Keep It Loose

    September 9, 2009 Stan Utley 918 25 Comments

    Students who come to me looking for some help with their putting oftentimes think they have an alignment problem, or they don’t feel comfortable getting their distances under control. These can be problems, but more than anything else I think it’s because they are too tight and rigid in their swing mechanics. They let their shoulders swing the club rather than those two assets much closer to the ball…their hands.

    We usually head out to the practice green and I’ll ask them to hit a few putts. I like to stand directly behind the player (such as in this picture to the left) to look for any obvious posture, swing plane, alignment or any other little things that can add up to a bad stroke. It’s amazing that what you think you are doing may not even be close to what I see while observing the stroke.

    I think the hands that grip the club need to feel lubricated with a good shot of oil in the joints. The feeling that some people have that your shoulders should move in a pendulum motion is not what I teach. I think the hands are the pivot point for the club head, and it is the club head that must swing much like a fence gate.

    Another important point I like to make is that a golf ball with a “hook” spin rolls better than a ball struck with a slicing motion. To do that, the club head’s toe must pass the heel of the club at impact to impart some hook spin on the ball. This is the same concept we see when you swing with a driver or an iron…why should a putter be any different?

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    25 Comments Leave New
    Herb Lunday October 18, 2009

    Hi Stan: My game is suffering so bad that I put the clubs up until spring and will give it another shot then. If it doesn’t improve, I may take up ping pong or something. In the meantime, I’m enjoying your site and wondered about your putting tip:

    Another important point I like to make is that a golf ball with a “hook” spin rolls better than a ball struck with a slicing motion. To do that, the club head must pass the toe of the club at impact to impart some hook spin on the ball.

    I’m a little confused… Is it the other way around? Should the toe be passing the club head at impact to impart hook spin?

    Thanks and continued best wishes to one of the good guys of the game.

    Herb Lunday

    Reply
      Stan Utley October 18, 2009

      Looks like my editing team didn’t catch and fix the post. You are correct that to create some hook spin on the ball, the toe of the putter needs to pass the heel of the club. This rotation helps impart a better roll on the ball.

      Herb, don’t lose faith in your game. Sometimes a little time away is good so you come back refreshed and ready to give it another go. I hope you’ll do that in a few months.

      Stan

      Reply
    Herb Lunday October 18, 2009

    Hi Stan: My game is suffering so bad that I put the clubs up until spring and will give it another shot then. If it doesn’t improve, I may take up ping pong or something. In the meantime, I’m enjoying your site and wondered about your putting tip:

    Another important point I like to make is that a golf ball with a “hook” spin rolls better than a ball struck with a slicing motion. To do that, the club head must pass the toe of the club at impact to impart some hook spin on the ball.

    I’m a little confused… Is it the other way around? Should the toe be passing the club head at impact to impart hook spin?

    Thanks and continued best wishes to one of the good guys of the game.

    Herb Lunday

    Reply
    Jeff Rachar November 7, 2009

    Hi Stan,
    I’m alittle confused about putter loft? I can I determine what is the correct loft for me? Would I be better to error on the side of more loft?

    Reply
      Stan Utley November 16, 2009

      Hi Jeff,

      Believe it or not, a golf ball sits down in the turf on the green, not on top of it. Not by a lot, but just enough that some putter loft is necessary to help lift the ball at impact. Ideally, 3 degrees of loft are necessary to get the ball rolling on top of the grass. If you strike the putt with a descending blow and your hands ahead, you de-loft the putter just enough that you might need 4 degrees of putter loft…one degree more than many off-the-shelf putters. I am probably extreme in that regard, and my putter has 5 degrees. Guys like Phil Mickelson who forward press a great deal might need more, others might need less. Hope this helps.

      Stan

      Reply
    Jeff Rachar November 7, 2009

    Hi Stan,
    I’m alittle confused about putter loft? I can I determine what is the correct loft for me? Would I be better to error on the side of more loft?

    Reply
      Stan Utley November 16, 2009

      Hi Jeff,

      Believe it or not, a golf ball sits down in the turf on the green, not on top of it. Not by a lot, but just enough that some putter loft is necessary to help lift the ball at impact. Ideally, 3 degrees of loft are necessary to get the ball rolling on top of the grass. If you strike the putt with a descending blow and your hands ahead, you de-loft the putter just enough that you might need 4 degrees of putter loft…one degree more than many off-the-shelf putters. I am probably extreme in that regard, and my putter has 5 degrees. Guys like Phil Mickelson who forward press a great deal might need more, others might need less. Hope this helps.

      Stan

      Reply
    Bob Smith November 15, 2009

    Hi Stan — I recently bought “The Art of Putting” and have been studying it carefully, especially the chapter on the stroke. I’ve never had a putting stroke and would like to develop one.

    The descriptions and picture sequences — putter head goes back first, grip end doesn’t move much until impact, shaft leaned forward at impact, and even “hitting down on your putts” (p 91) — make the putting stroke sound like a mini chip shot.

    The stroke looks assymetric in that the right wrist is encouraged to cup on the backswing but you want the left wrist to stay flat on the followthru.

    Do I have it right? Is there any chance you could elaborate more on the stroke you teach for those of us who have already bought into swinging the putter on an arc? Why do we want to hit down on putts?

    Your theories on chipping and sand play have helped me tremendously and I would like to better understand your putting theory.

    Regards,
    Bob Smith

    Reply
      Stan Utley November 16, 2009

      Bob,

      Wow! You seem to have understood my main points. I also have used a three or four iron on the green to find my stroke before simply making a mini chipping action. Here are a couple thoughts , but I don’t want you to over cook any of them:

      1. I do like the thought of hitting down very slightly at impact, but that thought is most useful for a player who has always stroked “up” at impact. My putter head actually travels pretty level at impact and I see other good putters even 1 degree up at impact. The downward sensation come for the shaft being vertical or maybe one degree forward at impact (what I call a “hands forward” position…others call it the “forward press”).

      2. My other thought is that although I do not want the left wrist breaking down at impact it may break slightly after the strike of the ball.

      Remember there are really no absolutes. So, find YOUR stoke and know YOUR feels to cause a solid roll on the ball.

      Stan

      Reply
    jack harris November 24, 2009

    While practicing using your approach I noticed that my attention migrated to my right hand: I felt like I was rolling the ball towards the hole with my right hand. This gave better results than thinking about wrists, elbows, shoulders, or worrying about what the putter was doing (as long as the putter was swinging).

    I have tried to work this feeling into my routine: look at the aim spot and mime a toss as if the hand were holding the ball between the index finger and thumb where the putter grip will eventually go. Then repeat with the putter held only in the right hand. Then add the left, align, and roll the ball.

    My question is this: is it undesirable to focus on one part of the body rather than the feeling of a whole swing?

    Reply
      Stan Utley November 24, 2009

      Jack,

      I am always trying out new approaches, comparing them to old “feels”, to achieve the fundamentals of the stroke I am looking for.
      Once you or anyone I teach really understands good fundamentals, I would never argue over a particular feel that is working for you.
      Stay focused on your right hand if that is working, but keep an open mind to other feels that may also put a nice roll on the ball.

      All the best,

      Stan

      Reply
    jack harris November 24, 2009

    While practicing using your approach I noticed that my attention migrated to my right hand: I felt like I was rolling the ball towards the hole with my right hand. This gave better results than thinking about wrists, elbows, shoulders, or worrying about what the putter was doing (as long as the putter was swinging).

    I have tried to work this feeling into my routine: look at the aim spot and mime a toss as if the hand were holding the ball between the index finger and thumb where the putter grip will eventually go. Then repeat with the putter held only in the right hand. Then add the left, align, and roll the ball.

    My question is this: is it undesirable to focus on one part of the body rather than the feeling of a whole swing?

    Reply
      Stan Utley November 24, 2009

      Jack,

      I am always trying out new approaches, comparing them to old “feels”, to achieve the fundamentals of the stroke I am looking for.
      Once you or anyone I teach really understands good fundamentals, I would never argue over a particular feel that is working for you.
      Stay focused on your right hand if that is working, but keep an open mind to other feels that may also put a nice roll on the ball.

      All the best,

      Stan

      Reply
    Scott Chaffin December 27, 2009

    Hi Stan,
    It appears that I am hitting up on the ball at impact more than I would prefer. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to level out the putter at impact. Are there any drills that can be done to level out the putter at impact and allow me to hit more solid putts.
    Thanks

    Reply
    Chris Murray January 14, 2010

    Hi Stan, I have been using the putting method you teach for a couple of years now, but there are a couple of recurring issues that continue to come up and I would like to be a little more consistent with my setup. I am 5’11, putter is 35in /5* loft. You said in your book and video that the eyes should be inside the ball at address approximately 1 inch right and 1 inch inside the ball. When I drop a ball from my left eye it usually strikes the ball on the ground at the 4 o’clock position, is this too close? I feel a little more bent over from the hips. If I stand up more and then try dropping the ball it lands 1-2in. inside and doesn’t strike the ball (putter seems to arc more). However I don’t roll the “line” on the ball as pure or as often. The second question is how much forward press is to much? What do you see at address? Can you see any of the putter cavity? When I forward press my left hand covers my left knee (I’m right handed) and my right hand appears to be a little more on the side of the grip in my life line. Thanks for your time and hopefully you can clear up some of these issues for me so I won’t be switching back and forth based on how I roll the ball that day.

    Best wishes,
    Chris

    Reply
    Chris Murray January 14, 2010

    Hi Stan, I have been using the putting method you teach for a couple of years now, but there are a couple of recurring issues that continue to come up and I would like to be a little more consistent with my setup. I am 5’11, putter is 35in /5* loft. You said in your book and video that the eyes should be inside the ball at address approximately 1 inch right and 1 inch inside the ball. When I drop a ball from my left eye it usually strikes the ball on the ground at the 4 o’clock position, is this too close? I feel a little more bent over from the hips. If I stand up more and then try dropping the ball it lands 1-2in. inside and doesn’t strike the ball (putter seems to arc more). However I don’t roll the “line” on the ball as pure or as often. The second question is how much forward press is to much? What do you see at address? Can you see any of the putter cavity? When I forward press my left hand covers my left knee (I’m right handed) and my right hand appears to be a little more on the side of the grip in my life line. Thanks for your time and hopefully you can clear up some of these issues for me so I won’t be switching back and forth based on how I roll the ball that day.

    Best wishes,
    Chris

    Reply
    Valerie April 2, 2011

    It seems that no matter how relaxed I am, I can’t putt for the life of me. I always tend to miss that easy shot, or mess up really bad.

    I know the basics of golf, but the simplest shot is where I really mess up, which is quite weird, no?

    Valerie

    Reply
    Valerie April 2, 2011

    It seems that no matter how relaxed I am, I can’t putt for the life of me. I always tend to miss that easy shot, or mess up really bad.

    I know the basics of golf, but the simplest shot is where I really mess up, which is quite weird, no?

    Valerie

    Reply
    Debbie April 4, 2011

    Hi stan, I am 100% agree with this “important point I like to make is that a golf ball with a “hook” spin rolls better than a ball struck with a slicing motion.” And according to my personal experience a golf ball with a hook spin rolls is better as compared to a ball struck with a slicing motion.

    Reply
    Debbie April 4, 2011

    Hi stan, I am 100% agree with this “important point I like to make is that a golf ball with a “hook” spin rolls better than a ball struck with a slicing motion.” And according to my personal experience a golf ball with a hook spin rolls is better as compared to a ball struck with a slicing motion.

    Reply
    Sam Weston April 8, 2011

    There are so many things to think about when taking a shot that you natural tense up and trying to consciously ‘relax’ and also concentrate of getting everything ‘technically correct’ is not easy. Of course relaxation comes with experience and so I think that this is to a certain extent simply a matter of practice and time.

    Reply
    Sam Weston April 8, 2011

    There are so many things to think about when taking a shot that you natural tense up and trying to consciously ‘relax’ and also concentrate of getting everything ‘technically correct’ is not easy. Of course relaxation comes with experience and so I think that this is to a certain extent simply a matter of practice and time.

    Reply
    Jim April 29, 2011

    Hi Stan,
    Please tell me how to stop missing putts left. After 40 yeras playing it still remaims my problem despite trying left hand low , shoulder only, no wrists, Broom , handle and belly putters

    Reply
    Jim April 29, 2011

    Hi Stan,
    Please tell me how to stop missing putts left. After 40 yeras playing it still remaims my problem despite trying left hand low , shoulder only, no wrists, Broom , handle and belly putters

    Reply