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Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Quick Workshop on Brandt Snedeker's Putting

Nick Faldo mentioned an unusual fact about Brandt Snedeker's putting while GC was doing early coverage of the WGC-Bridgestone. I thought it might be fun to see how you could implement that fact into your own putting.

I've got an article from on Brandt's game in general and a putting video from YouTube that was originally on I'll add Faldo's note and my own hint at the end of this post. (The photo below is from the article.)

Snedeker putting, looking back from the hole

As you no doubt know, Brandt uses a short pop stroke rather than the longer stroke most players use. And Brandt refers to it as a "throwback" stroke, because it's much closer to the short but fluid stroke of a Bobby Jones than the supershort stroke that Billy Casper made famous. Here's Brandt's in-depth description and demonstration of his putting stroke.

Some notes from the video:
  • The most important fundamental of a pop stroke is that the head moves more than the butt end of the putter, and the head moves first in the backstroke. That's different from the modern stroke, where everything moves together.
  • Brandt's trailing hand controls the putter, and he does cock his wrist in his backswing. His lead hand basically helps steady the putter, although he says he feels that both hands are making the stroke.
  • 90% of his practice putts are from five feet and in. He putts with a speed that will take the ball three or four feet past the hole if he misses, so this way he never worries about the comeback putt.
There's plenty of good instruction from him in this video if you want to use a pop stroke.

The article has five tips from Brandt (from tee to green), and the last two focus on making five-footers and 15-footers. The main points are:
  • Five-footers are more about mechanics; 15-footers are more about feel.
  • His stroke has virtually NO followthrough after the ball is hit.
  • He has a strong lead hand grip to help keep the clubface from closing at impact. He wants to keep the face square as long as possible.
Now we get to what Nick Faldo said on GC. He asked Brandt about his grip pressure, on a scale from 1 to 10. Faldo figures the average putter would put his pressure at around 5. He was shocked when Brandt said his grip pressure was a 1, which means he is barely putting any pressure at all on the handle! This is particularly interesting since a pop stroke puts a lot more force into the swing.

I've mentioned in other posts that I've been studying classic swings, and I can tell you that the grip in those swings is different from a modern swing. What Brandt says matches up very well with what I've been learning, and I'll tell you one simple way to make a light grip pressure work in your putting stroke -- whether it's a pop stroke or not.

The modern approach is to grip more tightly with the last two or three fingers of the lead hand, which puts the pressure at the butt end of the handle. For a throwback stroke like Brandt's, you want to put the pressure in the thumb and forefinger of the trailing hand, which puts the pressure down closer to the bare shaft. If you do this, you'll find that it stabilizes the handle so much that you can simply use the friction of your palms and fingers to keep the handle in place!

Now take a good look at that photo above. See how the forefinger on Brandt's lead hand overlaps at least two of the fingers on his trailing hand? That makes it even easier to keep the friction against the handle. I don't do it because it doesn't feel particularly comfortable to me -- I just overlap one finger, which is the traditional way -- but I've found that I have no trouble using an extremely light grip pressure as long as I put a bit more pressure in the thumb and forefinger of my trailing hand.

And if you think about it, that's exactly where you put the pressure if you just grip a golf ball in your fingers and throw it underhand, which is exactly the feel this pop putting method was intended to duplicate when the early pros first began using it.

So there you have it -- a quick workshop on the Snedeker pop stroke. Sometimes the old ways are still pretty good.

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