Quietly, right under our noses, putting scientist and instructor Marius Filmalter has studied, analyzed and picked apart more than 50,000 putting strokes, and he did it using state-of-the-art and industry-standard technology that he helped invent. What he has found over the past two decades challenges many long and tightly held beliefs about how to best roll that little white ball into that little hole. The data is convincing enough to have successfully lured more than 40 PGA Tour converts to his camp, and it's allowed him to begin laying the foundation for a nationwide network of schools. Here's how you can apply his discoveries to your own motion and improve your putting in every conceivable way.
The Tour's new putting guru has easy fixes for your most damaging putting flaws.
Five New Rules for Your Stroke
1. Stroke Speed
The Old Way: Accelerate into the ball for the best possible strike.
The Marius Way: Never accelerate into the ball -- maintain constant speed.
According to Filmalter, your putting stroke is a pendulum, which reaches top speed at the bottom of its arc and then slows down. If you accelerate into the ball when you putt that means you're reaching top speed after the bottom of your arc (i.e., past the ball). "This is a bad thing," says Filmalter. "Your brain is wired to instinctively square the putterface at the moment it reaches top speed. If you're not at top speed at impact -- if you're still accelerating -- then you have to make a last-ditch effort to square the putterface. Enter the yip." Filmalter's research shows that the best putters certainly accelerate, but that they do it earlier in their forward-strokes, they do it gradually (they don't "floor the gas pedal") and then they maintain constant speed. "At impact you shouldn't be accelerating or decelerating -- just 'celerating.'
"If I asked you to hit 60 mph in your car at exactly one mile, you wouldn't gradually increase your speed and try to time it perfectly so that you reached 60 mph right at the marker. Instead, you'd ease on the pedal until you got to 60, then maintain that speed. This is how your stroke should work."
The Old Way: Align your body square to your line.
The Marius Way: Set your body how you want. It's far more important to align your forearms to your line.
"If you look at the best putters on any Tour you'll notice that some of them set their feet parallel to the line, while others are open and some are closed," Filmalter says. The lesson? How you set your feet and lower body has almost zero to do with your ability to start your putts on line. "There are two reasons for this," he adds. "One is that your lower body doesn't move when you hit a putt, so it can't influence direction. The other is that the motors of your stroke -- your shoulders, arms and torso -- do influence direction. If you set your forearms in line with one another and parallel to your target line, then you're in a very good alignment to hit the ball where you want it to go."
3. Stroke Path
The Old Way: Move your putter straight back and through the ball or along a perfect arc. The Marius Way: Take your putter back on an arc, return it to the ball on the same path, but then putt down your target line.
The two most commonly taught stroke types have merit, but according to Filmalter, they fall short of perfection. "It's impossible to take the putterhead straight back without lifting it off the ground or letting your right elbow fly," he explains. "Test it by putting against a wall and watch how the putterhead must rise in order for you to keep the toe in contact with the baseboard as you move it straight back." Lifting the putter in your backstroke is bad because it results in a downward angle of attack -- the exact opposite of what you need to create proper roll after impact. "So yes," Filmalter advises, "your backstroke -- and subsequent path back to the ball -- must arc." What about impact? "While it's true that your putter will eventually arc back to the inside at some point in your through-stroke," Filmalter explains, "it's critical that you work straight down the line for at least the first 4 inches past the ball. This straight-line impact -- paired with an inside delivery -- ensures that you won't cut across the ball and promotes a full release of the putterhead."
The Old Way: Keep your left wrist as flat as possible when you strike the ball.
The Marius Way: Let it flex so you can properly release the putterhead and add loft at impact.
"My research shows that the best putters allow their left wrist to unhinge through the ball, or better yet, respond to the weight of the putterhead," says Marius. "What they don't do is keep their left wrist flat like is so often taught. Anytime you hold something rigid in your stroke you add tension and reduce feel. That's the last thing a Tour player needs on today's slick greens." Filmalter doesn't recommend flipping the putterhead past your hands, but sees a benefit in a slight, vertical release. "All good putters add loft at impact, and letting the putterhead creep ahead of the shaft through the ball is a good way to do it."
5. Putter Choice
The Old Way: Opt for a face-balanced model if you're over-rotating the putterhead.
The Marius Way: Use any putter you want. If you're over-rotating, it's your fault, not your putter's.
According to Filmalter, if your putter is rotating out of control, switching to one designed to twist less -- like most people believe face-balanced mallets are designed to do -- won't help. He explains, "Putter designs differ in the ease in which they're able to rotate in relation to your path, not around themselves. A putter can't rotate around it's own axis unless you cause it to by turning your wrists. Unduly opening or closing the putterface is all on you -- placing something different in your hands won't help.