As we discuss “seeing the line” or having a correct perception of target, one of the things we tend to omit is the advantage created by an open or closed alignment to aid visual perception. I am not sure when golf instructors decided that a parallel foot alignment was the optimal set up for putting. My mentors and those before my time, all used whatever alignment that made the task easier. Mr. Palmer and Gary Player used closed alignments, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw, a little open. Tom Watson and Bob Charles (maybe the best of the bunch) were perfectly square or parallel. Diagonal stances were the norm rather than the exception. One thing they had in common, they all would tell you that one of the reasons they set up as they did was to position themselves where they best saw the line. So for the sake of this discussion let's assume that alignment is primarily a function of vision.
|Open Square Closed|
Another factor that can influence alignment is how you release the putter through impact. We all have a mechanical preference in how we swing the putter. Some of us hold or block the finish of the stroke, holding the face relatively square to the target. Some of us are more neutral, keeping the face in a consistent position to the arc path of the putter head. Finally, there are those who release the toe of the putter through impact.
|Top - Hold Release Bottom - Toe Release|
“So how does all of this relate to shaky putting strokes?” Some release patterns don’t match well with set up preferences. For example, there is a current major championship winner, who tends to block or hold the release and combines that with a tendency to set up closed. This results in a push or right miss tendency. The tour is full of players who like to release the toe from a parallel set up. This, of course, results in a pull. You can see them every week. They are the ones using a claw grip to slow the right hand.
“OK, but how does that have anything to do with the yips?” This is how it starts. Mechanics don’t match vision and instead of trying to find a match we try to correct mid stroke. Hence a flip or a steer or jerk. Fixing the problem is obviously easier said than done. Certainly, no one simple solution. Ask your self three questions. What is the best set up for me to see the line accurately? How do I prefer to move the putter? What is the easiest for me to change? Hold releases work best with open stances, Full release of the toe with closed. If you are comfortable in between try parallel. We would suggest learning to release the putter based on finding an alignment that works visually. Some where is an answer that makes you more consistent and less anxious.