Lesson 4 – Connected Putting

This is part one of a seven part series documenting my Winter lessons as a bogey golfer trying to improve.  You can read the Intro here: Winter Lessons Series

Lesson Date: Mar 4, 2014

Review

So far, we’ve only worked on iron strikes but one thing I mentioned early to my coach was that I needed help on my short game.  Today, we did a little diagnosis on my then terrible putting.

He had me set up and watched me hit some 10 foot putts  (which I missed fairly consistently, I might add).

The diagnosis is not good!

Diagnosis

Where to start?  Some notes I jolted down from the lessons were:

  • Face alignment. Apparently, what looked square on from above from my point of view is actually a closed club face from behind.  Not being able to properly align the face properly results in either pulling the ball left or doing some unconscious manipulation of the face mid-stroke and pushing the ball right.
  • Set up problem.  I’ve kind of developed my own set up over the years, based mostly on what I think is helping me get the ball to the hole with a higher percentage but Rob did not like it at all.  Also, keep in mind I’m only 5’6 so even my 33″ putter feel a little too long for me to set up with arms dangling straight under my shoulder sockets.  Okay, some issues were…
    • 1. Hands are too high.  This is a result of me trying to keep the upright putter sole flat on the ground.  You can do this by pushing your hands up and away from yourself to get it to set flat.
    • 2. Arms are too far away.  Okay, this is a result of me attempting to do number 1!
    • 3. Arms are not parallel.  That is, my right arm is higher than my left.  This was obvious when Rob laid a club across my arms to the target line and my left arm have difficult touching it.
  • Too my arc in my stroke
    This is probably because of my height again.  The putter is on a plane and I’m swing it inside to inside quite considerably

Basic Fixes

The Set Up Part 1

The first thing we worked on is putting me in a different setup.  Instead of pushing the handle away from me, he wants the grip and handle directly under me.  This also resulted in having my hands much lower and the putter head sitting a little bit upright.

The Stroke

Next, because I have a mallet style putter, he wants me to work on a much more straight back and straight through stroke.  He put a club to the outside of the ball and had me try to follow it on the back stroke and through.  I found that I didn’t have too much trouble on the back stroke but I end up comeing back up and inside after ball impact very quickly.  Seeing this, he moved the club to the inside of the ball so I would make contact if I didn’t keep my follow through straight instead of quickly back instead.

For the rest of the lesson, we tried to roll a ball with a line on it end over end.  This was much more difficult than I thought it’d be with the new changes.  I managed to roll the ball straight maybe only a couple times out of a couple dozen putts during the lesson.  Nevertheless, the lesson gave me something to work on for the week.

During the week, I had very limited success.  Something was missing and it was difficult for me to roll the ball end-over-end still with all the changes so far.

The Set Up Part 2 – Light bulb moment

During the next lesson, Rob had me putt again to show him how my practice went.  After watch a couple of putts, he wasn’t satisfied with my setup still.  He had me stand next to a mirror and hold the putter straight out in a straight line into my arms parallel to the floor.  Then he had me to pull my elbows close into my ribcage, and from there, bend forward from the hips until my putter is on the ground.  Another thing he said is to keep my elbows close together.

1. Putter in palms of the hands, parallel to the floor

2. Tuck the elbows comfortably into the rib cage

3. Bend from the hips and sit the putter on the floor. I had to move my hands down the grip a little bit to get my head more over the ball.  (That is one big oversized putter!)

 

I made a stroke and a light bulb finally went off.  I never realized it until now the true difference between putting with the shoulders versus with the hands.  The previous stroke was a movement and manipulation of my hands back and then pushing my hands forward and through.  There was also alot of putterhead “flinging” type of movement.  With the elbows close together, I really couldn’t start with the hands or arms without everything disconnecting.  Instead, I’m finally rocking the putter back and through with my shoulders and it made an immediately difference in feel and control in the stroke.  We putted a little more and while I didn’t have the speed control just right yet, I was able to finally roll the ball end over end with alot more success.  Both Rob and I were happy with the progress and I left the lesson feeling excited about this new discovery for the season.

 

Mid Season Progress/Update

I feel alot better about my short game in general this season from both chipping and putting.  I think it is one of the most improved areas of my game.  Instead of missing 3 or 4 footers, I feel pretty confident and relaxed about them.  Instead of accepting 2 or 3 putts from 6-10 foot out, I’m starting to hole some of them or at least get them close enough for a tap in.  When I play with others whom I considered good putters in the past, I notice now that I actually have better distance control than they do now- I might overshoot a hole by 5 feet still but rarely by 10 or 15 feet like I would last year.

On more than a few occasion this year when my irons are not working, my chipping and putting are still keeping my score at around 90 or below.  Last year, it was not uncommon to see rounds of over 40 putts (and sometimes up to 44 or 46) and anything close to 36 was a victory.  This year, the two times I’ve scored my personal best of 83 so far consisted of one round of 29 putts and another of 33, with alot of 2 putts for par and 1 putts for a par or bogey save.  Having fewer than 30 putts was a literal impossibility for me last year!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have the occasional bad rounds where I just have trouble reading the green and still haven’t eliminated 3 putts from my game but at least now when I start a bit rough, I sometimes have the ability to fix it mid-round.  For example, I’ve started rounds weakly with a 3 putt but then caught myself too tentative and “scared” of over-hitting the ball on a wrong line.  If I see that, I try to change my attitude from being afraid and tentative on the stroke to picking a line and hitting the ball firm to a target and let whatever happen just happen.  That’s the big ‘secret’ if anything- to just have the confidence to stroke the ball towards your imagined line and speed.  Without that confidence, every putt becomes a shameful short, weak, deceleration into the ball  that has no chance of going in.

Think of the puttershaft as being glass – Jack Nicklaus

This is ironic because I don’t even really think about mechanics anymore for someone who was so concerned about the putting stroke and getting the ball to roll end over end in the winter.  I find that I need to spend a little time over the ball to trust my alignment is good and if there is one single thought I use today, is to try to keep my handle and the shaft going into the putter head in a straight up and down vertical line from my hands to the ground.  By not trying to “swing” or have the putter head “out race” my hands away on the backstroke and then chucking it ahead of my hands on the follow through, I seem to have much better speed control that is controlled more by my shoulders than my hands.  Jack Nicklaus in this GolfDigest article said “think of the puttershaft as being glass” so I suppose I found my own variation of the same sort of feel.

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One thought on “Lesson 4 – Connected Putting

  1. Pingback: Winter Lessons Series | The Crunchy Golfer

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