Now that we're finally rid of the dreaded 'straight back, straight through' putting stroke, can you tell me what regulates the path of the stroke? Is it the shaft plane or an area of the body? You might guess that I think it's a body position and the shaft follows. Your thoughts, please.
After watching thousands of putting strokes and correcting most of them, I've come to the conclusion that most teachers try too hard to define path, rather than allow the body to do what it is naturally dictated to by its physiology.
While conducting research at the USGA on the kinematic analysis of a full swing, I became convinced that in trying to find the natural and most efficient motion (by studying subjects with various and sometimes contradictory tutored versions of this motion), that I was not looking in the right places.
I was overly impressed with the swings of 4-year-old golfers who, given a club, were allowed to hit a ball without instruction. The weight shift and even the swing paths were impressive.This natural motion is what we should allow to develop and not try to change significantly.
When I started working on the putting stroke almost a decade ago, I decided to pursue the very basics of a good setup with the correct putter length. With these fundamentals in place, I was able to focus on letting the body do what it wanted to do naturally, with only minor tweaks, and avoid trying to control an unnatural path. This is the basis of my teaching philosophy and one which builds consistency and confidence into a putting stroke.
In most cases, the body wants to move symmetrically with a smooth, unencumbered rhythm. The difference between long and short putts is the length of the backstroke. Otherwise, the stroke and thought process is the same, especially on those 3- and 4-footers where those little voices start talking to you over the putt. Don’t listen to them and have confidence in your stroke; know that you're going to make it. This will result in consistency in the stroke and reduce the sources of error.
Tom, if you are in the Orlando area, I urge you to take the opportunity to visit our Putting Studio and take a putting lesson. I know you'll be very impressed with our holistic approach and will leave with confidence.
FrankFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org