January 2011

JANUARY 2011: Golf Tips From A Pro - The Putting Stroke, Part 2

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

The question of which putting stroke is better has been debated since the game of golf was originated hundreds of years ago. Those who make a SBST stroke believe their method is the best, and those using the arcing stroke believe their method is the best. Why else would each use that particular stroke?

In last month’s article, I pointed out that people believe their strokes are either SBST or arcing because of the vantage point from which the stroke is being viewed. I also said that keeping the putter head moving back and forward directly above the target line at all times is not possible without manipulation. And I said that excessive rotation of the hands, arms or shoulders and thus the putter head is a no-no if your desire is to consistently make more putts.

The ideal putting stroke is one in which the putter head moves SBST and in an arc. That’s correct…the answer is both! The ideal putting stroke is an in-plane stroke where the shoulders and putter shaft move in plane with their address positions throughout the entire stroke. Staying in plane is accomplished by keeping your shoulders parallel to the target line then moving both shoulders in one plane on the backstroke and through the stroke. (To imagine the shoulder plane, think of a plate of glass extending from your shoulders all the way to the ground.) In the back stroke, your lead shoulder moves straight down. How far down depends on the length of the putt. On the through stroke, the lead shoulder moves straight up, beyond the starting point. The rear shoulder moves opposite of the lead shoulder, i.e. up in the back stroke and down in the through stroke. This gives you a feeling of moving your shoulder sockets straight down and then up from the balls of your feet.

There are two different ways to make an in-plane putting stroke. They are both very useful and employ the same up and down movement of the shoulder sockets. The difference is where each one starts:

The vertical plane stroke was very common pre-1990. It is called a vertical plane stroke because the plane of the shoulders is vertical to the ground. This stroke was very common when putters were shorter in length, causing golfers to bend and hunch over more. Bending and hunching allowed the shoulders and neck to be almost parallel to the ground, thus a plane line drawn from the neck to the ground would be nearly vertical. The most evident place to see this type of stroke is by looking at the strokes of Jack Nicklaus, George Archer, Dave Stockton and other great players of past eras. This style of putting placed a tremendous amount of strain on the lower back when practicing for hours on end. Because of this, putters were lengthened and, as a result, the second of our two ways to accomplish an in-plane stroke was developed. This is called the tilted plane stroke.

This stroke also keeps the putters path in plane, moving back and through. In a tilted plane stroke, the neck and spine are tilted in relationship to the ground at a lesser angle than the vertical plane stroke. Instead of the shoulder sockets moving straight down/up towards the balls of the feet as in the vertical stroke, the shoulder sockets move down/up towards two spots (one near the front foot, one near the rear foot) between the ball of the foot and the target line. These spots are most often where the plane line (drawn from the neck to the ground) would contact the ground. These spots are also parallel to the target line. On the back stroke, the lead shoulder socket moves towards the front spot and the rear socket moves towards the rear spot on the through stroke. To view this type of stroke, look at almost anyone on the PGA Tour today: Tiger Woods, Brad Faxon, Steve Stricker, etc. The tilted plane stroke has allowed players to practice putting longer. You could say that the vertical plane stroke is the older version and the tilted plane stroke is the modern version. Each stroke is very efficient, and each allows you to consistently make more putts.

I hope you have enjoyed our two-part series on the putting stroke. If you would like to make more putts or are interested in improving your overall game, contact Pete Popovich at The Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head where Results are guaranteed. You can reach us at (843) 338-6737, visit online at golfacademyhiltonhead.com or join us on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head for up-to-date news.

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