Putting 101

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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    There is no doubt that putting is one of the most important ingredients to playing good golf. Putting accounts for roughly 40% of your total score. My goal in writing this month’s column is to educate you on key components necessary so you can putt like a pro.

At the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale, we utilize the TOMI putting system.  TOMI (the optimal motion instructor) measures 8 key pieces to the putting stroke. We really feel it is important to give a diagnosis backed by science and that is what TOMI does. Over the past two years, I have analyzed many amateur strokes using TOMI as well as tour level players. Below are the biggest differences that separate amateurs versus professionals.

1. Face alignment at setup:  I would make the statement that aiming your putter face correctly on your intended target line is one of the most important ingredients to hitting a good putt. We all have a goal of making putts and if you are consistently aiming wrong you have little chance at accomplishing that goal. Answer:  Buy a template that allows you to draw a straight line on your ball. Most of the pros are doing this. Through my testing on TOMI, a line on the ball corrects poor alignment almost every time.

2. Stroke length and tempo: 
Most touring pros will have roughly the same length backstroke as the thru stroke. I see all sorts of stroke lengths with amateurs. In addition to this, a touring pro’s thru stroke will be roughly 2 times faster than the backstroke. Most amateurs will have what we call a deceleration profile. This occurs when the putter is not moving faster on the thru stroke versus the backstroke.  A metronome can really help with your tempo. If you are counting, you want the same amount of time to expire between the backstroke and the thru stroke. If it takes you 1 second to produce the entire backstroke, it should take another second to finish the stroke. The thru stroke should be two times the length as the backstroke so to achieve the same time, the thru stoke should be around two times faster than the backstroke.

3. Stroke path and face rotation:  These are two separate items. If you move the putter head properly, the putter head should move on a slight arc. This stroke abides by the laws of geometry as the putter shaft at address sets on an angled or inclined plane. As the putter moves on a slight arc, the putter head should stay square to this arc. If the putter arcs 4 degrees to the inside during the back stroke and the thru stroke, the face should open 4 degrees to the intended target line during the backstroke (staying square to the arc) and the same should hold true on the forward stroke. When I test the higher handicappers, in general the face over rotates. I see sometimes up to 15 degrees of face rotation – way too much to be consistent.

If you are serious about improving your putting stroke, you will need to buy a putting plane or a putting arc as well as a template to draw a line on your golf balls. Practice the above items and I promise over the course of a few months, you will hit better putts. As always please email me if you have any questions.

John Stahlschmidt is the Head Instructor at the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale. He is a class A member of the PGA of America and is one of the “top 25” instructors according to Golf Tips Magazine. Email John with comments at johnst@touracademy.com.