ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some Thoughts on Upswing Putting

You may remember a post I did about putting with negative loft. I'm on record as being "less than enthusiastic" about the concept, primarily because it doesn't allow a lot of room for error and consequently requires a lot of practice. I'm not against practice -- we all need some -- but I see no reason to use techniques that require hours of practice when a much simpler technique will do.

During the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic, we were treated to an excellent example of this when Stacy Lewis 3-putted the 17th from around 3 feet or so. Judy Rankin noted that Stacy is an upswing putter -- that is, she likes to catch the ball when the putter is swinging up into the finish -- and that this sometimes caused a problem. This past week, that problem made her miss. (I'll come back to this in a moment.)

Nicklaus putting at impactThe reasoning for upswing putting is similar to the negative loft concept. The idea is to create overspin on the ball, thus getting a smoother roll that (supposedly) tracks to the hole better. Golf Digest did an article some time ago that says Jack Nicklaus did the same thing -- and we can trust it since the late Jim Flick, who became Jack's instructor after Jack Grout died, wrote the article. As you can see in the photo at the right, Jack accomplished this by leaning the putter shaft forward at impact, swinging upward as he did so, and not letting the club head pass his hands until the ball was long gone.

Now, given how legendary Jack's putting is, why would Judy Rankin say this technique is problematic and why would I discourage you from using it?

Simply put, unless you do it the way Jack did, you won't become a legendary putter. You'll find yourself struggling at times, the way Stacy does.

You see, as Judy explained, when Stacy strikes the ball on the upswing, the path of her stroke is beginning to curve around her body and her hands start to close the putter face. As a result, she can get unpredictable pulls that miss the cup... unless she consciously holds the face open, which can cause a push.

How does Jack avoid this problem?
  • He addresses the ball in a much more bent over position than Stacy does. In fact, if you look at the photo, you can't help but notice how much this looks like Michelle Wie's tabletopping technique. What this does is make Jack and Michelle's stroke paths go less around their bodies than Stacy's; instead, the path is much more of a straight line.
  • The Golf Digest article also notes that Jack kept his lead arm and elbow close to his side. This minimizes the chance that the hands will rotate because they stay in the same relationship to his body all the way through the stroke. If his arm moved away from his side and past his body, his trailing hand would force his forearms to twist.
And if you check out my post on Wie's technique, you'll see that Michelle does both of these things.

So if you want to use upswing putting, you need to do it like Jack and Michelle, not Stacy. Otherwise you're adding unneeded complexity to your putting stroke. But be prepared to put in some extra practice time because this isn't the most natural way to putt. It took Michelle a year or more to get where it looks natural when she does it, and I imagine it took Jack a while as well.

If it was easy, everybody would do it!

No comments:

Post a Comment