In 2006, I saw quite a few PuttLab reports for Tiger Woods.
His stroke was exactly on line at impact, the putter shaft was straight up and down, and he struck the ball exactly at the bottom of the arc of his stroke. His goal was for a vertical shaft angle and 3.5 degrees of loft at impact. He was robotic in his ability to do that and his stroke was remarkably similar to the one produced by the Iron Archie Robot.
On a daily basis I hear about how the "right" way to strike a putt is to hit the ball with little, none or negative loft at impact, with the putter on the upswing, past the apex of the path. There was a time when many TV instructors were suggesting Tiger hit up on the ball in excess of 4 degrees. Part of these recommendations were based on the fact that he had gone from 3.5 degrees loft on his old putter to less than 2 with his Nike Method.
Another reason for the change is the commonly held thought that hitting up on the ball when you putt, gives you "top spin" which means a better roll, so you will make more putts, and then you will win the lottery….. and all the other promises marketers make to sell putters. Hitting up is a very difficult way to putt and the following is why I believe that to be true.
The following is a PuttLab report of Iron Archie displaying a perfect, mechanically generated arc. While it isn't an exact duplicate of Tiger's stroke, it is very close and will help show the issues of trying to hit up on a putt. It especially shows the issues of trying to hit up on a putt while using conventional training aids.
The diagram shows the side view of the robots arc. The black dots stacked over each other are the ball position. The single black square to the left would be the ball position required to hit up on the ball 4 degrees! The bottom picture shows the measurements of shaft lean and rise angle at impact. So impact in this example was at the bottom of the arc and shaft position is vertical, just as Tiger was looking for in 2006.
This picture shows the players view of the path that corresponds with the picture above. This is the classic arc many try to achieve and the most common path shape based on our Puttlab data compiled over the past 7 years. The black spot on the left notes the impact point required to achieve a 4 degree rise angle. So hitting up requires a dramatic mechanical change and the idea of a zero path from this setup is not possible unless you have a big spine tilt to the right. So if you ever hear a suggestion of level shoulders in combination with an ascending blow to the ball, all the while with a parallel path to the target, you can dismiss that right away.
Note the direction of the path at the impact point 4 degrees up. One characteristic of the robot is that the putter always swings square to the path. Square to the path at 4 degrees up is almost 4 degrees left and 4 degrees closed! So in order for the putter face to be square to the target line at impact you must either hold the putter open to the path the same amount it is moving left (what most players do) or adjust the path direction so path matches target line at impact. In Tiger’s case when he switched from Cameron to Nike his natural stroke was to release the putter, with the face closed to the path on the follow through. So with this stroke he is really fighting the pull. It is my opinion that an attempt to block the pull was the beginning of his yippy putting stroke! If you watch on television you see an undercut or block release of the putter with many players. This manipulated move is extremely timing dependent and in the opposite direction of the movement of the stroke.
So based trying to swing the putter online at impact or at least close, here is the adjustment to the path required to strike the ball as the putter swings 4 degrees up. You have to tilt the arc to suit impact. In Iron Archie’s case it would require the robot to be positioned 4 degrees right of the target line.
I know some players with paths of this pattern who are great putters. But they have used it forever and they understand the issues and requirements. For those of you trying to swing the putter "online and onplane" I hope this helps explain some of the difficulties you might encounter as you try to follow all the instruction your read.