How to Nail Your Distance Control and Putting Stroke

Controlling your distance and backstroke when putting

Let's talk about how to master that perfect pendulum swing - because what goes up, must come down, and the length, velocity, tempo, angle, and distance at which it does is going to make or break your shot. 

What Is a Backstroke? 

The backstroke is the totality of backward swing of the club head from the address to the moment it's at its highest/furthest point back (the wind up pull). It has a few defining features in which to describe it and which make up the three elements of distance control:

Backstroke Length

Backstroke Length is the length/distance (in inches) the club face travels in the swing back from address to the peak of the lift in that direction.

The length the stroke travels from the tee in the back swing plays a factor in the force at which the forward swing accelerates and hits the ball. Too much length back and the ball could be hit too hard and therefore go whizzing past the hole. 

To ensure some precision, make sure the club face is aligned at center closely behind the ball at address. You want just enough backswing to form the exact momentum needed to propel the ball the correct distance upon forward swing and impact. 

Distance control and precision putting require consistent technique. Most backstroke issues come from a lack of repeated technique. Holes of the same distance should be putted with the same controlled measurements. If the length varies, so too does the timing and speed usually - like a wonky chain reaction. 

The more you practice varying lengths to pull on the back (and front) swings, the more you'll see patterns of what length works best in which conditions (flat, hill, etc) and how that stroke feels in your body, so you can easily recreate it each time and create cell memory.

Here's a great guideline to begin experimentation with:

  • 4.5 inches length away (backstroke) for a 3 ft hole distance
  • 6 inches for a 6 ft hole
  • 8.5 inches for a hole that's 12 ft away

Use these as baselines to find your default tendencies and tweak them as needed in accordance to your climate conditions. You've likely got the hang of your correct swing length range when you're able to recreate success consistently within an inch range of the previous stroke each time. 

Backstroke Speed

Think of the ball as a speedometer that captures the speed reading from the moment of impact. The momentum incurred from the back and forward swing begins to form some measurable speed/acceleration which converts into force on impact. 

We calculate this speed in MPH and sometimes refer to it in terms of tempo or acceleration. The speed affects the power of the stroke and therefore how hard the ball will be hit and how fast it will continue to travel down the green. Many things contribute to the speed itself. 

If the backswing is long (in length), pulling really far back, then it's reciprocal pendulum swing forward is going to accelerate really powerfully, leading to a speedy impact and transfer of power. 

This transferred energy is called kinetic energy and it's a real tricky thing. In the laws of motion, conservation of momentum tells us that a chain reaction of various factors will affect the collision result and how much speed is transferred to the ball. Usually it's most or all of it, so be restrained for closer putts.

Here's a great guideline to follow:

  • 1.5 MPH for a hole that's 3ft away
  • 2 MPH for a 6 ft hole
  • 3 MPH for a 12 ft hole

You've found your sweet spot if you can get repeated success and keep your velocity within 0.2 MPH difference each time. 

Backstroke Timing

The timing of a stroke is measured by the elapsed time to complete travel from point A to Point B, which in this case would be from the point of address to the top of the backswing. It's measured in seconds typically.

It's a measurement for the efficiency of force and we can compare it to our speed and length to see how effectively we gather momentum. 

Many claim that the backstroke and forward stroke should represent a tempo ratio of 2:1, meaning if the backswing takes 0.60 seconds to complete, the forward swing should take 0.30 seconds to complete. The total stroke time would sit at 0.90 seconds. 

Now this also means that the backswing should move back twice as fast as the forward swing moves, but the back and forward swing will typically be identical lengths. 

Getting the timing wrong will mean also getting the speed and/or length wrong, resulting in unpredictable impact and putts. Experiment to feel out what timing feels right. 

Many like to putt to beats and recommend trying something with 80-95 beats per minute to try and get the length, speed, and timing all aligned in a successful way. If you can repeat great results within 1/100th of each other consistently then you've got your groove.

Other Factors That Help Precision

Other controllable variables that will affect a swing and putting precision include angle, rotation, levelling, arc, and handy dandy putting guide tools, like the Pro Path Putting Mirror. These factors will affect ball spin, launching, and direction.

Angle/Rotation

The way the club head is twisted will ultimately affect the spin and directive path of the ball. Ideally it should stay pretty lined up with the direction your shoes and body face, without being too closed or open. The average pro keeps their club angled at an equal to forward stroke rotation of +- 0.0-0.5* open or closed. 

The Lie

The Lie angle represents the teetering of the golf head against the ground. Does it sit more on its heel tilted towards your feet or does it tip on its toes away from your body?

Ideally the whole base of the club head should be parallel and levelled with the ground, sending a straight shot. This typically ends up creating an angle of 70° between the ground axis and the length of the club rod (other axis) that meets your hands. You want the club itself to stay levelled at 0° at address and impact. This angle usually creates an arc in the backswing of about 15°, which is great form!

The Loft

The loft, or launch, angle controls the super subtle lift needed to get the ball over its tiny depression in the ground. It's the hovering amount and tilt towards the underbelly of the ball from the perpendicular plane (in relation to the ground). 

All of these factors must be adjusted to compensate for climate conditions (slope, stimp, etc) until you find what works for you. 

Training tools like the Back2Basics Pro Path Putting Mirror can help immensely with all of these calibrations. Not only does it allow for drills and pegged alignments to guide your stroke path, but it also reflects your form and alignment back to you.

Lines mark body alignments, stroke length measurements, and arc & stroke paths. You'll get the perfect swing and feedback every time. 

Check it out here

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