December 2010

December 2010: GOLF TIPS FROM A PRO: The Putting Stroke

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

In past putting articles we have talked about set-up and eye positioning. However, if you do not have an efficient stroke, just having your eyes in the proper positions and setting up correctly will not magically allow you to make more putts. Having an efficient stroke to match a good set-up and correct eye positions is ideal. Remember the goal of putting is not to get the ball into the hole. It is to get the ball into the hole with the least number of strokes.

This month and next, we will discuss the putting stroke—in particular, straight-back straight-through (SBST) and arcing strokes. For years there has been a debate over which stroke is best. In next month’s article we will answer the question and explain why. Before we do that we must discuss each stroke in more detail.

SBST is nothing new in the game of golf. However, SBST has become more popular in the past two decades. The problem with SBST is that it is not possible to take a putter head straight back on a line then straight forward on a line without moving the putter’s shaft off plane (swing plane, or plane of motion, can be defined as the angle the golf club sits while at address, which extends towards the target and away from the target, while remaining parallel to the target line, indefinitely).

Once the shaft of the putter is off plane, it is very easy to push or pull putts. In attempting to move the putter’s head SBST, the putter is manipulated by the hands, arms or body during the course of the stroke. This manipulation leads to inconsistencies throughout the stroke, making it more difficult to make consistent putts. The only way for a putter to move SBST directly on the target line AND stay on plane is to have a putter with a lie of 90 degrees, which is not allowed under the rules of golf.

The difficulty in trying to forcibly make your stroke an arc stroke is that the ball position needs to be played in exactly the same position and at the apex of the arc to be consistent. If the ball is not put in this exact position each and every time, the golfer’s ability to hit the ball with a square club face while the putter is moving square to its intended path becomes significantly reduced. Typically, golfers attempt to obtain an arcing stroke by rotating their hands and forearms throughout the stroke. This only exacerbates the problem of contacting the ball squarely and typically leads to more missed putts. The other way golfers attempt to achieve an arcing stroke is to rotate the shoulders. By rotating, they move the right shoulder away from the target line and the left shoulder toward the target line on the back stroke and vice versa on the forward stroke. Once again, this makes it difficult to contact the ball and start it on the intended line consistently.

So why do people believe their stroke to be SBST or Arcing? It is because of the vantage point from which they are viewing the movement of the putter head. If the vantage point is a) looking from above directly onto the target line (think of the sun at high noon) or b) looking from behind the ball; toward the hole, aiming directly down the target line, the putter’s path will appear to have an arc. If the vantage point is inside the plane line (typically where your eyes would be), the putter head would appear to move SBST.

So which stroke is better? The answer is a combination of the two. To find out how to achieve the ideal stroke, you will have to wait for next month’s article. If you would like to experience the ideal stroke now, call the Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head at (843) 338-6737 or e-mail pete@golfacademyhiltonhead. Our results are guaranteed.

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