My putting can probably best be described as streaky. I have made some great putts but I also break out in a cold sweat whenever I find myself standing over a 2 footer. There is nothing I like less than the idea of a ‘tap in’. For me, this would have to hover over the edge of the hole! I think a lot of this comes from the fact that my putting isn’t very solid. The idea of a proper putter stroke has always escaped me and maybe it is time I found one.
When I think of the best putters I know or even the best in the world, it isn’t necessarily that the sink them from everywhere. It just feels like their putting stroke is very stable somehow. This is almost the exact opposite of how my own putting can sometimes feel. The putter head actually seems to wobble rather than moving smoothly back and through the ball. I don’t do anything particularly unorthodox when I put, so what is the problem?
Defining a Great Putting Stroke
I think that a lot of us look at the wrong thing when we are talking about a proper putting stroke. For example, we might get caught up in ideas about grip. Is this really important? In my opinion, not so much. We can put properly and even brilliantly and/or consistently with all sorts of grips. It might be left-hand low, claw, prayer, interlocking or whatever.
The same is true for stance. Some great putter are extremely open when they putt. Some of the worst putters I have seen are too. Often, a very sideways-on putter will look like they have a very solid putting action. Others will look like they can hole it from 6 inches with exactly the same stance!
This even runs true for equipment. Now we have everything from arm lock to super-short putters. In the past, we have seen broom handles and belly putters. Today, you can get a Super Stroke grip that is a thick as a tennis racket and also super slim grips that are like putting with an under-sized iron. I think it would be tough to find any sort of correlation between any of this stuff and just how many putts the golfer in question actually makes.
So this brings us on to the stroke itself. Surely a proper putter stroke is an easily-definable thing? Actually, no. Some very successful putters have a long, smooth stroke. Some seem to jab at the ball with an almost violent motion. Even swing arc isn’t a constant. You might find someone holing everything with a straight back and through or a very pronounced arc.
So where does this leave us? I think there is actually only one defining quality of a proper putter stroke. I have found this to be true for myself and virtually everyone I have played with. The only truly important criterion is that this stroke is repeatable and lets the golfer roll the ball where he intends at the pace he wants.
Analyzing the Putting Stroke
I haven’t had my own putting analyzed with something like a Sam Putt Lab but I am willing to bet that the most obvious point that would come out of looking at the path, face angle and all the rest, would be this:
I am simply not capable of repeating the same stroke consistently.
My stroke might look fine, especially to the layman. However, under the microscope, I just don’t think it would be up too much. I would guess that the face angle changes by a few degrees each time, my path wanders from straight to out to in via in to out and probably a host of other things!
I actually had a friend go through the process recently and I find that his results are probably valid for a lost of us. He is a very solid golfer. Around a 7 handicap, good ball striker and a very tidy game around the greens in general. His putting has been a problem and he decided to go through a detailed putter fitting before buying a new putter.
To cut a long story short, the clubmaker (from whom he would have bought the expensive custom-made putter) told him that there was no point him buying because he wouldn’t know how to actually custom fit it for him! Basically, custom fitting works for a consistent pattern. My friend was, like me, so inconsistent that it was impossible to build for any pattern at all.
A Proper Putter Stroke Means Consistency
My friend’s putting has actually improved since this meeting and is was, indirectly, something that has helped me too. I think the message is that any putting stroke could be considered ‘proper’, it really doesn’t matter. The only real key is having something that is repeatable. Even more so than with the full swing, there is no one right way. Something that is comfortable and allows you to aim properly is perfect, as long as you can do it every single time.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you will make every putt, but worrying less about a particular “technical” aspect of the stroke and more about simply doing the same thing every time is probably the key to quality putting and a truly proper putter stroke.