Sunday, April 10, 2011

You might think I would provide a tip on how to putt on fast and undulated greens in this week’s blog, but instead today I want to discuss the importance of understanding your putting style before deciding which putter to use. It is a Masters-related lesson because this week because the winner on Sunday will have had unconditional confidence in his putting and that starts with using the right equipment. When you watch the Masters on Sunday, pay attention not just to each player’s putting stroke, but also to their posture and the type of putter they use. All these things are related and they might decide who will win this tournament.
But before we get to the pros, I want you to think about how your putter path would appear if you were standing on a ladder looking at yourself putting. There are two basic types of putting styles (there are additional variations but this is a short blog so bear with me): straight-back-straight-through and arc putting. Before you decide what type of putter you should purchase you need to determine what putting style you believe in. In general, I like to see the putter path move slightly inside the target line—to square at impact—to slightly inside the target line. This style of putting is often referred to as arc putting. Straight-back-straight-through is as simple as it sounds. The putter moves straight-back-straight-through on the target line with no rotation. I strongly support arc putting because that is what my research says works best and it is also what I see week to week from the best putters on Tour. Here is a video lesson that will show you how to test what kind of putting stroke you have:
You must decide which putting style works best for you. Whatever you decide, you need to be 100 percent committed to that style of putting, both physically and mentally. Part of my research shows that one of the quickest ways to get the yips is to believe you putt one way (for example, straight-back-straight-through) when in fact you are putting the exact opposite way (on an arc) or vice-versa. The conflict between what you believe you are doing and what you are actually doing can cause significant turmoil with your putter.
If you are a straight back-straight through putter, you would likely benefit from a face-balanced putter. If you swing the putter in an arc, you would likely benefit from a heel-toe balanced putter or a heel-weighted putter. Here’s an easy test to tell them apart: balance the putter lengthwise on your finger approximately 6 inches from the putter hosel, if the putter face points straight up, then it is a face-balanced putter, if the toe points diagonally down, then it’s a heel-toe balanced putter, and if the toe points straight down, it’s a heel-weighted putter.
Traditionally, mallet putters like the Odyssey Two-Ball are face-balanced. Putters in the style of the Ping Anser and the Scotty Cameron Newport are heel-toe balanced putters, and the Wilson 8802 and the Yonex ADX putters are heel-weighted putters (like the style Phil Mickelson used when he first came on tour--he now uses a modified version made by Odyssey).
In fact, the Nike Method putter that Tiger Woods is using this week is likely a heel-weighted putter. These putters are ideal for players who stand more upright and really swing their putter on an arc. Ben Crenshaw is the classic example of this style putter. If you swing on an arc but bend more from your hips, then a heel-toe balanced putter would likely be the best fit for you.
Rory McIlroy is a great example of a player who putts with a lot of rotation and uses a putter that encourages that. On the other hand, Jason Day, the guy who was chasing him Saturday, uses a putter that would benefit a straight back-straight through putter. I don’t want to single out Jason, but very few Tour players are not rotational putters (even the ones that think they are straight-back-straight-through), so it will be interesting to see if he putts well under pressure on Sunday. I am not saying you can’t be a good putter using a face-balanced putter with an arc stroke or a heel-weighted putter with a straight-back-straight-through. Try all types of putters; what matters most is what looks and feels best to you when you stand over a putt.
Another contender to watch closely on the greens Sunday is Adam Scott. I talked about Adam’s use of the belly putter and why it would help his confidence in the short term but not the long term in an earlier column. Augusta National’s fast greens make the belly putter especially tricky because you need to make a longer stroke with the belly putter than with a regular putter. However, those fast greens require a shorter stroke, and it could be difficult for Adam to make such a delicate stroke under the gun of Sunday pressure. If he can do it, I expect he’ll use that belly putter for a long time.
For those who have not been to the Masters before, make sure you go to the Masters web site to register for the lottery for future practice rounds and limited daily passes. I promise you, if you love the game, there are few better experiences than walking the grounds of Augusta National. Please send me comments or questions to blog@mariusgolf.com and also check out my website at www.mariusgolf.com and sign-up for the free member section. Also on my web site is my new Automatic Putting package which includes a three-disc DVD set, Marius Putting Belt and Marius Metronome. The package now includes free shipping.
Until next time….cheers!

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