Today will start a series of posts that will deal with the 16 aspects of the golf swing and game that are very confusing or have opposing viewpoints. I had intended to start with the left heel issue but I am still gathering information on that one, so we will start with number two on list the putting stroke. The two opposing viewpoints: The putting stroke should be straight back and straight through, or the putting stroke should be an arc much like the golf swing. There is a long forgotten third putting stroke which we will get to, and after watching the young guys putt yesterday at the San Diego Open maybe they should consider it. Let’s look at each of the first two putting strokes and then I will show you “Where’s the beef?”
The main advantage of the straight back and straight through putting stroke is the ball position is not very important. The stroke is on the intended line for the entire time. As long as you don’t go too bizarre on the ball position, playing it between your left toe and nose is fine, then your putt will go where you aimed it.
The advantage of the arc stroke, where the putter travels slightly inside the line, then on line, and again slightly inside the line after contact, is that this seems more like a natural way to putt and mimics the golf swing. Since the putter only spends a certain amount of time on the intended line then ball position becomes more critical. Playing the ball too far back in your stance may cause putts to be missed to the right and too far forward may cause putts to be missed to the left So “Where’s the beef?”
The beef is that proponents of the arc stroke say the straight back and through stroke is unnatural since golf is played to the side of the ball. They say for anyone to have a straight back and through stroke, there has to be some unnatural manipulation of the clubhead or arm swing. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main advocate of the straight back and straight through stroke is Dave Pelz. In his book the Putting Bible he explains how to putt with this stroke. You must have enough tilt from your hips toward the ball so your hands are directly under your shoulders. If you create this address position, then this is the only one way your putting stroke can go, and that is straight back and through. Any one can try this in their living room and you will see. Now if you want to say that having your hands directly under your shoulders is awkward or uncomfortable, that is ok. But don’t make statements about a putting stroke just so you can further your own method. Once you are in the proper address position, the straight back and through putting stroke is about as natural as you can get .
Now for that third method, which you could say takes the best or worse from the first two methods, depending on your perspective. In 1961 there was a book written by Horton Smith, titled The Secret of Holing Putts. Horton Smith was one of the great putters of his time, and was a two time Masters Champion. It is a great book on all aspects of putting and I highly recommend it. The first secret is what he called hooding and I will quote directly from the book. ” Hooding is the term given to the necessary counterclockwise turn of the left wrist during the backswing of the putting stoke. This slight rotation is applied in order to keep the blade of the putter constantly perpendicular or square to the line of the putt.” Well how about those apples. Mr Smith advocated an arc stroke that was very low, but with hooding that kept the blade square to the line. You will have to get the book to read about the second secret.
There are the three basic putting strokes. Try them all and see what one may work the best for you. Don’t be afraid to try method two and three because believe me they can work very well. As I wrote in the beginning of the blog I think some of these young guys that already look like they have the yips may want to delve into number three.