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The Virtues of Analysis

by Glen Coombe, The Putting Doctor

GCAA Contributor

Putting analysis that is.  What could be gained by being able to see my putting stroke represented in graphic form on both computer screen and via a printed or emailed report?  What could I build upon if I knew my strengths?  And if I was able to see my weaknesses might I be able to work to minimize them and take my game to the next level?  What if my Coach or Golf Professional had a better understanding of putting?

 

As an instructor I’ve come to realize that golfers in general terms often fall into the type A personality classification.  What I say to them is discounted to a certain level against what they have heard, read or what they feel in their present comfort level of ability, bad habits and poor fundamentals included.

 

This doubt or discounting of my instruction seems to melt away when I am able to show my student ten graphic pages of reports based upon a minimum of just five putts, either on screen or via printout.  The shift in belief systems now brings the golfer to the point of asking, “How do we fix this?”  Perhaps this is why I start each new student with an analysis session. This becomes a base line for improvement and further analysis.

 

When we approach the subject of putting we hear all the old adages of feel and art and natural talent.  I would contend that any golfer can be taught to be a better putter, in fact much better.  By presenting sound fundamental science and allowing the student to make mistakes we allow them to learn.  Using simple explanations and training scenarios we take steps to minimize bad habits and to expand upon strengths.

 

As a coach or instructor we need a little self analysis as well.  How do your student athletes practice putting?  Do you provide them with focused drills that build skill?  Are those drills designed to allow the student athlete to build upon success and to learn from failure?  In practice I see far too many golfers, amateur and professional, who are fixated on practice routines which set them up for failure vs. success.

 

Recently I was helping a PGA professional to select a new putter.  She began by attempting fifteen foot range putts.  Of course her realistic expectation of making this putt, by the way on greens rolling 12-13 at a Champions Tour venue had her realistic success ratio at a low 5% according to statistical research.  After watching a few balls pass both high and low I refocused her on a shorter distance with a drill designed to inspire confidence and her success was 100% inside of six feet.  One practice scenario set her up for fear of fifteen footers the other built a solid enjoyable experience built around success and aided in the creation of myelin around this skill set nerve path.

 

By analyzing cause and effect we are able to communicate with our players at a higher level without intimidation.  When we communicate that face angle is 83% of ball direction while path is 17% we can expect a certain amount of skill to be added in light of increased knowledge.   Working with the latest equipment we can very quickly show the student their putter face angle at address (foundation) and at impact (delivery) with full expectation of understanding.

 

I found an interesting video on YouTube last week.  This video showed famed putting instructor Stan Utley in a presentation to the Swedish PGA last year.  Early in the first of two clips Utley states, “I teach straight back and straight through, on plane.”  He went on to say, “Face angle should remain square to the path throughout the stroke.”  This would seem to fly in the face of what players are attempting to manufacture after reading Mr. Utley’s book(s). 

 

At the same tour event mentioned earlier I had another staff professional come out and show me his highly gated putting stroke.  I had him set up with his eyes closed and asked him to repeat the stroke motion back and forth without stopping while tapping him on the inside of the shoulder above the scapula.  After four or five strokes I had him open his eyes to a very surprised reaction of a minimized inside down the line stroke which was his natural stroke shape.  As we all know a natural stroke will stand up under pressure much longer, and much stronger, than one that is contrived.  One of the most common errors I see in student athletes is the over cooking of an idea or swing thought.

 

Putting analysis doesn’t require a couch or a psychoanalyst though the later has been employed extensively of late.  A keen eye and the right equipment will shed light on the important factors and then it’s up to the instructor to impart the proper drills for focused practice.

 

There is conjecture of late as to whether aim is important.  We see highly talented athletes in golf like Tiger Woods who is on average three degrees open at address aim.  TW has an innate ability to bring the face square at impact which few can emulate.  Obviously few would attempt to imitate this open at address club face in the full swing, not even Tiger. I would contend that aim is the foundation and brings the student athlete into a higher degree of focus on the task of putting in general.  Of late I see many who take less time than required to aim their club face and sweet spot critically enough to add intensity to the process of putting.

 

Delivery of the club face both square to path and with the appropriate dynamic loft at impact is what gives us direction and true roll.  This is difficult to capture without high speed video or computer aided interpretation.  Yet it is vital in understanding why the ball travels as it does after impact.  Allowing the student to see all of the angles and travel of the club head before and after impact allows the student to build on strengths and to improve on weaknesses with the guidance of his/her coach.

 

An early start on a dew covered green will be an eye opener for many student athletes who are adding loft at impact and therefore skipping their ball forward.  A simple exercise of quieting the hands will change the skip and skid to a more solid top spin conversion.  Keep in mind that it is limited dynamic loft and rise through impact that imparts top spin.

 

Let’s analyze impact on the club face for a moment.  I worked with a professional golfer yesterday who has won over seven million dollars during his career and immediately heard what I interpreted as an out of center contact with the ball on the putter face.  Simple impact tape could have proved this though I had the higher tech approach at hand.  In our analysis we noticed a path that was a sharp takeaway inside and a corresponding move forward, parallel but low to the intended line of the putt.  The result of this analysis showed impact out on the toe 7.5 mm. A simple plane training device gave him the feel that translated into a truer stroke, and also brought his hands back to impact with contact in the sweet spot resulting in much better distance control.

 

A world wide web of putting instructors are working toward lowering the handicaps of golfers, such as has never been done before.  From China, to Europe to the USA this group of select instructors is teaching teachers to better prepare golfers of all levels to play to lower scores.  Together this small group, of which I am happy to say I belong, is working to dispel the myths of putting through science.  We hope that we may bring to you and your students “the gospel” of putting.

 

As you read in my last installment the putter is the number one club in the golf bag.  Nothing, short of the golf ball, gets the workout that the putter does.  With over 40% of scoring accomplished with the putter it should go without saying that a focus on putting is long overdue.  This is not said to diminish the need to get the ball to the green, however one can speculate that when putting well the rest of the game can be said to flow with more ease.

 

A few weeks ago I wrote in a press release about our “Assault on handicaps” stating that handicaps have not moved downward in decades.  This brought an immediate reply from the USGA.  The USGA writer contended handicaps had indeed fallen and he supported it with a graph showing indeed my statement needed a word added. I admitted I should have stated, “handicaps have not moved downward significantly in decades.”  According to the keepers of US handicaps, the USGA, we have seen in the past 20 years a drop of 1.75 strokes in handicap average on the men’s side of the game.  I contend that the fastest reduction in handicaps can be achieved though putting.  Subsequent to this a colleague pointed out that the USGA only tracks the handicaps of subscribing members who are a small portion of the golfing public.  One wonders the true handicap average nation wide.

 

As a gauge of analysis a recent visit with a collegiate team yielded some interesting results.  One young student athlete returned for a repeat after taking some practice time following our baseline analysis.  His second test less than an hour later showed a gain in technique of 11% and consistency 5% showing a net gain in overall score of 5%, again in less than an hour of independent practice. The benefits of putting analysis are often immediate and lasting.

 

If you would like to explore more on putting analysis I would welcome your questions and input.  Please contact me at GlenCoombe@PuttingDoctor.net , or call 888-844-2322.

 

Remember, “Never Leave A Putt Short!”

 

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