Do you struggle with short putts? Top 100 Teacher Marius Filmalter has a drill to help you get comfortable over those knee-knockers.
Do you struggle with short putts? Top 100 Teacher Marius Filmalter has a drill to help you get comfortable over those knee-knockers.
When I was a young golfer, the prettiest putting stroke in the game belonged to Ben Crenshaw. Gentle Ben's graceful motion stood out at a time when the PGA Tour's practice putting greens were a mix of leftover strokes from the 1950s and '60s, as well as more modern arm-and-shoulder moves developed on faster greens. Many junior golfers -- including me -- copied his more erect posture, with his lead arm and heel-shafted Wilson blade putter staying in-line through impact. My version of his stroke didn't last more than a couple years, and most of the other players doing their Ben impressions didn't amount to much either. But one stroke did, and it won a Tour event as an amateur. It belonged to Phil Mickelson.
Since that 1991 win in Tucson, Phil Mickelson's putting stroke has been a favorite of golfers and TV analysts. Early on, Phil seemed to me to be doing a Crenshaw impersonation on the greens. It wasn't an exact copy, though. The subtle differences in his early-career stroke and Crenshaw's were partly due to Phil's more aggressive game and nature as well as Lefty's more bent-over posture at address (he has about five inches on Ben). As arm-and-shoulder dominated as Crenshaw's stroke was, Mickelson's was even less wristy. As "up the lead arm" as Ben's impact was, Phil had even more forward hands. But Phil made lots of putts from all over the greens, and the wins piled up. Eventually, like many champions before him, his problems came on the short ones.
Phil has worked on his stroke with a few putting coaches, most notably Dave Pelz and Dave Stockton. He's had the short ones under control at times and struggled at others. In 2012 Mickelson finished 10th in the Tour's new Strokes-Gained Putting category. Out of 191 ranked golfers, that's an enviable position. Coupled with his length off the tee and magical short game, Phil's putting stroke gave him the chance to challenge any time he teed it up.
That success aside, golfers in their 40s are always looking to putt like they did in their 20s. And Phil is no exception.
He has recently experimented with the claw grip and this week in Houston, Mickelson used a fat, oversized grip (pictured). Here's what he's trying to accomplish with both of those oft-attempted variations.
A claw grip puts your lower arm and hand in a different location at address than a conventional grip does. Your lower arm is more parallel to the ground, which places that wrist in a spot that encourages some flow and wrist-straightening through the ball. For someone whose stroke has gotten stiff or stale, it can add some new and improved feel. Also, taking what feels like a radical new grip on the club helps your brain forget the old stroke, and sometimes a little putting amnesia can go a long way.
Using a putter with a fat grip can often limit small wrist movements in both the vertical and horizontal planes of the stroke. Mickelson says he likes the feel this grip gives him, and perhaps that feel recalls the more arm-dominated stroke of his youth. I've seen golfers use both the claw grip and a fat grip at the same time, although last weekend in Houston Phil appeared to have abandoned the claw style in favor of a conventional putting grip.
Weekend golfers are always looking for an edge on the greens, and PGA Tour players are no different. Maybe the fat grip will help Phil on the slick, sloped greens of Augusta, a place he has won before and would love to win again.
Brian Manzella is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher.
(Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
One of the most common questions I get asked by amateurs and professional golfers is:
“How do I become more consistent?”
That’s what we all strive for!
Answer: “The proper alignment will most definitely help with that!”
The proper hip and feet alignment in the full swing can make the difference between hitting your intended target or a ball that sails off into the bushes.
Putting is an entirely different animal.
In the putting stroke, your feet and lower body don't play a major role in the quality or direction of your putts. Why? Because the lower body is absolutely stationary during the entire motion. Just take a look at some of the greatest putters of the past few decades...
Jack Nicklaus: Always set up open to the target on his putts.
Tiger Woods: Prefers to keep everything square.
Gary Player: More of a closed stance; with his right foot pulled back.
Although they had different putting styles, all of them were phenomenal putters because they all kept their lower body quiet.
When you make a proper putting stroke, your lower body DOES NOT MOVE. All of the "movement" is made with your upper body, namely your core muscles.
More to the point, it is your shoulders and your forearms that need to be aligned properly to the target line, not your feet and lower body. This is critical to making a good putting stroke and solid contact with the ball.
For example, if your shoulders and forearms are pointing to the left, your stroke path will be out-to-in, resulting in a lot of pulled putts that miss left. This is a common mistake amongst amateurs and professional golfers alike.
Conversely, if your shoulders and forearms are pointing right, you'll typically make a more in-to-out stroke that could result in missing putts to the right.
Needless to say, neither one of these positions offers the best chance for sinking putts.
To be more consistent on the putting green, properly align yourself to the intended target line. In the case of a breaking putt, your target line is the apex point: the point in the path that the ball will begin to break toward the hole. Once you are aligned correctly to this point, all you need to do is focus on making a good stroke with the proper speed and everything else should fall into place.
So how do we know when we're properly aligned?
Here's a great drill to help you establish that...
1. Set up over the ball for a normal putt.
2. Raise your forearms at a right angle to your hips, like you were holding your arms out to catch something that was falling.
3. Balance the putter on your forearms.
The shaft should be pointing directly to your target line and where you want to start the ball.
Do this drill consistently on the practice green and you'll start seeing fast improvement on how well your putts hold the line.
So let's review:
The position of you lower body doesn't matter in your putting stroke. You can set up open, closed, or square...whatever is most comfortable to you.
The key to properly aligning yourself is getting your shoulders and forearms aligned with your target line. And if you're facing a breaking putt, you need to align yourself with the apex point of the putt.
Focus on getting your shoulders and forearms in alignment, and soon you'll start watching more of your putts find the bottom of the hole.
Marius Golf introduces a free video series One Minute to Better Putting. Click Here to have them delivered to your inbox.
The four basic elements of putting to master before you actually start swinging the club are: grip, ball position, alignment and posture. In my previous article I spoke about grip, now we will discuss the ball position.
Although I discuss these basics elements in separate blog posts, they are interdependent and, more importantly, they have a profound influence on each other. For example, a good grip will most probably promote a correct and natural posture. That in turn will affect your alignment and ball position.
The ball position in putting will primarily influence:
1. Speed at which the ball will leave the clubface after impact. The professionals talk about “smash factor.” Without getting too complicated, smash factor is the efficiency in which the energy is transferred from clubface to ball. The more efficient the transfer, the less effort we exercise. To achieve this, we want to limit the influence of outside agencies affecting the speed of the ball such as gravitational indentations.
2. Roll of the ball. We all strive for the ball to roll end over end. In other words, the ball should travel on its merry way without the influence of spin. “The ball should leave the clubface in balance,” no backspin, no sidespin and no forward-spin. Tour players refer to this as the ball “hugging” the green. When you watch good putters roll the ball, the ball looks heavy. It’s a slow train coming, and nothing on the green could make it veer off course. That is an awesome feeling!
Now the question remains, how do we do that?
Important to note is that when at rest, the ball creates an indentation on the green due to gravity. In simple terms, the ball lies in a hole. And while this hole might not be a major factor, it could affect both the speed and roll of the ball. Our research shows that the loft of the putter combined with a slight ascending blow, will “lift” the ball out of this indentation without any side effects.
There is another reason why we should hit slightly up on the ball.
Let’s talk physics! Remember what we learned at school: “For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.” It still holds true today. For instance, if you want to hit the ball over a tree with your wedge, make sure to hit down on the ball. The same thing is true with your chipping. Strike the ball with a descending blow to eliminate those shots that skull over the green and end up in the water. Hit down to get the ball up!
In putting, it is exactly the opposite. We don’t want the ball to go up. In fact, we want the ball to stay down, hug the green and roll end over end. Therefore, just hit slightly up on the ball.
How do we achieve this? By placing the ball left of your nose for right handed golfers. The nose is normally the bottom of the putting arc for most people. Therefore, placing the ball just left of that will ensure an ascending blow; hence getting the law of physics on your side.
1. Set up over the ball as you normally would, with the ball directly below your left eye.
2. Now take another ball with your right hand, place it in front of your left eye, and drop it.
3. The second ball should fall right on top of the first one. If it does, you know your ball is in the optimal position.
Marius Golf introduces a free video series One Minute to Better Putting. Click Here to have them delivered to your inbox.
There is a saying: "You will never find a good golfer with a bad grip, but you might find a bad golfer with a good grip." Although that is very true, I don’t think the “type of grip” is all that important in putting. I have observed too many different types of successful putting grips on the PGA Tour to think that one is better than the rest. For instance: we have the popular reverse overlap grip, the overlap, the cross-handed, the praying hands, the claw, and a few more that I'm not even sure have a name yet.
The only two things important in putting are to control the 1. Direction (line) and 2. Distance (speed) you hit the ball. In other words, to hit the ball where you THINK you are aiming with the correct speed. A good grip will significantly enhance your chances to achieve these goals.
For most amateurs, I recommend the standard putting grip. It's simple and easy to learn.
The key to the standard grip is getting the putter into the palms of your hands--not the fingers, like you would in a full-swing grip.
And that means, on your left hand, instead of the grip coming at a slight downward angle across the bottom of your fingers and the heel pad resting on top of the club, the grip comes almost straight up and down through your palm, with your THUMB pad on top of the putter.
See how that works?
That's the first basic of more effective putting--getting the grip in the palm of your hand as opposed to your fingers to maximize your feel and minimize your misses.
The second basic is the actual grip itself. While you may prefer to use a ten-finger, overlap, or interlock grip in your full swing, using these grips for your putting stroke can lead to overactive hands, inconsistent results and poor play.
That's why I recommend the "reverse overlap" to most of my students. In the "reverse overlap," the index finger of your left hand overlaps your right hand and rests comfortably between the ring and pinkie finger of your right hand.
Now, when you grip the putter with both hands, the putter grip should run comfortably through both palms with your left thumb sitting on top or slightly right of the putter and fitting snugly into the lifeline of your right hand.
This position helps to keep the hands quiet, while also combining them as one unit to give you maximum control over your club.
So how do you know if you have a good putting grip or not?
* For right-handed putters, take a hold of your putter with your left hand like I outlined above, with the grip intersecting the palm and your thumb pad on top.
* Now simply remove the pinkie, ring, and middle fingers, with only your thumb and trigger fingers on the club.
Your putter should balance nicely in the trigger finger and thumb pad, with the weight evenly distributed. You should feel as if you have complete control over your entire putter. Because, in a sense, you do.
If you can perform this little test with your putter in your hand, you should be good to go. Simply bring in your right hand so your left thumb fits comfortably into your right thumb pad, line up your putt, and make your stroke.
So let’s review the characteristics of a good putting grip:
1. Both hands should be in a natural and relaxed position…tension is “poison” for feel.
2. The palms should be facing each other. That encourages the hands to work together.
3. The palms should be square to the clubface. Square is significantly determined by the palm of your right hand (for right-handed golfers).
4. Both thumbs should be on the grip. We exercise most feel through the thumbs.
5. The grip should be more in the palm of the hands….very similar to driving a car. You want your hands able to react to “feel” but not be overactive.
6. The shaft of the putter should be an extension of the forearms.
Follow these simple grip guidelines, and you should find yourself sinking a lot more putts and getting a lot less frustrated on the greens.
Marius Golf introduces a free video series One Minute to Better Putting, Click Here to have them delivered to your inbox.
When the USGA and the R&A proposed a ban on anchored putters, many people wondered what effect it would have on players like Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Adam Scott, who have had great success with anchored putting.
But before we can answer that question, we need to look at why so many players were using long putters and belly putters in the first place.
It came as no surprise to me that players who anchored the putter won three of the last five majors. So why did anchoring become so popular? Here are some of the reasons:
1. Swinging the club around a fixed point ensures a constant axis.
2. The putter will return to the same position as at address, thereby eliminating variables such as plane angle, shaft angle and delofting.
3. Ensures a consistent setup: the same ball position and shaft angle every time.
4. Reducing the effects of the yips (involuntary twitching of the hands during impact).
So why haven't more players made the switch?
Our research has shown that the type of putter you use will have very little effect on your stroke. It will change your feel but not the mechanics of the stroke! The only players who really benefit from anchoring are those suffering from the yips. That is why very few players, if any, voluntarily switched to the longer putters. They were forced to use alternate methods because of their affliction.
So will there be a way back for yippers after Jan. 1, 2016? Whether PGA Tour players or recreational golfers, can these players return to using a traditional-length putter?
Absolutely. Here are the adjustments anchored putters need to make, from Keegan Bradley to the guy in your foursome who started using the belly putter last year:
1. Figure out why you went to the long putter. There could be a host of reasons: bad technique, poor setup, catastrophic acceleration through the ball, straight-back-and-through stroke path, the yips...the list go on. Once you know the reason, consult with your golf teacher on a strategy to overcome the issue.
2. If your stroke is twitchy, yippy or wobbly through impact, change your grip. Our research has shown that the claw grip or any variation thereof is an effective way to diminish the effects of the yips. The grip change will restrict the movement of the hands during the stroke, especially the right hand for those playing the game right-handed. When the hands take over, the results become erratic and unpredictable.
3. If you are not allowed to anchor the putter, why not anchor something else? There is no rule against anchoring your elbows! In fact, good putters all control their elbows. A shining example is Jack Nicklaus. He anchored his right elbow to his side and chalked up 18 major wins!
4. The core muscles should be the motor -- the engine -- of the stroke. The more those core muscles are involved, the less the hands will take over. You don’t have to be a physiotherapist to figure out which are your core muscles. Just get a club behind your back and turn the shoulders around the spine, like you would when warming up for your golf game. If you can do that, you are using your core muscles.
Finally, for those who changed to a longer putter because of the trend, remember: good putters understand that it is the Indian and not the arrow. Changing putters might give you a burst of much needed confidence in the short term, but a sound putting stroke with proper technique is much more reliable. That's true for PGA Tour pros, and for you too.
[PHOTO: Keegan Bradley at the Bridgestone Invitational in August 2012. Getty Images]
I’ve been very busy this year and I apologize since it’s been a while since I’ve attended to my blog. Today I would like to talk about Kevin Na. Check out Kevin's incredible 2011 season putting stats:
9th - strokes gained-putting
8th - total putting
4th - putting average
2nd - 1 putt percentage
1st - putts per round
Na only hit 61.04 percent of greens in regulation (180th on the PGA Tour), which tells me he made a lot of par-saving putts. What does he contribute a big part of this putting success to? Something I’m a huge advocate of: tempo. As Kevin puts it in an interview with the "Inside the PGA Tour": “I just try to feel the speed. For me to feel the speed is all about tempo. I feel like I putt my best when I have a good tempo and it’s the same tempo every time over and over.”
Kevin says that his putting pre-shot routine is always the same, within a few seconds. Unfortunately for him, some changes in his full swing caused his already slow routine to become even slower and inconsistent with a few back-offs thrown in, too. These problems clearly leaked into his putting stroke, and Kevin missed a three-footer at the Players for the first time in more than 1,000 attempts. Let’s hope Kevin can get rid of the demons.
The tip to take home? Hit putts of different lengths with the same tempo, changing only the size of your swing. To calibrate that tempo, check out my previous video blog in which I explain how hitting putts with the same length stroke and same tempo will go the same distance: WATCH DRILL HERE.
[Associated Press photo of Kevin Na at 2012 Players Championship]
As the year winds down, I get to spend more time at home in Dallas. During this time, I work with some local pros and touring pros who fly in to see me. This is time well-spent, as I can give my players a more in-depth analysis of their putting strokes, and I have the time to make sure that the changes are being made effectively. I also get to work and play with the members of my home course, Old American Golf Club in north Dallas. A few members asked me about Sergio Garcia’s recent success with the claw grip, and I’m sure many of you are wondering if the claw is right for you.
In a previous post, I discussed the role of the grip in your putting stroke. Unfortunately, there is no perfect grip. My research shows little to no correlation between great putters and a specific putting grip. To improve your putting immediately, make sure your shoulders and forearms are square to the intended target line. If you’re lined up square to the target line, you’ll have the best chance to be square at impact with whatever grip you use.
One of my most successful students who tried the claw grip was Mark O’Meara. Back in late 2003, Mark’s game was excellent, but he was struggling on the greens. His swing instructor Hank Haney and I persuaded Mark to try the claw grip. In 2004, he won the Dubai Desert Classic against a very strong field, including Tiger Woods.
Sergio switched to the claw approximately a year ago in Dubai. When you make drastic changes like this, sometimes you don’t feel comfortable with the change or you don’t think the improvement you’re seeing is enough of a pay-off for making the change. In Sergio’s case, he persevered with the claw. He stated in an interview that even though he made good putts with a regular grip, he hit fewer bad ones with the claw. His putting stats might suggest otherwise, but Sergio knows what to look for in a putting stroke. At the Byron Nelson Championship in May, Sergio said, "If the way I putt is with confidence, even if I miss them, I can still live with that.”
After showing some flashes of brilliance through the year, he only came into winning form recently, with back-to-back victories in Europe at the Castello Masters and the Andalucia Masters. What’s the moral of the story? Sometimes it takes a while to get results with big changes. Don’t give up!
Tip: When using the claw grip, make sure the grip pressure in your right hand is very light. Also, for arc putters, ensure that the right elbow (for a right-handed player) is tucked in next to your core. A floating right elbow will make the stroke arms-y, instead of engaging the core muscles, and can lead to a straight-back, or even outside-the-line takeaway on the backstroke.
[PHOTO: Sergio Garcia at the Qatar Masters in February. EPA]
This week I am checking in from Midland, Texas, at the WNB Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour. I have several students out on the Nationwide including Matthew Goggin [pictured], Matt Weibring, Matt Every and Danny Lee so I try to get out to at least three or four events every year.
During tournament weeks, the mindset of my Tour pro students falls into one of two camps. I have named these mindsets “preservation” and “improvement.” (For the record, there is a third mindset that I refer to as “Leave me alone, Marius! I am putting great,” but that does not really need to be discussed.)
In “preservation” mode, the player is comfortable with his current putting stroke and is seeking my advice as merely an avenue to boost their current confidence or possibly looking for a small swing thought or putting trigger to help them continue to roll their putts well. In “improvement” mode, the player is willing to make changes because what they are currently doing or feeling with the putter is not correct.
On Tuesday, I spent some time with Will Claxton addressing a putter-path issue that was significant enough for Will to ask my advice. Will was cutting across the ball, which makes it very difficult to be a consistently good putter. We worked to get Will to feel more like he was hooking his putts, which he was able to do in a relatively short period of time.
I understand many of you will read this and think, “Thanks for writing about the obvious, Marius.” OK, but stop and think about your own game. I know that many of you have been struggling with your game as you were about to play in your club championship or maybe a state tournament. So what should you do? Well, most of you will reach out to your local PGA professional, which is what I would recommend 100 out of a 100 times, BUT only if you approach that lesson with the correct mindset.
What do I mean by “correct mindset”? Evaluate the severity of your current level of struggle. This is the time to be honest with yourself. If you are a good player who is maybe missing more fairways to the left than normal, approach your PGA professional with a “preservation” mindset. That means you aren’t making a major change but something simple, such as weakening your grip or maybe changing your alignment. These changes can be made without damaging your confidence.
On the other hand, if you are struggling greatly with your putting before a big event, you need to decide whether you have enough time to feel comfortable playing under pressure after making a major technical change. If you are certain that a change must be made to give yourself the best chance to succeed, then approach your change under an “improvement” mindset.
Thanks for all the emails, folks. Please keep them coming to email@example.com. Also, you have only a couple more weeks to order the Automatic Putting Package for the promotional rate of $59.95. After Oct. 15, it will return to $99.95. Please visit mariusgolf.com for more details.
Until next time…cheers!
(Photo: Ron Metz/Icon SMI)
I received more emails regarding my last blog post on the belly putter and the long putter than I have for any other topic discussed in this blog. Most of the emails were angry because people thought I was anti-belly/long putter. Allow me to clear the air because I am neither pro- or anti-long/belly putter. I support 100 percent whatever putter helps you make more putts and ultimately shoot better scores. It doesn’t matter if that putter is a 34-inch Scotty Cameron, a 43-inch TaylorMade Ghost or a shovel you found in your garage. If you still don’t believe me, consider the fact that I have been working with tour players for more than 20 years and I have never accepted a club endorsement deal. The reason for that decision has not been lack of opportunity — rather, it is that I pride myself on trying to remain independent from endorsing one particular brand or another.
This week’s question comes from Kai in Tokyo, Japan. Kai asked me to explain proper ball position with your putter and how to make sure that this position is correct if you have no one else to watch you putt. I tell all my students that correct ball position is crucial for the ball to leave the clubface in balance.
What does that mean? When a ball is placed on the green it lies in a gravitational indentation. To get the ball out of the indentation and to get the ball rolling it is best practice to strike the ball just below the equator with an ascending blow.
So how do you get your putter to strike the ball below the equator with an ascending blow? You need to make sure your ball position is just left (for right-handed putters) of the bottom of the putting arc. To determine the bottom of your putting arc simply begin taking practice strokes with the putter hovering over the ground. As you continue to make strokes, slowly lower the putter until the putterhead brushes the grass beneath it. The point just left of where your putter touched the grass is your ideal ball position.
Another option in testing ball position is to take your address position over the ball, and then take another golf ball, place it over your left eye (if you are right-handed — over your right eye if you are left handed) and drop it to the ground. If your ball position is correct, the golf ball dropped from your eye should land on top of the ball you addressed on the ground. If the dropped ball misses the ball on the ground, simply adjust your ball position back or forward in your stance until the ball you are dropping from your eye hits the ball on the ground.
Now before I leave you for another week I thought I would help slow down the number of bandwagon jumpers. You know who you are. The folks who abandoned your trusty conventional-length putter 40 minutes after Keegan Bradley made his putt on the 17th hole for birdie at Atlanta Athletic Club. Before you write off the conventional-length putter like the persimmon wood or the 2-iron, consider that the top five putters in the PGA Tour’s Stroke Gained-Putting statistic all use traditional putters.
Thanks for all the emails folks! Please keep them coming to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you have only a couple more weeks to order the Automatic Putting Package for the promotional rate of $59.95. After Sept. 15, it will return to $99.95. Please visit mariusgolf.com for more details.
Until next time…cheers!