Saving Strokes with Science

With so many limits and restrictions being placed on golf club manufacturers these days it's amazing to see what really smart people can do, within the legal lines, to help us save strokes. This is a prime example from the engineers at Ping. Watch...

What the people at Ping found was that the depth of the grooves on the face of a putter played a tangible role in determining ball speed and thus how far the ball travelled off the face. They also knew that off-center strikes tended to travel shorter, so they used the groove depth to actually help maintain the intended ball speeds on off-center strikes.

All of the six balls pictured above were struck with a putting robot and the exact same stroke. The three circled/striped balls were hit with a variable depth grooved putter, with one being hit out the center, another 0.75" out the heel and the other 0.75" out the toe. The three non-circled balls were struck in the same fashion, but they did not have the advantage of the variable depth grooves. Notice the massive difference in dispersion!

We all hit off-center putts. We all despise three putts. The answer seems pretty simple to me! Please know, this is not a sales pitch for Ping putters, but before you go out and buy your next golf club learn about the science behind the design.

Thanks for reading.

A Proper Putting Set Up

I see far too many "regular" golfers setting up with their hands too low and the toe of the putter way up in the air. The picture below shows the difference between what it should look like and what I see all too frequently...

puttingsetup.jpg

If the toe of the putter is overly elevated, as we see above, then the effective loft on the face (and a putter always has some loft) will point left for right handers.

Here's a video I made after a recent lesson that shows what to look for, the changes and how to make the necessary adjustments to set up like the pros.

Spend some time with your putter in front of the mirror and you'll soon start to grasp the sense required in order to improve how you set up correctly to your putter.

Thanks for reading and please post your comments below.

 

Louis Oosthuizen's Putting

I had the opportunity to watch the 2010 British Open Champion and 2012 Masters Runner-Up Louis Oosthuizen play a few holes last summer and was very impressed with his putting prowess. Take a look at the following video to see what positive aspects from his stroke you might be able to incorporate into your game (please note that he has switched to cross handed, but the philosophy and approach are exactly the same):

View my article on the Proper Putting Set-Up here.

PGA Tour adds new Putting Stat

This week the PGA Tour adds a new stat Strokes Gained - Putting. The number-crunchers at the Tour say the reason is simple -- Strokes Gained-Putting takes out the bias of the old stats. The new statistic isn't impacted by what you did to get to the green; it only reflects what you did (against what your opponents did) once you got there. I love the idea. Similar to the ideas used in Michael Lewis' Moneyball (about baseball statistics) what truly goes into each statistics is being brought into question and as a result, being understood that much better.

Initially developed by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia Business School and further analyzed in collaboration with a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by Professor Stephen Graves, Strokes Gained-Putting measures a player's putting performance relative to his fellow competitors in a tournament and will offer a more accurate portrayal of his overall putting performance.

Strokes Gained-Putting takes into account putting proficiency from various distances and computes the difference between a player's performance on every green -- the number of strokes needed to hole out -- against the performance of the other players for each round. This ultimately shows how many strokes are gained or lost due to putting for a particular round, for a tournament and over the course of a year.

Steve Evans from the PGA Tour called the new stat an "evolution in the way we understand the game." Brad Faxon, long known as one of the Tour's best putters, said the statistic "moves us well beyond where we have been in the past in our ability to measure, teach and explain putting performance."

Here's how the new statistic is computed:

For example, the average number of putts used to hole out from 7 feet, 10 inches is 1.5. If a player one-putts from this distance, he gains 0.5 strokes (1.5 - 1). If he two-putts, he loses 0.5 strokes (1.5 - 2). If he three-putts, he loses 1.5 strokes (1.5 - 3).

For the final statistic, a player's strokes gained or lost putting is compared to the field. For example, if a player gained a total of three strokes over the course of a round and the field gained an average of one stroke, the player's "Strokes Gained Against the Field" would be two.

Here are a few interesting points:

  • The top 5 putters for 2011 using the new stat are Merrick, Chalmers, Snedeker, Stricker and Glover. If all the players in the field hit the ball the same this group would finish a combined 19.44 strokes ahead of average.
  • The bottom 5 putters for 2011 are Cejka, Trahan, Slocum, Weekley and Els. They would finish 21.608 strokes behind average and lose to the lead group by more than a whopping 41 strokes! That requires a tremendous amount of great ball striking in order to compete.
  • The Tour's most average putter is Harrison Frazar.
  • The best handful of putters over the last few years (2004-present) on the PGA Tour have been: Tiger Woods; Brad Faxon; Luke Donald; Aaron Baddeley; Greg Chalmers; Steve Stricker; Brandt Snedeker; Ben Crane and Brian Gay. So these are the guys to imitate....
  • Less than 6 percent of putts are made from more than 25 feet.

See the complete list of players from 2011

 

Here are a few "baseline" points against which the golfers will be measured:

  • A player's chance of one-putting drops 20 percent when moving from 3 feet back to 5 feet.
  • Just under 8 feet: At the 7-foot, 10-inch mark, it's 50/50 whether players will one or two putt.
  • Players have a 1 in 3 chance of one-putting from 11 feet (34 percent).
  • Players have a 3 in 4 chance of two-putt or better from 14 feet (75 percent).
  • Players have a 1 in 10 chance of one-putting from 25 feet (10 percent).
  • 33 feet is the point at which a player is expected to two-putt. This is interesting because while there is an 88 percent chance of a two-putt from this distance, it is the point at which a player is equally likely to one-putt or three-putt (6 percent each way).
  • Players have a 1 in 10 chance of three-putting from 40 feet (10 percent).
  • Players have a 1 in 3 chance of three-putting from 73 feet (33 percent).
  • It is estimated that a players chances of a three-putt are not 50/50 until 120 feet. In general, greens on the PGA Tour are not large enough to provide a player with a 50/50 chance of three-putting.

Thanks to some very smart people and the PGA Tour, we now have a statistic that truly does measure putting prowess. Let the games begin.....

Putting: Distance vs. Direction

 

 I always ask my students which is more important in putting: distance or direction? I am pleased to report that about 60-70% of them correctly side with distance. Think about it this way; are you more likely to hit a 30 footer 10 feet beyond/short or 10 feet wide of the cup? Hopefully your answer is beyond/short, because if it was wide you have serious additional issues.

Much of the information I read on putting today is directionally oriented; the arc of the stroke, face rotation and balancing, path and face and so on. Is this information correct and valid? Yes! I just don't believe it should be the priority. Think about the last round of poor putting you had (hopefully you cannot remember!) - I can almost guarantee you it was due to poor distance control. When you practice focus on speed control as a priority and you must start to encounter better results. Good distance control comes from; a solid and centered strike where the appropriate amount of energy is transferred to the ball and a backstroke that closely matches the through stroke (most golfers are short back and long through!). Here are a few things that will help.

Watch the HD video lesson HERE

Drills and Teaching Aids that Work:

This is an excellent drill to help you acquire the feel of a solid strike: Gather a dozen balls in the center of a green and quickly and casually “hit” them back to a point off the side of the green -- just like when you are clearing a putting green by hitting all the balls off the green with your putter.  Do not emphasize a target; don’t take time to set up; just pop the balls off the face of the putter. When done correctly, you should be able to feel how efficient the stroke is.  There should be a minimal amount of follow through, the strike should feel crisp, and the sound should be louder than what you are accustomed to. When I see a golfer struggling with the putter, they are almost always overemphasizing the “stroke” element and have lost the concept that there needs to be some impact or “hit.” The problem most often is that their motion is long, slow and overly mechanical.  You should be able to sense the ball compressing off the putter face.

An excellent training aid that conveys the feel of the correct strike on the ball in putting is the Ball of Steel from Eyelinegolf.com - each ball weighs 5x what a golf ball weighs and you had better transfer energy efficiently if you want to even have a chance of making a 3 footer with the ball steel. I have found it works really nicely when alternating between a real ball and a heavy ball, but be sure to stay within three feet. After using this teaching aid your putting stroke will be more compact and efficient and thus more consistent.

When putting key in on distance first and your results will improve dramatically - I guarantee it!

Ball of Steel product TOUR   

 

To purchase the Ball of Steel click HERE (be sure to use the code IMPACTBOOK for a discount)

 

The Proper Putting Grip and Set-Up

I see far too many golfers that set-up poorly to their putters. This is something that is quite easy to improve and in this article I will isolate a few important keys to help you improve your set-up when putting and ultimately reduce the numbers of putts you take on the golf course. Remember that a good stroke is first built by having a solid setup. Putting priorities:

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The Facts About Putters

60% of all the grass on putting greens today did not exist 30 years ago and as a result the mow height on greens is 50% lower than it was 20 years ago. Greens are much faster than they used to be.Faster green means shorter grass and shorter grass means there is no longer the need for 4 degrees of loft (the traditional loft) on putters. Most PGA Tour golfers have an effective loft of somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees. This means that when they add the loft on the putter face to the amount of loft they add during the stroke it comes out to somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees. Consequently very little flight time and early roll mean less bounce and skid - a good thing! Zach Johnson actually has -1 degree of loft on his putter face. Speaking of early roll - grooved face putters get the ball rolling 18-24% sooner than smooth faced putters. Not only that, they deter the ball from sliding up or across the face on poorly struck putts too. Sign me up for some of that help.

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It's All About Impact - The Book

This book has been written to show all golfers' what style elements they can do without and what functional elements are integral to soundly struck golf shots. What is pretty and what works? Forget about form and focus all your attention on two simple keys that make all the difference in the world.

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