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.

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