This is an excerpt from Golf-2nd Edition by Paul Schempp & Peter Mattsson.
Given the variety in both equipment and player preferences, there are multiple ways of stroking a putt. With recent and impending rule changes relative to putting technique, the number of techniques will continue to change. We therefore recommend that a player master the conventional method of putting using a standard length putter. Once that technique has been mastered, he or she may experiment with different putters and techniques. In this step, we will describe a conventional method of putting and offer an alternative technique known as the arm lock.
The governing bodies of golf, the USGA (United States Golf Association) and the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club), have recently created a rule change regarding putting technique. The proposed rule change falls under Rule 14-1b (USGA 2012 Rules of Golf), and it states that during the execution of a putting stroke a player may not anchor the club, either "directly" or by use of an "anchor point." To clarify the rule, two notes are provided. Note 1 states that "the club is anchored â€˜directly’ when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm." Note 2 states that "an â€˜anchor point’ exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club." In short, with the exception of the forearm, a player’s hands or club may not have sustained contact with any part of the body during the stroke. Both the conventional putting stroke and the arm-lock technique presented in this step conform to these new rules. The two techniques presented also accommodate a player’s choice of putters. Currently putters are available in these three lengths:
- Conventional putters (shaft length of 28-35 inches; 71-89 centimeters)
- Belly putters (shaft length of 40-45 inches; 101-114 centimeters)
- Long putters (shaft length of 46-55 inches; 116-140 centimeters)
The distinguishing characteristic in each of these putters is the length of the shaft. Putters also come with a variety of heads. The most common putter heads are blade and mallet putters. While the length of the putter shaft influences the putting technique, the type of putter head does not.
As the name implies, this stroke is used with putters of conventional length. It is also the most common stroke used by current and past players - both professionals and amateurs. This technique has stood the test of time for producing consistent results. It also contains all the fundamentals for a technically efficient and effective stroke, so particularly for beginners, it is a good technique to learn as the first step in becoming a good putter.
The first step of the putting stroke is lightly gripping the putter in the palms of your hands. To create an efficient and controlled stroke in a conventional putting stroke, the hands should be directly opposite each other, as if you were clapping (figure 1.3a). Next, set the putter face behind the ball so that it is square to the target line (the line you intend your ball to track along to the target). Assume a comfortable posture in which you feel relaxed. Your arms and hands should be under your shoulders, your eyes directly over the ball, your knees slightly bent, and your weight evenly distributed over both feet, which are about shoulder-width apart. To allow for a straight putt, your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet should all be parallel with the target line. The ball should be slightly closer to the target side of the center of your stance.
The putting stroke is a pendulum action, much like the swing of the pendulum at the bottom of a large grandfather clock. Using a rocking action with the shoulders, bring the putter back and then forward through the ball with an even tempo (figure 1.3b). The arms and wrists have very little or no independent movement in a good putting stroke. Bring the putter back approximately the same distance as you bring it forward, just like the pendulum on a clock. The length of the stroke controls the distance of the putt, not how fast you swing the putter. Using the length of the stroke to control the distance the ball travels permits the greatest control over the putter head. The length of the stroke is, therefore, directly related to the length of the putt: The longer the stroke, the longer the putt. An unrushed, rhythmic, straight-back and straight-through stroke helps bring the putter head to the ball with the face of the putter directly facing the target line of the putt, allowing you to contact the ball squarely in the center of the putter, also known as the sweet spot.
Several key factors promote solid contact between the ball and putter head. The first is a steady body. A player needs to be relaxed during the stroke, but there is very little movement in the lower body (no weight shift, little or no movement of the hips or legs), no lateral movement of the upper body, and little movement from the arms or wrists. The shoulders turning around a fixed spine provide almost all the necessary movement. The angle of the spine should remain constant throughout the putting stroke. Keeping the body steady makes it much easier to bring the putter head squarely in contact with the ball. A moving body makes the putting stroke seem as though you are trying to hit a small, but moving target.
A second key to a solid putt is light grip pressure. A light grip allows the shoulders, arms, and hands to respond naturally in the stroke without conscious thought. A light grip also keeps the putter on the target line longer, because it gives you the feeling of stroking the ball into the hole rather than slapping the ball and hoping it ends up somewhere near the hole. Finally, maintaining a light grip on the putter makes it easier to relax the entire body and thus allows your natural muscle responses to help you putt successfully.
A final key to consistent, confident contact is a preshot routine. The preshot routine is discussed in more detail in step 11. A few brief notes here, however, will prove helpful as you develop your putting stroke as the preshot routine should be seen as an integral part of executing a putting stroke. Simply put, a preshot routine is a series of activities you routinely perform before each stroke. A preshot routine includes picking your target (where you want the ball to go), identifying your target line (the path the ball will take to get to the target), setting up to the ball, and stroking the ball along the target line to the target. These actions are linked in a continuous, relaxed flow. Most players select the target and target line while standing or squatting behind the ball. It provides a better view of the green than you get while standing alongside the ball. After picking the target and line, step up to the ball, place your putter head behind the ball along the target line, assume your putting address position, look at the hole, look at the ball, and stroke your putt. The time from initiating your routine to completing the stroke should be as minimal as possible, without feeling rushed. No single routine is applicable to every golfer, so you will need to experiment a bit to find the routine that fits you best. To ingrain a preshot putting routine, you need to practice it on the practice green. The Preshot Routine drill will help you develop this vital part of your putting stroke.
After the putter strokes the ball, several factors in a follow-through help ensure a successful putt. First, the wrists should be locked or firm as the putter head comes through the ball all the way to the finish (figure 1.3c). This position promotes square contact with the ball during impact. Flipping or moving the wrists changes the angle of the putter head, making solid contact with the ball almost impossible. The putter head should accelerate through the ball; it is a stroke, not a strike. Finally, if the putt is made with a rhythmic stroke, the follow-through will be the same length as the backstroke.
To help keep the body stable and to maintain the angle of the spine throughout the stroke, many good players keep their heads still and don’t even look up to watch the ball after they stroke it. Rather, they listen for the ball to fall into the hole. In addition to ensuring that the angle of the spine remains steady, listening rather than watching keeps the shoulders (and consequently the arms) from moving away from the target line, making it easier to stroke the ball along the intended target line.Not only does listening to the ball fall promote good putting technique, it is a sweet sound every golfer enjoys hearing.
Figure 1.3 Executing the Putt
- Take your grip by turning the palms toward each other.
- Putter head is square to the target line.
- Shoulders, hips, and thighs are square to the target line.
- Feet are set shoulder-width apart, and the weight is evenly distributed on both feet.
- Eyes are directly over the ball.
- Grip pressure is light and relaxed.
- Shoulders, arms, and hands move as one unit.
- Shoulders, arms, and hands move in a pendulum motion.
- Putter head moves back along the target line.
- Lower body remains still throughout the stroke.
- Backswing and forward swing are the same in terms of distance and tempo.
- Putter head comes through and follows along the target line.
- Wrists remain firm throughout the swing (no breaking).
- Putter head comes through the ball at the same tempo as the backswing.
- Listen (rather than watch) for the ball to fall into the cup.
Learn more about Golf: Steps to Success, Second Edition.