It’s May 2nd and it feels like October 2nd without any recent memories of a summer full of great shots and lucky bounces. Most golfers who really take the game seriously will reflect on years past and come up with an idea to improve their score that will motivate them for the entire season. As an instructor, I hear anything from consistency to flexibility, with the most frequent being longer and straighter off the tee. The best players have been saying recently that they want to improve their putting. It’s becoming a trend where the serious golfer is keen about improving their putting because they keep seeing guys rip 2 or 3 shots off their game by making a few more putts between 10 -15 feet. And doing it in a very short time! The 4 handicap is shooting par more often and the touring professionals are making an extra putt each round which is the difference between making and missing the cut.
The average putts per round on the PGA Tour is 29, which is the same on the Nationwide Tour and the LPGA Tour, so there isn’t a reason why the average golfer can’t get somewhere close to this… but it’s not what we are seeing. We’re seeing numbers anywhere from 33 to 45, so it makes you think what the difference is between the pros and the amateurs. This comparison is easier if we could discuss driving distance, fitness level, and ball striking skills, but with putting, we can only really say that pros would have a better ability to judge the speed because of the frequency of their play. When looking at the average length of each putt, the pros would hit the ball closer to the hole from the fairway, but after the amateur chips his on the green, the playing field is pretty balanced.
When I first looked into what putting was all about, I was swamped with posture positions and swing path theories – straight back and through or an arcing stroke. I used the SamPutt Lab and the TOMI system which are the leaders in measuring the path, tempo, and face angles, and after a few months of training, my stroke read “all green”, meaning I was in a top percentile in putting stroke dynamics. I still had 33 putts per round, however. I investigated the mental routines and how different thoughts put my intentions more on the ball rolling in the hole than making the ball roll on the grass. This helped and at the same time translated into my full swing where as a player and a coach, I encourage this type of game play mentality. I was still left without an answer when students would ask “…but, how much does it break?” and my answer was always – It’s a guess! A few years ago I was encouraged to look into an instructional program based on the predictive dark green line that we’re now seeing on PGA Tour TV coverage. This line can predict the roll of the ball given the correct speed from any point on the green so I figured that if they can do it with technology, there must be some way to apply it for the golfer, even at the most basic level. There is, and the creator Mark Sweeney calls it Aimpoint (www.aimpointgolf.com).
When you break down putting, there are so many different ways to make the ball roll with so many different styles of putters, making the putt really comes down to a few things. The Aimpoint concept begins with reading the slope of the ground around the hole, which sounds pretty basic at first, until you are able to identify where the straight putts are. There may be multiple straight putts, some downhill, some uphill, and some level, but after locating these by using more than just your eyes, you are much better able to find out whether your putt is uphill or downhill and breaks right or left. They have a tremendous way of predicting the break based on where you are in relation to these straight putts which makes golfers more at ease in respect to their decision on their read. We have heard that golf is all mental and that putting comes down to confidence but if the green read is only as good as your best prediction, wouldn’t you want to learn something that verifies what your gut is telling you?
There have always been 2 things to a putt – the distance and the direction. Some schools of thought say that its direction, because you can’t make a putt without the correct line. The other relies on the speed of the ball, and that the line is a product of how fast the ball rolls. Aimpoint glues these two concepts together when you learn about speed. There is an ideal speed that the ball must arrive at the hole in order to make the hole as wide as possible and there is a speed that even if the ball was hit right in the center of the cup, it will hop out because it was too hit too hard. This leaves some parameters for your distance or speed control and through their accurate green reading methods, the read, speed, and line seem to all come together. Aimpoint Schools are being held in Toronto for the first time this weekend, May 6-10, 2011 by TJ Yeaton, a young professional from North Carolina who has spent more time with the best putting minds than anyone I have met. With his help, there’s no reason why everyone can’t have 33 putts per round.