Statistics reveal that putting comprises roughly 35-40 percent of our golf score. That is quite substantial. I want you to think back to the last time you truly putted well all round long. What were you feeling? The best putting performances will come when you are “instinctive”. This simply means your mind will be more reactionary to what your eyes see versus having a bunch of technical thoughts. Technical thoughts on the greens will lead to doubt and tension. The first thing to go in this scenario will be your ability to control distance.
So how do we become more instinctive while on the golf course? The first step is to adopt a setup that will allow the putter to move on its natural arc. Yes, the putter should move on an arc and not a straight line. The reason is simple– the shaft of a putter at address sits at an angle of approximately 71 degrees. Based on this fact, if the putter head moves properly relative to this shaft angle, it will move on a gentle arc. This is if you are using a conventional length putter. A long putter almost sits on a vertical plane so the path of that putter, if following the laws of geometry, would move more on a straight line.
Be sure to incorporate the below 5 setup characteristics and you will truly become more instinctive on the greens.
1. The shaft of the putter should be on the same plane as your forearms. If you look at the best players in the world setup to a putter, you will notice that the shaft lines up perfectly with their forearms. In addition to this, notice how their elbows are literally pinned into their right and left sides. This will create an environment that will allow the putter to swing properly – especially when using your arms and shoulders to create the motion.
2. The hands should hang directly under the shoulders. It will be easy, if your hands are outside your shoulders to create too much arc in the stroke and vice versa if the hands hang inside the shoulder line.
3. Eyes over to slightly inside the ball line. Your eyes should be in line to 1 inch inside the ball line. This is easy to work on by practicing with one of those putting mirrors.
4. Weight in the middle of the feet. It is important to start and then maintain good balance throughout the entire setup and stroke. Rock your weight from toes to heels and then find the middle!!!
5. Shaft of the putter to start neutral or perpendicular to the ground. Generally speaking, a putter face has 3-4 degrees of loft built in. If you forward press or backward press you will delete or ad the loft applied to the ball at impact. The result will be a less than perfect roll.
John Stahlschmidt, PGA is the Senior Head Instructor at the TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale. To comment on this column or to schedule a golf lesson, email John at johnst@touracademy.