to motion, in all but the very best players. As I said before if we look closely we can even see it when using a putting robot with the wrong putter for the motion.
How do you solve the problem and find the correct putter for you? First you have to understand your stroke. Are you close to the ball or further away? What powers the stroke, shoulders, arms, hands or a combination? While it sounds complicated it is fun to learn and as is true in most endeavors knowledge aids improvement. Look to professional help, I can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org and would be glad to share what we have learned.