Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dear T.J.,Can you explain what plumb-bobbing is? I know it's an aid to help read the break in your putt, but I don't know how to go about it.Lee S. Johannesburg, Mich. Lee, Here’s a rule of thumb that will save you much time and trouble: Plumb-bobbing doesn’t work. You might as well read your putts with some crystals and a shaman. The plumb-bob method is like a campaign promise -- it sounds great but the more you question how it’s going to get done, the more it evaporates. Plumb-bobbers or, as I call them, plum-boobs, differ in their methods, but the basic idea is to determine the direction of the break by dropping a plumb line from the ball to the hole then using your dominant eye to see on which side of the hanging shaft the hole appears. Some claim they can even divine the exact amount of the break on the putt. Don't believe them. The entire process is full of error at every level.
So why do a few of the best putters in the world like Ben Crenshaw and Hale Erwin use the method? Well, Crenshaw could dangle dental floss in a 30-mph wind and still putt well. My guess is that it’s a part of his pre-putt routine that helps him confirm what he's already seen; in other words, plumb-bobbing provides a “Go!” signal based on what Crenshaw has already seen on his first read.  Notice that good putters who plumb-bob always read the putt normally before they plumb. The rest of the read is for peace of mind.
Here’s what the authors of study on plum-bobbing, Sasho Mackenzie and Eric Sprigings of the College of Kinesiology University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, Canada, had to say.(The study is published in the  Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 23, Issue 1, January 2005 , pages 81 - 87.)

This study evaluated the validity of the plumb-bob method as used to determine the break of a putt. Two separate experiments were conducted to examine the consequence of violating inherent assumptions in the method. … The plumb-bob method was found to be an invalid system for determining the break of a putt.

After extensive measurements using advanced geometry and the arcane science of "danglemetrics," I have no clue which way this putt breaks. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher TJ Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA
professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You
can learn more about TJ at

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