This week’s question comes from Reed B, who asked, “Is it better to suspend the putter instead of resting it on the green? I’m a senior player and my muscles aren’t as steady as they used to be, but I’ve been told it’s a better way to putt. Someone also said Jack Nicklaus never grounded his putter.”
Reed’s question is one that I have received many times previously and the less-than-decisive answer is: It depends. I can’t tell you that my research has ever shown a significant improvement in a player’s putting by choosing to hover versus not hovering. However, hovering the putter falls into a category of items that I refer to as “putting triggers.” Putting triggers are things that players do to help them initiate the putting stroke.
Think back to a time you have been watching golf on Sunday afternoon and an announcer mentions how a player’s tempo has sped up from the first three rounds because of being nervous. The mistake amateurs make is that they believe the change in tempo is affecting only the full swing. In fact, the change in tempo is having a greater impact on the player’s putting stroke. So what does this have to do with a putting trigger? We have heard many different sports psychologists talk about “staying in the moment,” especially coming down the stretch on Sunday. One of the most effective ways to do this is to have a consistent routine to rely upon, which should include a putting trigger.
There are several putting triggers including: 1. Hovering, which is leaving the putter slightly off the ground before stroking the putt like Jack Nicklaus did most of his career, 2. Dancing feet, which is when a player waggles his feet prior to putting to relax like Raymond Floyd; 3. Forward Press, which is moving the handle of the putter toward the hole to initiate the stroke such as Phil Mickelson; 4. Glimpse and go, which is addressing the putt having a quick glimpse at the hole and then making the stroke like Lucas Glover does so well.
There are many ways to get the ball in the hole, and I will help by providing you the evidence that suggests the best way, rather than telling you there is only one way. In this particular situation, I don’t have concrete data that says one putting trigger is more successful than another one. However, using a putting trigger into your routine will significantly improve your putting in the long term over not having one.
Going back to Reed’s original question, there is one additional (and likely unintended) benefit of hovering the putter. Think back to the 2011 Zurich Classic when Webb Simpson was penalized one stroke when his ball moved as a result of wind, after he addressed his putt. Had Webb hovered his putter (never soling it), he wouldn’t have ever addressed the ball, according to the rules of golf, and thus would not have been subject to the one-stroke penalty. Keep in mind, that little rule's loophole is likely to be closed come 2012, according to the USGA.
I want to thank Reed again for his question and I will be sending him a copy of Automatic Putting for using his question in the blog. If you have any putting questions please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, you have only three more days to pick up my Automatic Putting Package for $59.95 (with free shipping). Please visit my website at mariusgolf.com.
Until next time….cheers! Marius [Photo: Jack Nicklaus putts on the 8th green during round 2 of the 65th Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, May 29, 2004. Brian Tietz/WireImage.com]