by Geoff Mangum
Geoff Mangum's PuttingZone Instruction
ZipTip: Stroke: Make a Beautiful Stroke
Once you have oriented the putterface behind the ball, your targeting tasks for direction are completed, and with a sense of distance and speed in mind, the only thing left to concern yourself with is making a beautiful stroke.
Jack Nicklaus and others have long recommended making a "commitment" to the line. What does that mean? I think I have a fresh approach that clears this up a little.
Targeting occurs in reading the green, reading the putt, picking spots, seeing the break, seeing the break point, calculating the distance, picking the speed, aligning the body at setup for the stroke, and so on. But in the FINAL analysis, it all comes down to the way your putterface is pointing. That is, of course, so long as your stroke goes the same way. If your putter impacts the ball in the stroke with the same orientation at address and while moving squarely along the line the putter is facing, then everything in your targeting comes down to the putterface orientation behind the ball at address. Commit to the stroke that is compelled by the putterface orientation, when you pull the trigger. That's what you're watching at the start of the stroke, so make use of it.
To do that, you look down at the putterface behind the ball and take stock of whether the sweetspot is directly behind the dimple you intend to hit, and whether the flat surface of the face is square or perpendicular to the line that connects up the sweetspot of the putter, the back dimple, the ball's center or sweetspot, and the opposite front dimple. Your targeting has resulted in a startline that will go this way as long as you can make a straight, no-compensations stroke. So do it! Before you pull the trigger, look at the relationship of the putterface and the ball and "see" the line of the stroke you need to make. Use the brain like a flight simulator to envision a mental practice stroke to make sure you are visually and physically familiar with what needs to happen. Then make a beautiful stroke.
When I say "make a beautiful stroke," I really mean don't think, just do. One of the biggest problems in putting is worrying about various things as the time to pull the trigger draws near. Was the targeting done well? Does the setup feel funny? Do I have a third-eye picture of the hole? Did I line the logo of the ball up properly? Wasn't there something in the technique I wanted to remind myself about? Shouldn't I pull the trigger within just a couple of seconds of my last look at the hole? Etc etc etc ad naseum. Forget all that. Thinking is stinking!
Relax. The putterface orientation is the best you're going to get, so.... just "make a beautiful stroke" and that's the best you can do. If you make a straight stroke and it misses, then either the green got you (tough - that's just "the rub of the green") or your read was bad. If the read was bad, you SHOULD miss, and that is the quickest way to learn to concentrate on getting the read better and the putterface orientation right BEFORE pulling the trigger.
Well, you say, it could also be a miss because I got the distance control wrong. That may be, but don't blame a nice blank mind and the notion of just making a beautiful stroke for bad distance control. Bad distance control comes from poor tempo or poor targeting or failure to assess the green condition accurately. So long as your pulling the trigger follows smoothly onto your completion of your targeting, then just make a beautiful stroke from your putterface orientation and let distance control take care of itself. A beautiful stroke has nice smooth tempo, and the steady consistent tempo combines with targeting and green-speed appreciation to give you excellent distance control. So once your targeting is complete, you've got the distance control staged on the launch pad ready to go. What's to think about at ths point?
In fact, there ought to be a fairly clear boundary in your mind between the targeting / stroke planning, on one hand, and the execution of the stroke, on the other. There comes a point when targeting must stop, and you switch out of "Target Mode" into "Stroke Mode." The notion of "Stroke Mode" precludes second guessing and brands mid-stroke compensations as the "juvenile delinquents of too-late planning" they really are. In Stroke Mode, just make a beautiful stroke.
So, once you have the putterface orientation at the end of your targeting, putting is wonderfully mindless. Just make a beautiful stroke. Anything more complicated than that is less likely to work as well.
For more tips and information on putting, including a free 10,000+ database of putting lore and the Web's only newsletter on putting (also free), visit Geoff's website at http://www.puttingzone.com, or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.