Sunday, December 9, 2012

The difference between Anchored and Conventional Putting Strokes

The decision has been made and golf's governing bodies have decided that using a putting method that anchors the putter to the body is not an appropriate way to putt. As I read article upon article about the reasons for banning the anchored method, I rarely see comments about the actual benefit of using a belly or broomstick method. Personal opinions and emotional reactions dominate the conversation. So utilizing the data I have accumulated over the past 8 years with my SAM PuttLab, I went back and took the time to research the differences of conventional and anchored method.  Here is what I found.

The Anchored Method creates a more stable relationship of putterface angle to path shape and direction. In other words it is easier to keep the putter square to the path of the putter. The drawing below shows two lines. Black is the imaginary line to the target and the red the path produced utilizing a Putting Arc Training aide. I used this particular example because I consider it the average stroke path and for the sake of this discussion helps describe the impact of the anchored stroke. Please do not consider this an optimal stroke. The optimal stroke is the one produced by your posture and set up. It might have a smaller arc or bigger arc, and it will definitely have a directional bias. The arc tilts, but that is a discussion for another day. The important point is that almost all putting strokes travel on an arcing path. The true straight path is very rare. Less than 3% of our database.
In  the next drawing I have added the putter position of the player who struggles with a conventional length putter. This is the common problem that forces unusual or extreme methods. The player attempts to keep the putter square to the artificial target line -black- rather than the true path created by posture and set up - red. To keep the putter square to the black line the player must manipulate the putter by twisting in a counter clockwise direction on the backswing ( closing )and then reversing the motion (opening) on the forward swing. Timing the rotation so the putter returns to square to the black line at impact.
The natural or non-manipulated  action of the putter would be to remain in a constant position to the path of the putter. This is shown in the following illustration. Without manipulation or twisting the putter remains square to the path -red. Visually this looks like it opens and closes during the stroke. But the appearance is only because we reference the stroke to an artificial line not connected to the motion. By staying sqaure to the mechanically purs path it eliminates the timing requirement of the stroke. When the path matches the target line the putter is square to both. Reducing the need for perfect timing or over controlling the putter.
You can teach yourself this twisting motion with countless repetitions and by uses directional aides. In fact most drills and aides are built to hone the twisting motion. The problem is that under the pressure of competition, no matter how much you practice, structural mechanics will overcome so called muscle memory.
So for those who lose the timing of the twisting stroke, anchoring the putter becomes the solution. Anchoring the putter now forces the putter swing in sync with the rest of the body maintaining the relationship of putter to mechanics.

This is the only mechanical advantage of the anchored stroke, and once the player understands the advantage, he has a better understanding of the putting stroke in general. I think that is why we have seen a lack of concern in many of the players who use the anchored stroke. The change showed them the solution to their problems with a conventional stroke.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Better Timing for Better Putting - Part 2

Warning - If you are looking for a simple solution to your putting problems the following is not for you.

When I worked with the people at Science and Motion, I had the opportunity to ask the inventor of PuttLab, Dr. Christian Marquardt what he considered the most important parameter PuttLab could measure. His answer was quick and clear, rhythm and timing. In our subsequent studies, we see the truth of his claim every day.

With our last post, we talked about the importance of maintaining a consistent time to impact when making a putting stroke, using stroke length within a consistent time, as the best way to judge the distance the ball would roll. However, the first post relates only to half the story. To lead into a discussion on the other aspect of timing importance lets start with a claim of my own.

The most important fundamental in the mechanics of putting pertaining to direction, is a consistent relationship of face to putter path. Notice I did not say staying square to the path, a popular marketing term, I said consistent relationship of face to path. Some of the most successful stroke mechanics are have faces open, or closed to the path. But, in all successful strokes the relationship remains consistent. It is the twisting of open to closed, or worse, closed to open along the path of the putterhead that causes directional misses.

All putting strokes rotate around a fixed point. If the putter is anchored the anchor point is the fixed point. With a conventional stroke, this point is typically at or below the base of the neck where the shoulder blades intersect the spine depending on arm motion and wrist flex. Since there is a fixed point and the putter swings around this point, all paths the putter follows are naturally circular in motion. If the plane of the stroke is up-right the putter will appear to swing on a straighter path. If the ball is positioned farther from the player creating a flatter motion plane then the putter will appear to arc. We believe it to be fundamental to success to stay on plane in your stroke.

So for any stroke there is a rotational requirement to maintain a consistent face to path relationship during the stroke. Some strokes are low rotation, some are intermediate, and some are high. However, all have some face rotation depending on the size of the arc and the stroke length.

The next concept to understand is that the actual amount of rotation is relative to stroke length. So for example, a low rotations stroke might have 2 degrees of backswing rotation on a short stroke, 4 degrees on a medium length stroke, and 6 for a long stroke. A slight arc might be show 4, 6 and 8. A big arc can be as much as 6, 8 and 10 or more. It is important to realize that these are examples and not guidelines. What is important is what amount of rotation keeps the putter relationship to path consistent.

By keeping a consistent time to impact the putter relationship to path remains consistent. If you use the diagram above as an example, If each image represents the length of the backstroke, the time to reach the length of stroke is consistent. For example it may take about 2/3rds of a second to the end of each backswing. Upon return you might find that it takes about 1/3rd of a second to return to the ball for each length. The rate of rotation of the putter ties directly to the speed the putter moves. slow speeds = slower rate of rotation, faster speeds = faster rate of rotation. so as the putter changes speeds to meet the time requirements, the rate of rotation adjusts as well. Returning the putter back to the approriate position at impact. So if the length/speed relationship is inconsistent, the rotational speed is inconsistent as well, creating the twisting or instability we mentioned earlier. I know it is sounds complicated, but in application it is actually more simple. Consistent time over variable distance is easy to conquer. If you chose the length of the stroke our internal clocks maintain the time relationship. In golf terms, we view this as a natural tempo. This timing or tempo will only change by choice or circumstance (nerves), and when left alone will remain constant. It is this constant that can work to our advantage. in another post we will give you a variation on this method that involves one length backswing with a varible length follow through. More variables to conquer than the equal length back and through method, but with some knowledge can be a successful strategy as well.

At the end of the day the combination of consistent time over varied stroke length allows us to control both speed and direction. Our ultimate goal when putting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Strategies for Speed Control = Better Putting

I have recently been involved in a discussion on whether dying the ball at the hole is better than taking a more aggressive line and speed to the hole. There is a tendency to attribute these tendencies to personality. There are risk takers (aggressive) and those who prefer to play safe (passive). I always use the comparison of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus when discussing opposites in golf. Mr. Palmer was aggressive, always taking a more direct line with greater speed to the hole. Mr. Nicklaus on the other hand had more of a “die it at the hole” style. Both were very successful. It is important to note that both players were very consistent in staying with their strategy. Either you are always conservative or always aggressive, but never change from one putt to another.

There is also a mechanical reason for which strategy you should chose. In an analysis of a 5-year study using Science and Motion PuttLab technology, we found that a players natural timing and rhythm had to match their perception of putting in order to be successful. We found that the average time to impact, from the start of the backswing to impact was around 1 second. It didn’t matter the length of the putt. Longer strokes moved faster and slower strokes moved slower, so that the time to impact remained consistent. As you might guess within the group there was just about an equal number whose timing was slower than one second, as there was with a time to impact faster than one second to impact.

As we used this information to help our players control the distance the ball rolled we found that those who struggled most we the one with slower tempos trying to take an aggressive line, or the “up tempo” players who tried to die the ball at the hole. The players who matched timing to perception had a much better feel for distance. As you try to analyze your own stroke, use the following guidelines.

1. Vary your stroke length to match the length of putt.

2. Try to maintain a consistent time to impact regardless of the length of the stroke. Short strokes move slower and fast strokes move faster but the time to impact stays the relatively the same.

3. Analyze your findings based on your idea about the best way to putt. Slower tempo will better suit a correct speed approach, where the “up tempo” player has more success taking a more aggressive line and speed approach.

As you go through the process, you will find that the conflicts you might discover regarding timing and perception will go a long way in helping you make the appropriate changes in your putting strategy. A common occurrence for example is the player who slows down their stroke on longer putts (passive approach) and then get quick with their shorter strokes. A leave it short, then run it by, pattern is a common theme for three putt greens. Consistency is key. Find the right pattern, stay with it, putt better.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Putting Help from Zach Johnson

Zack Johnson put on a short game clinic this past weekend at Colonial. He putted beautifully. If you are looking for a putting stroke that shows you a full release of the putter, Zach is your man. If you watch his stroke, you see Zach uses his right arm and hand to swing the putter forward. At times the left arm stops moving, but because the right wrist is soft the right arm keeps moving and finishes the stroke.

This release of the putter is a natural reaction to his “hands back” set up. His left wrist is already in a cupped position at set up, making it easy for the right arm to take over in the stroke and allowing the left wrist to collapse to make room, without influencing the position of the face relative to the target or the path of the putter. Try this. Set up with your right hand only on the putter and hit a few putts. After awhile you will notice that you start to stroke the ball with less bend in your right wrist to improve the strike. The arm swings rather than the forearm pushing. Now without taking your right hand off the club match your left hand and arm to the right arm. This is Zach’s set up.

Where this soft left wrist becomes a problem is when a player is in a more “conventional’ flat wrist position. When the wrist goes from flat to cupped it flips the putter up, causing you to hit it on the bottom of the face and almost always with the face twisting closed in the process. With any player I work with that uses a right arm stroke, I suggest a soft left wrist.

What I love most about Zach’s stroke is that it is totally contrary to the method suggested by many “ball roll” specialists. Mr. Breed are you out there? I watched the tournament on and off for all four days and I never once heard the announcers talk about the “poor” roll Zach puts on the ball. Rather than hitting up on the ball he actually uses the loft of the putter and his right hand to lift the ball to start the putt and it rolls out from there. On fast greens or downhill putts this gives him the added advantage of using the loft of the putter to soften the hit and control the speed.

More than any other technique, this method mimics the feel of an underhand toss to the ball to the hole and is much easier to replicate than it looks.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hot Streak reveals Putting Help.

Jason Dufner, of the PGA Tour, has been on a great run of late. Improved putting is usually the primary reason for success in golf, and it certainly is in Jason’s case. As I watch him, I see two things that have influenced his putting in a positive way.

Reason #1. A No Steer Stroke

Jason swings the putter with as little twisting of the putter face along the path of the stroke as anyone on tour. Please note I said path and not target line. Jason swings the putter on a simple and moderate arc. With his stroke if you stopped the putter at any point on the arc the relationship between the face of the putter and the path direction of the putter would be very close to the same. In golf marketing terms, he swings the putter square to the path. He is able to achieve this consistency in his stroke because he is one of the few players using the oversize grip as designed, to eliminate hand action in the stroke. There are a number of ways to move a putter. You can go old school and just use your hands or wrists, like an Arnold Palmer or Billy Casper. You can guide the stroke with a dominant hand and arm like Jack Nicklaus – right arm or Dave Stockton - left. You can swing both arms together with a minimal use of the shoulders like Loren Roberts or Stan Utley. Finally, you can swing the putter with the shoulders with passive arms and hands as a Jason Dufner or Aaron Baddeley.

The oversized grip is most effective when used with a shoulder driven stroke! The first three examples of strokes I mentioned all require some use of the hands to control the face of the putter. A grip design that eliminates the hands, used with a source of motion that requires the hands is a recipe for disaster. Jason swings the putter with his shoulders and no use of the hands so there are no conflicts.

Reason #2. Green Reading by Visualization.

I read in an interview that Jason tries to visualize how the ball will get to the hole and then tries to replicate what he envisions. This would differ with the method of trying to analyze the putt by verbalizing the movement of the ball along the distance of the putt. Left then uphill, then right then downhill, would be an example of verbalizing the read. Even though I am a great believer in verbalizing the mechanics of any stroke or swing, when it comes to applying the mechanics of putting, it is better to “feel” the read of a putt. While not an easy way, there is a definite advantage to developing that skill.

There is an element of guess-work involved with green reading no matter what you do. It makes it easier on your nervous system if you can give the brain a preview of the putt in your head. Imagining a ball rolling to the hole is the same thing as seeing someone putt the ball before you, like in a scramble, as far as your brain is concerned, but with an advantage. Visualization of the putt in motion gives you a sense the “feel” of the stroke required, while just watching gives you no sense of how the stroke will feel. No amount of measuring or pointing will give you a feel for the putt. You have to rehearse it in your head to establish the relationship of speed and direction. Short of hitting a putt twice, this is the best we have at our disposal. Jason does this as well as anyone and it shows.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lesson 153

Long term success in golf means having enough confidence in your method to not change everything when things get tough.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lesson 152

The search for a "best way" does not guarantee success. Consistency of effort, consistency of technique is what works best.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lesson 151

Set up to an aimed clubface! Don't aim the clubface from your setup! Maybe the most common mistake any player might make.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lesson 150

Putting. The difference between the greats and not so great, is consistency not proficiency.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lesson 149

Path determines direction. Face square to path. Hitting up rolls the ball better. All are false! Just harmful marketing terms.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lesson 147

Lack of patience ruins more rounds than lack of talent. Play to your strengths, avoid your weaknesses-your scores will be lower.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lesson 146

Curves are more forgiving than straight. Ask Bubba. Swing the club away from the target to get the ball to curve toward it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lesson 145

Do you play outside in or inside out? Knowing the difference is key to becoming a good golfer. Which one are you?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lesson 144

Good shots are a matter of knowing the process to make the shot. Without a process the swing is random. You can't judge random.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't be afraid to take a lesson.

Lesson 143 - Great players don't guess. There is power in knowledge. You can't play by feel if you don't know how the shot you need feels.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Daily Lesson Returns

Lesson 142-Never make a major change in your swing out of frustration. Getting better takes patience. Always fine tune, never overhaul.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tiger Woods update

Dear Mr. Woods, .....


I watched with interest yesterday after your conversation with Steve Stricker. I noticed you are still struggling with shutting the putter. It looked much better but I saw it on a couple of putts. One of which you made, which is a bit unfortunate because of the false sense of accomplishment. We both know shut doesn't work for you over the long term, so positive feedback on the shut stroke has to be considered a negative. You don't need me to tell you, you don't want to rely on luck.

I think the problem comes from the putter and here is my reasoning why. One of the marketing points of your Method putter was that the milling the grooves in the face moved 30% of weight to the heel and the toe, increasing the MOI of the head of the putter. You have also added weight to the putter by going to a cord grip instead of the PingMan, also increasing the overall MOI of the putter.

I know from my work using PuttLab that an increase in putter MOI will have a direct influence on the rotation in the stroke. Higher MOI = less rotation. It seems like a great idea when you read it; less rotation has to be better, except in your case! You have been very consistent in your comments about getting the putter to swing. I know from seeing your PuttLab reports you putt best when you have MORE rotation than is required not less. I would suggest filling the groves with a heavier material, drilling some weight out of the heel, and going back to the weight of your PingMan grip. If we remove the influence of the putter, I think you will find it easier to work the toe away from the ball and get back where you wish to be.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Illusions of Putting

I am currently reading an amazing book call Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Noble Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. The book deals with his work on judgment and decision-making. In his analysis of making judgments and decisions, he describes the two systems of the brain, “System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of involuntary control. System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration.” In the golf world, we have come to refer to these as conscious and subconscious thought. What I have found fascinating is how the use of one system at the wrong time can create biases or errors in judgment or our decision-making ability. The following is an example of how this can happen.

Look at the preceding drawing. At first glance, which of the two horizontal lines is longer? If you used System 1 or your subconscious mind to make the judgment, you would have probably been in error. There is no difference between the lengths of the line on the top, which appears longer to almost all of us, compared to the line on the bottom. If you used System 2 to make the judgment you would have found a ruler, measured the two, and known immediately they were the same. Once you know this to be true you will never again be fooled by the question, even though you will still percieve one line longer than the other line.

He goes on to explain that not all illusions are visual, there are illusions of thought, which he calls cognitive illusions. In the golf world, a perfect example of a cognitive illusion would be the concept of putting stroke that is straight back and straight through, or the concept of a “better ball roll” or the idea of an “expanded sweet spot”. These are marketing terms created to influence a buying decision that in application can do more harm than good.

My most frequent criticism as a golf instructor is that I make things too complicated or give the player too much to think about. It is probably true to a point. However, I know from experience that I cannot rely on System 1 to make decisions about my putting without the knowledge provided by System 2. I will try to give you a couple examples.

We are standing on a green and we are making a judgment on how far the hole is from your ball. System 1, uses a glance at the hole and allows what we see to determine how long their stroke should be or how far we should try to roll the ball. We do this unaware that undulation, the tilt in the green, or the visual background can create an illusion much the same as the diagram. Uphill putts will usually appear closer than downhill. Ridges in the green will also make the target appear closer. Open space behind the green, will give a longer putt the appearance of the target being farther away. The solution to this problem is not use the visual System 1 as your guide. It is better to use a System 2 method of walking off the distance. Chose real, a measurement rather than perceived the visual.

True story. A student comes to me with a brand new putter, a change in posture, and a different technique. All because he saw on television, the assumed benefits if the ball “rolled better”. When asked how the ball, rolling better, would make him a better putter, there was no knowledge or analytical thought or reason, only “it just would”. After I explained that the ball only rolls when it reaches a certain speed, and could only roll in one way, end over end. In addition, since a ball struck with a putter never had enough rotation or spin to influence direction or speed, which are the two mechanical factors that make a putt, that he might have made a bad decision based on what I now know to be a cognitive illusion. He then mentioned that he used a line on the ball and that many times the ball rolled unevenly and he could see it because the line on the ball oscillated as the ball rolled. When I explained, the ball was still rolling end over end and what he saw was the result of when the orientation of the line differed with the center of the ball, rolling end over end. He had made a System 1, visual judgment, rather than taking System 2, analytical approach. In the end, the player had to ask himself, “Was it worth the poor performance that comes with starting over and are there any guarantees that the new would ever be as good as his original method?” Finally, what would be the result, using a System 2 approach to improve his original method?

If there is a moral to these examples, it is without knowledge of how to perform the task you cannot trust System 1 or subconscious to make your best effort. You can only go on autopilot if you have practiced and made the effort to learn. To use another common suggestion, you cannot trust what you do not know. To “trust” the swing or putting stroke requires some knowledge as to what you are trying to do. We were not born with a subconscious ability to swing a golf club. It is a learned skill that over time can become second nature, but not without the effort to learn how.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Letter to Tiger Woods

Dear Mr. Woods,

I know it has been awhile since you have heard from me. Sorry as I have been pretty busy and to tell you the truth I lost interest as you went through your phase of changing putter styles to the heel shafted model.

As you have started to play again using a model similar to the one you have always used, I have watched your stroke with interest. In particular, your comments on how some days you can get the putter to swing and on others you can't. The most recent of these comments came after your round at Pebble Beach on Sunday. The solution is pretty obvious if you will give me a minute to explain.

You always putted best when you soled your Cameron on the heel side of the tri-plane grind of the Newport sole. I have hundreds of pictures of you with the toe up a little at address. Much of the time using the Nike Method, the putter soles directly in the center of the putter. I would assume this has something to do with the way the sole is ground, without the definite flat spots to have the putter sit as the Cameron had. If, and I am assuming, that the specs of the Cameron and the specs of length, lie and loft of the Method are exactly the same, in order to do get the Method to set flat you have to play the ball closer.

When you move the ball closer your first move off the ball is heel first and the putter shuts. It is obvious on TV. It is a mechanical reaction to the ball being closer to you without a change in posture. When the toe is up and the ball is farther away, the putter swings square to the path away from the ball. This gives you room to open the blade a little in the backswing, as you have always done, and then release the putter through the ball, allowing you to feel the release. When you shut the putter coming off the ball you have nowhere to go. If you get on your PuttLab and experiment with where you sole the putter you will see it clearly. Remember to check the rotation in the first two or three inches from the ball. My suggestion would be to find the placement where the putter doesn’t shut on the backswing mark it on the sole and send it back to David at Nike and have him grind the putter flat on that spot, so you set it down the same each time.

Welcome back, fun to be able to watch you play again and good luck to you in your future events,


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Club Fitting-Two Perspectives

Arnold Palmer is one of the great golf club tinkerers of all time. He fervently believes that a perfect set of clubs exists and with that set, a perfect game is possible. As someone who watched him hit many golf balls, with many different clubs, I am in no position to argue. As I watched him, it was very clear the golf clubs had as much influence over the ball flight as his swing. One driver would be very hard to hook and then the next would be impossible to fade. Changing the lie angle on a set of irons even by as little as one degree would change the trajectory and curve of the ball in flight. He was doing this with a low tech set of clubs compared with what is available today.

However controversial this may seem, with the technology available today, equipment can have more influence on the ball than the golf swing a player uses. I can fit a club that gives you more distance with the same swing and a club that reduces spin so the ball curves less. We can buy clubs that launch the ball higher or lower, all with the player using the same technique creating the same swing speed. I can even influence your putting stroke and change how the ball comes off a putter! Technology is a great thing for the consumer because it increases your purchase options, but it does not guarantee improvement, just change.

There are two directions you can go when fitting golf clubs.

1. You can use technology to fit your golf equipment as a way to correct a problem.

2. You can fit your equipment to maximize your ability.

At this point, I often get the blank stare and the question, “what is the difference?” Fitting to correct is limiting at best. Take for example a draw-biased driver; it helps eliminate your slice but always at the cost of distance. If you make a swing that slices the ball, the club corrects the spin, but because it is essentially a glancing blow, you get slower ball speeds coming off the club and less distance. If you make your best, fastest and most efficient swing, the ball does what it is supposed to do and hooks because of the bias built into the club. It flies so far left you never want to use that swing again. Imagine waiting your whole life for that one moment of golf swing perfection only to bounce the ball off a condominium to the left of the fairway.The other problem with golf clubs that correct ball flight or “assist” your putting, is that you lose the feedback required to know if you made a good swing or not. Success in golf starts with hitting the ball with the center of the club. If you cannot feel that at impact, and the results are acceptable, you never look to improve. With clubs fit to correct, you get what you settle for but no more. In fact clubs built to correct a problem, literally train you to make the ineffcient swing.

In order to be the best player you can be you need clubs that match your best posture, with shafts that fit your swing type so that the best results come from the best swing. Do you swing the club or hit the ball? How much feedback are you willing to sacrifice? Most important, be sure to ask yourself the most important question. Are you as bad as you think you are, or do you not play to your potential? Do not let your clubs be part of the problem.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Better Putting

In 2005 I was introduced to a technology called PuttLab. It is an ultrasound device invented by Dr. Christian Marquardt of Germany, that when attached to a putter measures in minute detail all of the pertinent motions of the putter. I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that introduced the technology to the United States, and my association with the company continues to this day. Over the past 6 years I have analyzed in excess of 50,000 measurements. Actually, I quit counting at 50,000 and I have saved and documented every stroke. This observation and research has led me to some conclusions that don’t agree with many of the commonly held beliefs on putting that are published and broadcast every day.

Our first observation from the research was a discovery that should have been obvious from the start. There was no magic method available only to the very best. The averages of the mechanical measurements of the putting strokes of the poorest putters were no different than the averages of the professional data set. Neither was perfect in comparison to many of the rules and concepts commonly offered. Straight, square, online, are examples of terms that we use to market a method or technique, but in reality are mythical goals. Players have tendencies and biases that are the same for the best or the worst. What was different was consistency. THE GREATEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WORST AND THE BEST WAS NOT HOW THEY DID IT, BUT THAT THE BEST DID IT THE SAME WAY EVERYTIME. The best used their tendencies to create a method, while it appears that the poor performers fight their tendencies to achieve a goal. They try something new every time something doesn’t work. A Hall of Fame player once told me he attributed his success to the fact that he never wasted much time looking for a perfect method. He spent all of his time trying to perfect his own. One needs to look no farther than the greats of the game to understand the value of that statement, particularly as it relates to putting styles. Every great player had a style, posture, and technique that was entirely their own.

In order to create a successful strategy and matching technique for putting, you must understand that you are a unique entity. None of us process information in the same manner. We don’t see things the same, nor are we are constructed in the same dimensions. We all have individual preferences, limits and strengths. To attempt to change from what we are, and what we do, for the sake of a forced method described on television or through the media that was developed without any prior knowledge of you as an individual, is more often troubling than helpful. The best approach to creating a successful putting strategy is one that accepts we are all different and has a plan to identify and use those differences as an advantage. It is messy and sometimes complicated, but well worth the effort.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Guide to Understanding your Golf Swing

I look at golf swings every day, all of them a little different. I also get requests every day to explain the issues people have with their golf swings. Whether I interact in person or online, I will never feel what it is like to swing the club like those I analyze. I watched Arnold Palmer swing a golf club thousands of times, and though I felt I was as familiar with that swing as my own, I would never know how it felt to swing the club as he did. The best I could do is to understand how my interpretation of his golf swing felt to me. He and I found that was not a very efficient way to communicate. So as an instructor I had to find a way of understanding his swing and communicating my thoughts to them so we were both in agreement.

I found this to be a tough task until I was introduced to the idea of verbalizing a golf swing. Originally, the application of the theory was if I could verbalize the movements of my swing in the proper sequence I could use that “check list” as a way to work through any issues I might be having. As time went along I found if I could verbalize the proper sequence of my students and we both used the same words I could easily see where they had gotten off track with a conversation we both understood. The idea of verbalizing the swing has now grown to the point that I work with the majority of my students online. It has proven to be a much more efficient and productive use of time for both myself and the client.

Step One in this process is to find a way to start. Historically, there have been three types of swings. One is where the arms swing around the body in conjunction with the rotation of the torso. This swing was called flat. Mr. Palmer and Ben Hogan are good examples of this move. There were the upright swings, where the shoulders turned as the arms lifted the club into position. Jack Nicklaus, the late Payne Stewart, and many famous LPGA players like Nancy Lopez and Juli Inkster use this method. Finally, there are those who split the difference, arm on top of the shoulder is the way I describe these players. Tiger Woods of 2000, Adam Scott and Greg Norman have had a great influence on this method.

The following diagram shows the three arm positions at the top of the swing.

So which one are you? Each of these methods has a sequence of motion that puts the clubin the position they find at the top of the swing. The player on the left starts with his arms, and his shoulders follow the club to the top. The player on the right starts with his shoulders, and then lifts his arms into position. The player in the middle uses a combination of shoulders turning and as the arms swing back. How you get to this position is important, and pretty much a preference and matter of comfort. It is not as important as this:

The sequence of motion that gets you back to the ball for impact is dictated by the position of the arm at the top of the swing. The sequences are different, not the same and

So as you read this winter and the authors are sharing their idea of the best swing. Be very aware if the description of their method matches the description of yours. You can save yourself a lot of issues come spring if you stay with your method.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Monday's with Arnie

Mondays were “practice day” for Arnold Palmer at the Latrobe Country Club. The ritual was the same every Monday. I would get a call at my office in the pro shop. “Bruce, what’s going on today?” “Not much.” That was always my response as the clubhouse was closed on Mondays. “Do you have time to watch me hit a few balls?” I was out the door before the line disconnected. For the better part of 12 years I spent almost every Monday, during the summer, watching Mr. Palmer prepare for his next tournament.

Our practice sessions always began at his workshop, selecting the clubs that would make the trip to the practice range. This was more difficult than you might think. At the time, there were over 10,000 individual clubs in his workshop to choose from and new ones arriving every day. I know the number is correct because I counted them. Once a decision was made I would load two full bags on my cart, two on his and off we went to the range. If you know golf carts and can do a little math, you know that my clubs rarely made an appearance at the Monday session. No room on the carts. He always began with wedges and progressively worked its way to the driver. He finished up on the golf course, where after a sprint to the clubhouse to get my clubs, I would join him to play 9 or 10 holes.

Even without a warm up I always played well on Monday afternoons and I now know why. After watching a legend hit great shots all day, it rubs off on you. Not the characteristics of his swing, but the rhythm of hitting good shots. As I continue my own search for a better golf game and have studied every technical aspect of striking a golf ball, I can assure you that timing and rhythm are the most important aspects of a good swing, short game and putting stroke. Years later I met Dr. Christian Marquardt, the inventor of PuttLab. When I asked the most important parameter measured on PuttLab, Dr. Marquardt replied, “Clearly it is rhythm and timing.” I immediately flashed back to my practice days with Mr. Palmer.

Understanding the mechanics of your swing is pretty simple. The hard part is putting the mechanics in motion. This is where the sequence of the movement has to be addressed. A swing that moves in the proper sequence is a swing performed in the proper rhythm. Mr. Palmer always swung the club in the following sequence. Left arm back while the right hip clears, turn the shoulders to carry the club to the top of the backswing. The downswing starts with a knee shift towards the target and the hands follow the knees to the ball. The timing of the sequence changed as the speed of the swing changed. For example as he got older he had to wait a little longer for his legs to clear. The timing on his short wedge shots was different than the timing of his driver swing. With the exception of his putting stroke, he used this sequence for every other shot.

I would suggest that all of us could learn as I did from Mr. Palmer. We each have to discover the appropriate sequence of motion for our swing. All of the greats had a sequence that was unique to them and once they understood it they stuck with it. Winter is a great time to work on this. Swing the club in very slow motion, analyzing what part of the body is moving and when. You will feel when the swing is out of sync as you will have a stuck feeling in the motion. As always if you need any help send me an email. I’ll be glad to walk you through it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Limited offering to join Burnt Edges Consulting

2011 marks my 33rd year as a Golf Professional. I started as a teacher’s assistant for Chick Harbert at the Ocean Reef Club in the fall of 1978. I played professionally on and off for three seasons, until I was hired at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club, in 1981. I worked for Mr. Palmer for 17 years, the first 6 at Bay Hill, and then for 11 years as the Head Golf Professional at the Latrobe Country Club. In my time working for Mr. Palmer I was introduced and had access to some of the very best players in the world. Mr. Palmer, Dow Finsterwald, Payne Stewart, Greg Norman, and Scott Hoch, are just the player we worked with every day. Thanks to Mr. Palmer the list of those we had access to from time to time is as extensive as you might imagine. One constant of those days was a search for answers as to how they became so skilled. What was different about these great players from the hundreds I met that didn’t quite make it?

The second part of my career was a quest to find an answer to that question. I worked very hard and for the right people to become as familiar with the latest golf diagnostic technology. Two in particular stand out, Science and Motion Puttlab for Putting and the Trackman Ball Flight monitoring system for full shots. These were, and continue to be, the most accurate systems available. I have spent everyday of the past 10 years using this equipment and documenting the results. In short, this technology has provided the answers to the questions of my early career. I now have a better sense of why some were success and some not.

As a reader of the blog you might be familiar of my research and findings concerning the putting stroke, putter fitting and the benefits of connecting the two. Burnt Edges Consulting is my initial offering to share these discoveries. As a client of Burnt Edges Consulting you have unlimited access to all the information. We will literally write an instruction manual based specifically on applying our findings to you. Many of my professional colleagues have signed on to use the information and system to improve their own instruction techniques.

A fee of $175.00 is paid as an annual retainer. This gives you unlimited access one on one. I am in contact with my clients on almost a daily basis. I have also expanded the offer to blog readers to include anything related to golf and your swing. Online video evaluation, theoretical discussions, equipment fitting and recommendations, whatever your needs are, you will have access to the best information available, either through myself or my contacts.

Thanks for considering my offer. As you can imagine availability is limited. If you have an interest, please respond to and I can sedn you some additional information. I have references available and glad to answer any questions you might have.