Category Archives: putting

The Pop Putting Stroke

Some time ago, it might have been in the early 2000s, The Golf Channel showed old All-Star Golf episodes after hours.

These were matches filmed from the late 1950s to the early 1960s featuring two Tour pros in an 18-hole stoke play competition. The winner got $2,000 and the loser $1,000. Back then that was good money and they got everybody to appear.

I taped a lot of them.

There was one match with Bob Rosburg, who was recognized as one of the best putters of his time. He had something of a pop putting stroke, and was very good at it.

Since I’m wiling to try anything, I tried it out, had some fun with it, and forgot about it. But I came back to it recently.

My version of the stroke is to take the club back only a very short distance, two inches, and give the ball a firm rap. There isn’t much of a follow-through.

I make the stroke with my hands, but I have to be careful to make it a controlled stroke and not a quick stab or a jab.

Because the stroke is so short, all the power comes from the pop you give to the ball with the right hand (lefties, it would be your left hand). Most of your practice with this stoke is in learning how to make a smooth hit.

The major benefit of this stroke is that the backswing is so short that the face of the club never gets out of square. There’s no “swinging door” that has to get itself back to square at just the right moment. Performed correctly, the ball goes where you aimed the face, guaranteed.

The pop stroke works great in my back room on the deck carpet, and it works great on the course. The ball runs right to the hole and falls in. A lot.

I use it for makeable putts, of no more than about twelve feet, where direction is paramount. Longer than that, getting the distance right takes over so I switch to a normal sweeping stroke because it controls distance better than a quick pop.

So this is something for you to play with, something different to try. Can’t hurt, might help.

The Number One Approach Putting Drill

Hi, there!

You didn’t really think I was going away for good, did you? Heck, no.

I’m still here, but I will devote my efforts solely to making videos.

In fact, there is a new one on YouTube right now.

It’s called The Number One Approach Putting Drill, and it is. Spend fifteen minutes with this drill a couple of times a week and you will become a deadly approach putter.

Wristy Putting

Lately I’ve been trying a little putting stroke for short putts—under six feet. It’s a short, wristy stroke.

I figure the reason we miss short putts is that the putter wobbles at some point going back and forth before it gets to the ball. By then, the face is no longer aimed at the hole, and the ball slides by.

The key, then, is to keep the face square to the starting line at all cost.

So I started by taking the arms and shoulders out of the stroke. They can wander. Then I took the hands out of the stroke. They can twist and turn.

All that is left are my wrists. Just a slight bit of horizontal hinging is all I need to get the ball going. The putter goes back maybe thee inches and about that on the follow-through.

Since the only things moving are your wrists, and they can only hinge around a fixed axis (law of anatomy) there really isn’t much that can go wrong.

And with such a short stroke, the face stays square without having to deliberately hood the face going back, then undo that coming through.

If you have read the putt correctly and aimed the face square to the starting line, the ball will go in.

Now here’s the important part. This is not a pop stroke. It’s not a jab. It’s a relaxed stroke that takes the head back gently and brings it through gently, but with a little “hit” on the ball. Just a little. These are short putts, so you don’ t need much hit at all.

If you find yourself popping the ball anyway, hold the club very lightly. It’s hard to be poppy with such a light grip.

Try this on your carpet at home. Remember, wrists only, gentle back, gentle through, with a tiny bit of hit.

My Conception of Golf Technique

Over the years I have sprinkled certain themes throughout my posts. I say them over and over because they work—not only for me, but for everybody.

To save you the trouble of searching for what you might not know is even there, here it all is. This post summarizes my thoughts. If you do all these things (and there aren’t many) you will play better golf.

The Swing

Control your tempo by starting the club forward at the same speed with which you brought it up.

Do not let the suspension point move.

Your hands must lead the clubhead into the ball. Accomplish this by feeling the butt end of the handle moving leftward from the start of the forward swing through impact.

Short Game

With a chip and a pitch, think of sliding the sole of the club underneath the ball. Do not hit down on the ball.

With a chip, use one swing and several clubs to regulate distance.

With a pitch, use two or three lengths of swing (your choice) and several clubs to regulate distance.

Putting

Hit the ball on the sweet spot of the putterface.

Let the length of the backswing be the sole distance generator.

Technique is less important than mentally bearing down the hole.

An Anchored Putting Revival

Those of my readers who have been around for a few years remember my displeasure with the anchored putting ban. Search the tag “anchored putting” to read about that. There’s no point here in going over plowed ground.

You can still anchor your stroke, though, and I do it to great effect. I was doing it long before the ban. I putted then, and now, really well with it, and it is the foundation of my putting stroke.

What I do is bring my upper arms in contact with the sides of my torso. Light contact, not pressing. Pressing would make it almost impossible to move the putter. Just light contact so the upper arms stay in contact with the torso the whole time–slide over it, if you will.

That’s how I anchor my stroke. If my upper arms ride free in the air, they can go places they shouldn’t go to. By letting them slide freely in contact with my immovable body, they are guided along a predictable path consistently.

Combine that with a putting grip that does not allow my hands to wander, and I have the greater part of the stroke pretty well taken care of.

This anchoring gives me a mental boost, too. It creates a feeling of security that prevents any worry about moving the club from creeping in. I can concentrate on the only thing that is important–the ball going into the hole.

Anchoring works, or the USGA wouldn’t have outlawed it. This way of anchoring works, too, and it is legal.

For now.

Leave the Flagstck In or Take It Out?

The latest sideshow on the PGA Tour is watching the greatest golfers in the world play like they never heard there were any rules changes, and then saying how hard it is to remember to drop from knee-height instead of shoulder height.

Rocket scientists, they ain’t, apparently.

But rule causing the most discussion is the repeal of the two-stroke penalty for hitting the flagstick with a ball putted from the green.

That penalty was adopted in 1968. I started playing in about 1960, when you could leave the pin in, and no one seemed to mind. If you have access to old All-Star Golf videos you can see pros putting while the pin is still in and not being tended. I can’t find the reason why the rule was changed in 1968, but it’s history now.

The USGA alleges that keeping the pin in can speed up play. I would agree with that to some extent. When I play a solo round, I never take the pin out. It speeds up play considerably by not having to walk up to the pin, take it out, lay it (not drop it!) on the green, and walk back to my ball to hit my approach putt.

It’s true that for long approach putts, you get a better sense of how far away the hole is, but you got the same sense in the “old” days by having someone tend the pin. It’s just now you don’t have to take the time to ask. Just putt.

In a foursome, though, what if some players want the pin left in and others want it taken out? Catering to each player’s desires, which they have every right to insist on, could end up taking MORE time when putts get shorter.

As far as scoring goes, leaving the pin in helps you considerably in two ways.

First, it gives you something positive to aim at. Aiming at a hole is trying to hit something that isn’t there. In Better Recreational Golf, I discuss this point on pages 54-55.

Second, the pin acts as a backstop. This is where the controversy lies.

Recently, Edoardo Molinari, brother of 2019 British Open champion Francesco Molinari, did a series of experiments testing the effect of the pin on putts of different lengths and different speeds. His answer is, it depends.

As you might imagine, Dave Pelz also weighed in. He thinks you should always leave the pin in when you putt.

I agree with Pelz, mainly because my putts don’t approach the hole like a freight train. Any putt of mine that hits the pin will go in, not bounce away.

At what distance to the hole does it become silly to leave the pin in? I don’t think three feet is too close, especially if the putt is a downhill breaker. Again, having something positive to aim at makes a bigger difference than you might expect.

What I would suggest is to leave the little pin in the hole on the practice green and find out for yourself if you benefit or not.

Finally, if you play with someone who is a real stickler for leaving the pin in, and you think it’s being carried too far, show some respect and go along with it. It’s their golf, it’s how they want to play within the rules. What we really want to get out of golf is having fun with friends and making everyone glad that we played with them. Right?

[Update] See this site for some solid data on the subject–the verdict is, leave it in.

Consistent Putt Speed

We all know how critical the right speed is in reading a putt we think we can sink.  The speed of the putt refers not to how hard you hit the ball, but how fast it is rolling when it gets to the hole.  To be a consistent green reader, you have to be able to make that speed be the same regardless of how long the putt is.

Once you have picked out your favored speed, generally fast enough to let a missed putt roll from 12-18″ past the hole (but pick one distance, say 15″), and practice how to to make the ball approach the hole at that speed consistently.

The drill below shows you how to do that.

Look At the Hole When You Putt

I know, you’ve heard this from your kooky friends who are always trying something different.  You look at your target when you throw something, so why not look at the target when you putt?

Answer: because nobody putts that way.

Case closed.

Well, let’s give that idea one more look.

The “You look at the target when you throw something” argument is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough.  When you’re looking at the target, you brain is in constant contact with the target, and giving your body constant, up-to-date instructions on what to do to hit the target.

When you don’t look at the target, you’re relying on memory. It’s very recent memory, but still…

Try this.  Put a wastebasket maybe six feet away from you, wad up a piece of paper, look at the wastebasket and toss the paper inside.  Did you get it in?

Now toss paper at the wastebasket after you have taken a look then turned your head away so you can’t see the wastebasket.  How did you do?

I would bet that if you alternated ten times with each method, looking would produce a higher percentage of successes.

Can you feel the confidence disappearing when you turn your head?  That’s exactly what happens when we look at the ball instead of the hole when we stroke the putt.

You might not notice this, but tests have shown you keep your head and body very still when you’re looking at the hole.  You’re also less likely to flip the putter—have the left wrist break backwards on the forward stroke, a cardinal error.

You will hit short putts with more confidence because you are always in tune with the target.  I’m sinking more putts in the 5-8’ range as well.

Approach putting?  You’re going to get a much better feel for distance this way, especially if you’re using the TAP method [link].  Your mental computer is feeding you continuous up-to-date instructions, like I said before, taking much of the guess-work out of a 40-foot putt.

Now about the stroke.  Don’t worry, you won’t whiff.  With a little practice, you’ll learn that the putter comes back to the ball on the sweet spot.

The club path won’t get wacky on you if you extend your right forefinger down the shaft and pretend it’s a pencil that is drawing a straight line on the ground.  This is easier to do with a long putter than with a standard-length putter because you can extend your right arm fully.

Search you favorite web browser on this topic.  You will find lots of responses, from teaching professionals, who say this method helps you putt better.  You won’t find anyone who says it’s for the birds.

I don’t put things in these posts I haven’t tried and found to be helpful.  Play with this on the practice green of a hour, the play a few rounds looking at the hole when you putt.  You have nothing to lose but two-four strokes.

September 26 update: It is getting scary how much better this is working for me.