When I am coaching, it is common to see a number of golfers arrive to practice their putting. The coach in me cannot help but take a sneak peek at their basic technique, in particular their posture and putter length. In a nutshell, I am surprised just how many golfers are using putters that are too long for them. If they were only out by half an inch I wouldn’t be so worried but it is commonly two or three inches, especially for shorter people, ladies and juniors.
Using the photo above as a sample, this gentleman is only 5ft 6 inches but using a 35 inch putter. As you can see he is standing too upright (incorrect posture) and this will negatively influence his ability to use his bigger muscles and shoulders correctly in making a putting stroke, they will invariably use their wrists too much, causing inconsistency with the speed and direction of the putt, sometimes if I have a break I approach them and am not surprised to hear that consistency is often their problem.
So how can you check whether your putter is the correct length for you? As you could appreciate, it is not that simple to get you to do this on yourself, but let’s give it a try:
Next time you are practicing your putting, bend from the waist until your spine is approximately 40 degrees with your eyes slightly inside the ball target line, let your arms hang under your shoulders with a slight bend in both elbows. Now check that you have approximately six or seven inches between the end of the putter and your stomach (for a short putter obviously). If not, then it will definitely pay to have your putter length, head weight and lie angle looked at.
Keep the speed of your stroke constant
A while back, I remember a number of clients asking me whether they should stop the putter head quickly after they contact the ball. They had read an article that Tiger Woods wrote in a magazine about a drill he was practicing which was related to a putting style which promoted a shorter stopping stroke. To be honest, I think this was a feeling he would have had at the time rather than a long-term goal.
Over the past fifty years the surfaces of the greens we play on have improved considerably. This has had a major effect on the putting style we as golfers are generally using. The bumpier and slower the greens, the more you will need to put the ball back in your stance and use your wrists. The smoother and faster the greens the more you will need to put your ball forward in your stance and the less we need to use our wrists.
Now, back to Tiger’s “feeling” he used in the article. The putting analysis system I use is called Puttlab. The founder, Marius Filmater, published the common denominators that good putters share, and (surprise, surprise) one was that they BALANCE the back and forward swings when they putt. I was happy and relieved to read this as I have always taught this.
One thing I would like to mention, I see a number of golfers using putters that are too light for them, especially the head weight, and I believe that this is one of the main factors that influences their short popping-type stroke resulting in inconsistency in speed and direction.
If your greens have a reasonable surface, I encourage you to set some matching coloured tees up at an equal distance from your starting line and balance the backswing and forward swing when you’re practicing. You will see a difference in your tempo and on your scorecard.