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Successful Putting Depends on Gear, Preparation

Peter Harris

Peter Harris

Is anyone struggling with the putter early in the season like me?

There is not much more that’s as mentally challenging in golf as hitting some great iron shots and walking up to green looking at how close the ball is from the hole, then realizing it is that close only to miss the putt. I just want to make those putts so badly and finish the hole in glory.

So, instead of just hoping it would change miraculously, I went to the putting green with my swing coach and high-speed camera and went to work on getting better. I wanted to look at my posture, setup and swing path to see if there was room for improvement.

To simplify putting techniques, most golfers use a straight back-straight through or an arced swing path when putting. Each style will require a different setup with your eyes and a different style putter. I’ve always felt I was straight back-straight through, but with some great arced-stroke players out there, I wasn’t sure what was best for me. If it’s working for the other guy, it may work for me. Have you ever said that to yourself? Well, without an understanding of some fundamentals, it’s purely a guess.

With a good balanced posture at address, how you place your eyes over the ball with the type of putter you’re holding is important in good putting. Golfers with their eyes directly over the ball will likely benefit from a straight back-straight through putting stroke and a more face-balanced putter. Golfers with their eyes well inside the golf ball, or eyes closer to your feet than the golf ball, will typically set up for an arced stroke and benefit from a putter with more toe hang. To see what type of putter you have, balance the putter on your finger and see if the face stays pointing at the sky (face-balanced) or it the toe falls toward the ground for a toe-hang putter.

Looking at my video, I noticed my eyes were too far over the golf ball, where the golf ball was closer to my feet than my eyes, which is too much but would encourage a straight back-straight through stroke. The eyes should be directly over the ball, slightly inside or well inside the ball but never outside or past the ball. I also realized I was using a putter designed for an arced stroke and eyes well inside the golf ball. This was a double whammy, ensuring any putts I did make were by accident.

So, I worked on my setup to position my eyes over or slightly inside the golf ball and switched putters to a more face-balanced design more suited for straight back-straight through putting stroke. As a result, I have been rewarding more of my good iron shots and feeling occasional glory.

We still have the occasional doubt, flinch, and bogey. But without working on it, how could I expect improvement?

Peter Harris is director of golf at the Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon. His column will appear regularly on the VALLEY NEWS recreation page during the playing season.