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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Bobby Locke's Hook Putting Technique (Video)

Since the legends are playing today at the Champions Tour event, I thought it might be fun to look at the unusual putting stroke of a past legend -- the "hooked stroke" of South African legend Bobby Locke. This first video simply shows one of Locke's putts over and over so you can see how he did it.

In this video you can clearly see that Locke uses a closed stance (his trailing foot is farther from his aimline than his lead foot is) and takes the club sharply inside the aimline.

In this video Gary Player both describes and demonstrates how Bobby Locke actually performed the hook putting stroke.

There are four things happening here, according to Gary Player.
  • The ball is placed just off the toe of the putter (not the center of the face).
  • For a straight putt he aims two feet to the far side of the hole. (This aim point changes, depending how far the ball is from the hole to begin with.)
  • He takes the club back to the inside of the aimline.
  • The putter travels only about six inches past the ball on the followthrough.
What Gary doesn't say -- but you can see when he sets up -- is that Locke also hooded the face of the putter. This means that he leaned the putter shaft forward at address so his hands are ahead of the putter face and therefore ahead of the ball. This is part of the key to this style of putting, because keeping the hands ahead of the putter face helps keep you from twisting the face open at impact. If you open the face at impact, the ball drifts off the aimline -- that is, you "wipe" the putt. By hooding the face, you get very solid contact between the ball and the face, which helps eliminate that.

Now there are a couple of other things you might notice while watching these videos that aren't mentioned -- Locke and Player both do them -- so let me explain them briefly.

One thing is that both players keep their hands very close to their thighs throughout the stroke. You have to do that in order to keep the face hooded. (It's also the reason that Locke had such a short followthrough.) If you let your hands drift away from your body, you'll tend to open the face. That's a bad thing because you get that "wiping" motion.

The other thing, which is related, is that it looks as if both men are using their shoulders a lot and pulling the putter through impact. But that's not what is happening; actually, it's the shoulders that are being dragged through the impact area. If you keep your hands close to your thighs as you make this stroke, your shoulders have to move like this because the hands and hips are moving together and the shoulders have no choice but to go along for the ride.

Although it sounds like a crazy way to putt, the hook stroke is actually a very sound approach. It's even possible to get good results by aiming directly at the hole and hitting the ball in the center of the face. That's because, depending on where you position the ball, hooding the face affects how the face closes at impact, and that affects where you aim. Hook putting is something you have to practice in order to get good at it.

But players like Locke have proven that it's a dependable way to putt. As I said, hooding the face creates very solid contact between ball and putter, and almost any putting style works well if it gives you solid contact. So don't be afraid to experiment with this style. You might be surprised at how well it works!

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