Friday, December 05, 2008

Dear T.J.,Over the past four or five years I have used both a mallet putter and t-line putter and recently decided to stay with a t-line putter, Scotty Cameron Circa-62.  Is there one swing sequence preferred over the other with a particular type putter? I have always used the straight-back, straight-through putting method not the gate-door method. Bruce L.Annapolis, Md. Hi Bruce,To putt your best you need to match up three variables correctly: 1.) Your putter type; 2.) Your stroke type; and 3.) Your posture. Your Putter TypeThere are three basic types of putters: "Toe-Balanced," "Face-Balanced" and "45 Degree Hangers." You can tell the difference by the way the putter face hangs when you balance it by its shaft across your finger. If the putter face is perpendicular to the ground with the toe hanging straight down, the putter is Toe-Balanced. If it balances with the putter face running parallel to the ground, it’s Face-Balanced. And if it balances so that the putter-face is hanging somewhere in-between perpendicular and parallel, it’s a 45 Degree Hanger (some hang at exactly 45 degrees but your putter face hangs anywhere in between Toe-Balanced and Face-Balanced it is still defined as a “45 Degree Hanger”). Putters_003

The putter on the left exhibits toe-down balance; the putter in the middle has 45-degree balance; and the putter on the right is face-balanced. Which One's For YouYour putting stroke dictates which type of balancing is right for you. If your putting stroke swings on a constant arc (inside, to square, to inside again--like a door as it opens and closes), then a Toe-Balanced putter is for you because it allows for a slight opening of the clubface on the takeaway and helps square the face at impact.
If your putting stroke is straight back and straight through (pendulum style -- as yours is) then Face-Balanced putters are best. They help to maintain stability by resisting any opening or closing of the clubface through impact.
If your stroke is neither straight or uniformly arced than you need a 45 Degree Hanger. The rule of thumb: The more your putting stroke tends to open and close the clubface, the more degrees (measured from horizontal) the putter-face should hang. Match Your Posture and Your Putting Stroke The conventional wisdom is anything goes in putting but there is one fundamental that should not be ignored: How you stand to the ball conditions how you stroke it. Upright PostureTjputt1 Your shoulders naturally work perpendicular to your spine and when you’re standing upright your shoulders move “around” rather than “up and down.” This merry-go-round action opens the clubface during the backswing then [without any excess manipulations] squares it coming to the ball. While this is a very effective way to putt--used by many good putters including Ben Crenshaw and Greg Norman--other great putters such as Jack Nicklaus and Dave Stockton favor a much more bent posture at address. Bent PostureTjputt2 In the bent posture the front shoulder moves down while the back one moves up, with the see-saw move reversed on the down stroke. This up-and-down action keeps the clubface more or less square to the intended line of roll throughout the entire stroke. 
Here’s the takeaway for you: If you feel comfortable standing upright over the ball then don’t try to keep the putter face looking at the target while you putt -- let the clubface rotate with your shoulders both back and through.
If you chose a bent posture then the pendulum stroke is the correct match. Once again simply let the face match the up and down action of the shoulders.
An upright putting posture promotes an “around,” open-to-square stroke because your shoulders are flat.
A bent-over putting posture promotes a more up-and-down, pendulum stroke because your shoulders are tilted Be Careful What You ChangeIf you do change your putting stroke, take care to do it correctly. When I say that your putter face “opens” it is not by conscious manipulation of the hands or arms--the death knell of any stroke--but by simply allowing the putter head to swing slightly to the inside as it comes away from the ball. This permits the face to look to the right of the target [open] without spinning the shaft of the putter which would open the face to the path or arc. Your face looks to the right of the target but it is square to the path. Too many golfers think that to use the 'open-to-square' method they must spin the face open to closed during the stroke and this leads to disaster.
So please remember that in both methods the face stays square to the path--it’s the path that changes. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA
professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You
can learn more about T.J. at

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