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.

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