Gunby: More putting, part 3: Firing on faster greens
Tee It Up
This is the third of a series to assist you with putting. We will discuss different types of strokes and how to get the most out of your practice putting sessions.
Many years ago, the most popular putting stroke involved the wrists. The greens were not nearly as fast or as smooth as they are now.
The best putters figured out how to get the ball rolling immediately. This involved more loft on the putter and using more wrists, very similar to the “pop” stroke employed by Brandt Snedeker today.
Look at the old films of the Masters and you will see the putting strokes used by Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper and many others. But also recognize the speeds of the greens — much slower than today’s.
With the advent of faster greens due to the improved technology of the greens’ mowers and the types of grass on the greens, you will find that the putting strokes changed, for the most part, to a “lock and rock” technique. This method incorporates the locking of the wrist angles throughout the stroke and the rocking of the shoulders.
Note: With the “lock and rock stroke,” the harder you must hit the putt. For example, through heavier grass off the green or very long putts, you will naturally incorporate some wrist hinging on the back stroke.
In either case, the “pop” and “lock and rock” strokes have some commonalities. First, the lower body does not move. That is why Arnold Palmer used a knocked-knee stance to keep his lower body immobile.
Second, the leading wrist does not lose its starting angle at impact. In other words, the putter head does not go past the hands on the through motion because of the flipping of the lead wrist.
One similarity of good putters is that they do not try to force the putter head through impact toward their target, resulting in a long follow through. Most have a short follow through, which gives them better distance control (D.I.E. — distance is everything).
Forget the old advice to have the putter head extend through to the hole. The only reason for a follow through is momentum of a movement. The more momentum, the more follow through. In putting, the momentum is miniscule compared to the other shots, so don’t force the follow through. Let it happen.
I suggest practicing putting with only one golf ball. Practice lots of distances, especially long putts, and putt out everything. Many golfers do not practice short putts. Then, when faced with short ones on the course, they get nervous over them.
To improve your “touch” or “feel,” practice with only your dominant hand (right hand for right-handed players). Looking at your target or closing your eyes during your stroke will also improve your putting and keep you from worrying about keeping the putter on line and allow you to focus more on the feel of distance.
Have some kind of putting competition, with yourself or others. Put some pressure on it (putt for something — money, food, etc.) and you will less likely fold under pressure on the golf course when exposed to a competitive environment.
In conclusion, be like Seve Ballesteros, and “See it, feel it, make it.”
John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at email@example.com.