Before I give you my accounts from the practice green at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I have spent more than 20 years of my life accumulating and dissecting the bio-mechanics of more than 54,000 putting strokes. I know what you're thinking—what a waste of 20 years!
However, it has given me the opportunity and the pleasure of instructing and researching some of the finest players in the game, including Tiger Woods, Ernie Els [right, at Doral on Wednesday] and Trevor Immelman ... to name a few. My partner at Marius Golf recently shared this with me: if you took the cumulative career records of all the players I have studied or taught, you would have at least 257 PGA Tour wins, 34 major championship victories and more than $640 million in PGA Tour earnings.
I am fascinated with the science of the game and—more specifically—putting. For far too many years, putting instruction has been based on bad information, which is passed from one generation of teachers to the next without consideration of what actually occurs in the putting stroke from a scientific approach. I will write this blog every two weeks, sometimes from the Tour event I am working with my players, and other times from my academy in Dallas. I will discuss everything, from what the guys are working on at particular events to new equipment to course conditions. All that, plus pretty much anything else you may be interested in, so don’t be shy—email me at email@example.com with any and all of your comments and questions, and I will try to address them in future blog posts.
OK, let's get started. Tuesday morning I drove to Doral. Even though I spent the better part of my life in Germany driving on the autobahn, I still think driving in Miami is insane. I had three players on my schedule: Ryan Palmer, Bo Van Pelt and Ernie Els. I spent my time with both Ryan and Bo working on the practice green. Always remember: Playing good golf DOES NOT revolve around the driving range. In fact, the first thing any decent player will do when he arrives at an event is survey the greens.
What is the biggest item of interest when the guys get to the greens? Speed. Because Tour pros play a new course each week in a different part of the country, they see many different types of grass. The greens at Doral are a wonderful speed for players to make putts. I believe Tour-quality greens should ideally be around 11 or 11.5 on the Stimpmeter. At that speed, they are not so fast that players are forced to putt defensively, but they are fast enough to allow players to stroke a putt rather than hit it. This week, because the greens are Bermuda grass, my students are very focused on knowing the direction of the grain.
I walked 18 holes with Ernie Els in the afternoon. We spent a significant amount of time analyzing the grain on the greens. There are several ways to check the grain direction, but I think the easiest way is looking for color variations. If you are downgrain, then the grass will appear a lighter green, almost shiny. If you are into the grain, it appears to be a darker green. Why does this matter? Because putts are significantly quicker downgrain than into the grain.
It is equally important on chips. If players are chipping into the grain, they will hit more dead-arm shots. That means they will eliminate the wrist hinge in the shot, which reduces the amount of spin on the ball. If you hit a shot with a lot of spin into the grain, it will stop very close to where you landed it. The other way (and what I recommend to my amateur students) is to use a lower-lofted club for chipping into the grain instead of a lob wedge. When you watch on TV this week, pay special attention to the chip shots and pitches, and you'll be able to tell if they are hitting into the grain or with it. How to Become an Automatic Putter Correct ball position is vital when it comes to putting into the grain. To give yourself the best chance to make a putt on grainy greens, you need to eliminate or reduce backspin on the putt. To determine the ideal ball position, take your address position and drop a ball from the eye that is closest to your target. (The left eye for right-handers and the right eye for left-handers.) Wherever the ball lands is where you should position the ball.
Please check out mariusgolf.com and sign-up for the free member section. In the coming months I will be launching a new section that will allow you to send me video of your putting stroke for analysis.
Until next time…Cheers! Marius Filmalter is the leading expert on the science of putting and works with more than 40 PGA Tour pros.