Plumb-Bob Putting: Does It Really Work?

I have this thing about plumb-bobbing and putting.

I don’t get it.

Some people say it’s bunk and other golfers swear by it. They plumb-bob everything. I even saw Karie Webb plumb-bob a putt of under two feet, for cryin’ out loud. So I thought, maybe she and they are on to something. I decided to give it as fair of a test as I could.

First I read all the stuff on the Internet about how it works (there doesn’t seem to be complete agreement on this point). Then I went to the range with an Acushnet Bulls Eye putter, built in the early 1960s. This putter has the advantage of being symmetrical from front to back, so that when it hangs down as a plumb bob it hangs down 90 degrees to the earth. Most putters to day are built asymmetrically, and do not hang straight down, which makes their use for plumb-bobbing suspect from the very start.

I also took a metal track that can be used to roll a ball to determine the true contour of the green. I found a 12-foot putt with three inches of break from left to right. This is a good test putt for this experiment, because many golfers looking at it would not be certain that this putt would indeed break to the right. The idea of plumb-bobbing is that the putter would make the direction of the break clear in cases like this.

I held the putter between my thumb and index finger and let it hang down. I lined up the shaft so it covered the hole and the ball. Then I closed my right (non-dominant) eye. The theory of plumb-bobbing is that the hole (in this case) will appear to the right of the shaft, meaning the putt will break to the right. No go. Both the hole and the ball disappeared behind the shaft (below).

I tried closing my dominant eye just to see what would happen. Both the hole and the ball appeared to the right of the shaft, which is what I expected (below).

My 13-year-old grandson was with me. He tried the same procedure and he couldn’t get it to work, either. With only his dominant eye open, the shaft covered the ball and the hole. There was no indication of break.

One caveat of plumb-bobbing is that it works if there is only one break in the line of the putt. When I rolled the ball down the metal track to find the direction and degree of the break, the ball rolled on a continuous curve to the right, so there was no problem on this point.

So, I tried, and I couldn’t get it to work, but I’m still open to the matter. If you plumb-bob and it works, please write a comment with a detailed description of how you do it and how you interpret the visual information you get.


8 thoughts on “Plumb-Bob Putting: Does It Really Work?”

  1. Isn’t it the case that You have to line up the left side of the shaft with the centre of the ball. Not just cover the whole ball with the whole of the shaft.

  2. I agree with – I just cannot understand how this geometry works – unless it depends in some way for the golfer to lean maybe?! I think the whole thing is just hoo doo myth.

  3. You didn’t do it right. Physics are undefeated. Perhaps the shaft is too thick to see the 3” break.

    But you need to crouch behind the ball, as close to it as you can get, to plumb bob. Then you need to line up the absolute bottom of the shaft of the putter over the ball, like where the shaft meets the head. Anchoring shaft to ball any other way throws off the physics.

    The shaft will aim on the line. I promise.

    1. I used an Acushet Bulls-Eye putter for the experiment. The diameter of the shaft at the clubhead is 3/8″, about as thin as a putter gets.

      I did what you said regarding covering the ball with the shaft. But there has to be a secondary alignment point. The question is, what is it? I could cover the ball and look 90 degrees from the hole, which would be silly. But it points out the need to know where the secondary alignment point should be. The putter shaft covers the ball and what else? Is it the hole? And if not, what?

      Or maybe I don’t know what I’m suppose to be looking at to see the 3″ break.

      Please advise.

  4. I have plumb bobbed puts for over 50 years and it works for me. This aim point so that your feet tell you the tilt is a joke. by the way after aim pointing golfers still use their finger to plumb bob.

  5. First make sure your putter is designed for plumb bobbing. Hold the putter and rotate to see the putter is hanging perfectly 90 degrees to the ground.

    1. The article says I used a Bulls Eye putter, which hangs exactly that way when you hold it so the putter points to the hole.

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