Sometimes a standard or cliché persists for a reason - because they're widely relatable and functional. There are some fundamental go-to golf/putting tips that just come through for us time and time again.
What Makes Something a Worthy Tradition?
Tradition refers to something so loved and effective that it's repeated consecutively. In golf, a more relevant term in relation to repeated fundamentals may be 'conventional', 'popular', or 'standard'.
Popular forms/posture, moves, swings styles, etc are easy to identify among professional players and we're here to break down why we think these firstly favored strategies stand the test of time so well.
The Popular Fundamentals
People like to stick with what works. A putter should seek a technique that's easily and comfortably repeatable, with the same consistent result, in order to achieve predictable success.
The trademark techniques commonly shared amongst the most golfers become the pattern of popularity. It can be such a benefit to explore why certain strategies and forms work so well for so many. Let's look at a few common fundamentals.
From shallow, to medium, to strong arcs, the range is visible in the golfing community, however we are seeing a tendency towards middle ground (15-17° arc swings on average). The ideal arc is typically set to realign perfectly with the target path straight to the hole at the time of impact.
The 15-17° arc popularity makes sense because it's the most naturally occurring and comfortable path, when the club shaft is held at a 70° angle, which is also the most common way to hold the club. The rotation upper spine's natural curve results in a slight back swing arc which corrects back straight on the forward swing. As long as the face of the club doesn't over-rotate during the twist, and hits the ball face-on at impact, that ball is goin' in.
This putting technique works symbiotically with the natural motion of the body and mirrors similar techniques to full swing golfing, so the athletes can tap into that well-practiced cell memory.
You can find Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw executing perfect moderate arc swings, with no putter head rotation issues.
The alternative method would be a 'straight-back-straight-through' pendulum type swing - also very popular - which appeals more to those who are more comfortable bent over more severely. When shoulders are positioned over top of the ball, the arc is reduced a lot. This technique has its advantages too, for those who prefer certain alignments. It's also easier to control club face rotation.
Both the moderate arc, and the SBST methods are very popular fundamentals. Choosing the right one depends on what fits your needs and body best. A good arc keeps everything in control and comfortable, so results are repeatable.
The swing itself is composed of fundamental parts: the tempo, the rhythm, the timing, the back and forward swing lengths, the speed, the arc, the club rotation, the impact angle, etc. These all work in relation to each other and directly affect each other. Some components are primarily important for distance control, and some for precision direction control.
The swing lengths affect the speed and force. If the backswing is too long, too much momentum can be incurred and cause too much force at impact. The tempo, rhythm, and timing also affect speed and force and must be balanced reasonably.
Most pros keep the following fundamental stats for a 3 foot hole:
- 4.5 inch backswing length
- 1.5 MPH speed at impact
- 2:1 tempo of back to forward swing time
6 foot hole:
- 6 inch backswing length
- 2 MPH speed at impact
- 2:1 tempo.
The club rotation, Lie/Loft angle, etc are commonly kept as neutral as possible. These tendencies work best for most, but not all. Many people have to compensate for uncommon tendencies and therefore take on unconventional swing approaches.
Club angles refer to Lie, Loft, and face angle (open or closed/left or right).
This angle is the toe (tip) of the club head and the bum of it (the end attached to the handle shaft) in relation to the ground. Does it sit bum on green, toes in the air, or tip-toed teetered on the green?
When we look at camera verbiage (rotate/roll, pan, and tilt), it's the roll. Most golfers have success with neutral (90° with ground, both ends equally flat on green).
The loft is the 'tilt' angle of a camera. It refers to the angle of the face itself and whether the club wedges under the ball at all to create a minor launch effect (to compensate for small depressions below ground level at tee). The chosen club angle usually correlates to speed. Most pros go for 1-5° loft angles on their clubs.
This is the 'pan' movement of the camera left or right. It's surely the most crucial component to staying along the stroke path. The point of impact should line the face up to the center of the ball perpendicular to the straight target path. Any slight angle will result in missing the hole to one side.
Most golfers want the center of the face to hit the center of the ball squared with the stroke path/hole (neutral). Avoiding unnecessary club rotation (especially during acceleration and arc during the swing) is key to accuracy with the aim.
Form is made up of general posture and specific alignments. It is the angling, curving, and symmetry of the body in relation to itself, the green, the target line, hole, and/or the guide (putting mirror markations, like those on the Pro Path Putting Mirror).
The most important alignments, which usually coincide with everything else following suit, are shoulder and eye alignment. If there's a bad arc, for example, it's almost definitely due to bad posture.
Shoulders control how much the abdomen twists away or towards the stroke path (open or closed stance). This can affect the finishing direction of the arc on impact, causing a veering to the right or left of the desired path.
It's commonly agreed that having the body squared away perpendicular to the hole (shoulder lines parallel with the stroke path) is most natural and successful. When the shoulders are level with each other (neutral), the forearms tend to be too (which hold the club at the preferred angle for the most controlled swing). The knees and feet also tend to square up with the shoulders.
Eyes help us best when they sit almost above/'inside' the ball, but slightly closer to our feet (not too bent over). They should be levelled like your shoulders, with no head pan/rotation towards the hole or to the other side (neutral).
Most ideal alignments are 0° or 90° to the stroke path, but most importantly, they're comfortable. Set up is incredibly important, so most golfers find the most successful set-up is the one that's repeatable.
Training guides, like the Pro Path Putting Mirror, are designed with these favored practices in mind. They're perfect for helping you align yourself symmetrically, arc reasonably, swing in-line, and angle perfectly. Pegs can be set up to outline the desired stroke/arc path and to alert you to club rotations (using gates), so your body can build good habits for repeatable success. Markers help you with length and ball positioning as well.
The mirror itself reflects your posture to you so you can correct misalignments in real time. It's an invaluable fundamental that never goes out of style.