I just received and read your weekly putting tips article 'Launch it consistently on the greens' – for which I thank you – and was reminded of a question I've had in my mind.
The loft of putters is such to launch the ball out of the small depressions in the green. Then what accounts for the current fad of leaning the shaft forward and thereby reducing loft? If they feel that the ball rolls better with less loft why not just get a less lofted putter?
What's going on here?
Thanks for the comments about the weekly putting tips. If you are not concerned about your friends improving their putting, then you should suggest that they too sign up as a Frankly Friend to enjoy a weekly tip to help improve their putting.
Leaning the putter forward just before taking it back on a putt is called a ‘forward press’ and it does reduce the effective loft of the putter. The forward press is not more than about a half inch of movement at the grip end of the putter and this decreases the effective loft of the putter by a fraction over 0.8 of a degree. This has a minimal effect on the initial launch angle and spin rate of the putt and not enough to affect measurably the roll on the ball.
A well struck ball for a ten foot putt on a green speed of about 8 feet on the Stimpmeter needs to be traveling fast enough to go past the hole by about 12 inches if the hole was not there. On this putt, the ball will be launched off the ground out of the depression caused by surface undulations and its settlement below the tips of the grass blades. This putt will have back spin and then touch down on the green about four to five inches away from the launch spot and start sliding while trying to catch up to get forward (true roll) spin. The total distance of this launch/back spin/ slide/and forward catch up spin is approximately 17 to 19 inches away from the impact point.
The reduction of 0.8 of a degree, because of the forward press, will not significantly reduce the distance before true roll spin is achieved, as this will still be in the range above. It will affect the angle and back spin slightly when the ball is launched out of the depression. To be safe and consistent in launching the putt, it is suggested that a four degree lofted putter be used – which is most commonly designed the better putters today. This will take care of any forward press without measurably affecting the roll of the ball.
Gary, the forward press has no significant effect on the roll of the ball and its only benefit is in acting as a trigger mechanism to start the movement of the back stroke. Many golfers find it difficult to take the putter back on cue and need a prompt to do this. The slight forward press prompts us and is very successful in many cases at every level of play.
I hope this answers your question.
Frank 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