Let it Flow for Distance Control
by Geoff Mangum
ZipTip: TEMPO & TOUCH -- Let it Flow for Distance Control
The secret to a flowing stroke is to "ride the putter" down -- not pull it down -- and then to "get the lead shoulder up out of the way" as the putter and arms swing up into the follow-thru.
RIDE GRAVITY DOWN: The difference between fashioning your own stroke tempo by so-called "muscle memory" (as Dave Pelz for example teaches) and relying upon the putter to move itself down by virtue of gravity (as Ben Crenshaw says it took him several decades to learn) is the consistency and accuracy of gravity. Heads up! Gravity doesn't vary, ever.
The same pattern of acceleration of the putter head always applies, smooth and perfect, moving the putter down from momentary stillness at the top of the backstroke to a peak speed at the bottom of the stroke arc always with exactly the same smoothly increasing speed. And for any given backstroke length, the peak putter head speed at the bottom of the arc that corresponds to that backstroke is ALWAYS exactly the same peak speed.
On the same green with the same green speed for every putt, one backstroke length always sends every ball exactly ONE distance. That's consistency and accuracy.
This pattern of movement (acceleration gradually down to a peak putter head speed at the exact bottom of the stroke) is NOT up to you as a golfer, and it also does not matter whether you are tall or short, a fast stepper or a slow strider, feeling great or under the weather, a flatstick feel "artist" or a robotic "mechanic" or using a magic wand or not -- nothing about YOU matters at all. Which is a good thing, because then you can have true consistency and accuracy of tempo on every putt, every day, if you rely upon gravity rather than your muscle efforts.
What you end up learning is an association between backstroke lengths and putter head peak speeds at the bottom of the arc. This system acts like a rheostat on a light dimmer switch, as every small increase in backstroke length corresponds EVERY DAY to exactly the same increase in peak putter head speed at impact. You simply fit your stroke to the green speed "du jour" with some core putts to get calibrated, and then you're set. (Click for more on "core putts".)
Ah, but the rub is that practically no golfers know how to putt this way, or else Loren Roberts and Ben Crenshaw would not be the standout putters they are. So what's the problem? Unless you want to spend a couple of decades trying to smooth out your stroke like Loren and Ben, you can get with gravity's program and "let the putter head do the work." Bottom line: let go, and let it flow. Just relax and release the putter from the top of the backstroke and watch it fall.
STAY OUT OF THE FALLING: The putter will undoubtedly stall out right after the bottom of the arc, but the fall from top of backstroke to bottom will be perfect, so long as you STAY OUT OF IT. To construct a flowing stroke tempo that is always the same around this free-fall, all that is needed is to get the shoulder frame in sync with the falling acceleration pattern. That is, keep the line across the shoulders square to the top of the putter going back to the top of the backstroke, and when the putter falls on its own, "ride" the putter down by letting the shoulder frame fall with the putter head to the bottom. Your hands on the putter handle feel "nothing change" in the free-fall, since you are not pulling the putter down. It's the same as holding a bowling ball in your hands inside an elevator, right after someone cuts the cables and the elevator starts free-falling -- the bowling ball is weightless, as light as a feather in your hands.
GET THE SHOULDER UP OUT OF THE WAY: Once the putter gets to the bottom, though, the shoulder frame will resist continuing up in a symmetrical pendulum fashion. So instead of the putter head coasting up past the bottom and slowing to a stop at the top of the follow-thru, the resting body resists this, and the stalled shoulder frame causes the arms to continue alone past the bottom, leaving the shoulders behind -- and this is sure to be a "pull."
The cure for this is to sense the falling pattern of the putter headed down to the bottom and "ride" the fall with the shoulder frame dropping at the same rate, but then at the bottom, start lifting the lead shoulder out of the way, so the pendulum action of the putter head and arms can continue smoothly to a finish as a coordinated unit -- of its own accord -- unimpeded by a stalled-out shoulder frame. No pull, smooth finish, flowing stroke.
While this all may sound more like a technique for not pulling putts, it is really a tempo technique to make sure the correspondence between backstroke length and putter head peak speed at the bottom remains intact. There is no effort coming down, and the only effort past the bottom is to clear the lead shoulder up out of the way -- not to pull the shoulder faster than the putter head as it coasts up to a stop, just to ride with the true pendulum action of the free-flowing putter accelerating down to the bottom of the stroke arc and then to get the shoulder out of the way so the arms and putter can glide effortlessly thru impact to a smooth conclusion.
MAKE THIS PART OF YOUR GAME: To get the free-fall drop, start by lifting your rear-side arm up from your side, holding it at some angle out, and then just dropping the arm -- letting it free-fall back against your side. Then match the lifting out of the arm with breathing in, hold the arm and breath a moment, and then match the dropping of the arm with allowing your breath to escape. Next, add the other arm to the lifting and dropping, moving both arms out and up from the sides. Now bend as at address and start with your arms hanging naturally beneath your neck, the palms meeting in the center of your stance. Move the rear hand back and up as in a backstroke to the top, hold it, and then drop it back to slap the other palm to the same breathing pattern as before. Now add the other hand and move both hands and arms together in a backstroke as a unit, with the shoulder frame following suit in a nice rocking down of the lead side and rocking up of the rear side -- breathe in on the way to the top of the backstroke, hold it a moment, and then allow the arms and hands to drop swinging beneath the neck as the breath escapes.
Notice how the arms and hands fall effortlessly back to the bottom of the arc beneath the neck but stall out after that as the shoulder frame does not by itself move up smoothly out of the way. Now focus on the dropping of the arms and hands from the top of the backstroke SO THAT the line across both shoulders stays up with the putter head as it falls. This is sensing the accelerating pattern of the free-fall and matching the shoulder frame motion to gravity, so that the shoulders are NOT pulling the putter down. Once this shoulder action is felt in a coordinated way with the putter's free-fall beneath the neck, continuing the shoulder action UP past impact is fairly simple: just get the lead shoulder headed up ahead of the putter head's arcing up so that the putter head can freely swish thru impact and then coast to a stop at the top of the follow-thru.
This action makes the stroke as a whole roughly symmetrical on either side of the ball. There is NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER in the downstroke. The golfer simply watches and waits for the putter head to reach the bottom of the stroke arc directly beneath the still eyes, face, and head, while sensing the same-every-time pacing of the fall of the shoulders with the putter and arms. Once the putter head finally comes swishing across the bottom of the stroke arc, the golfer CASUALLY moves the lead shoulder up out of the way in a manner that preserves the mirror symmetry of the stroke's motion pattern -- accelerating down from zero at the top of the backstroke by free-fall, decelerating up by reverse free-fall and coasting to zero at the top of the follow-thru.
The sense is that you work the shoulder frame back beneath the neck to the top of the backstroke, then let the arms, putter, and shoulder frame all rock down in a free-fall to the bottom of the stroke arc -- falling right back along the trajectory they followed getting to the top of the backstroke as the putter head gradually and smoothly accelerates to its peak at the bottom -- and then getting the lead shoulder lifting up and out of the way so the putter and arms can continue swinging freely on their established track up to a smooth conclusion. The whole action feels like a driving down and back of the lead shoulder beneath a fixed neck to move the "triangle" of shoulder frame, arms, and putter as a unit to the top of the backstroke, then a release from the top, a sensing the fall down to the swish thru impact, and then a lifting of the shoulder frame on the lead side to get out of the way of the nice finish. The neck stays still the whole time.
An image that ought to help is that of a parent pulling a swing back with a toddler in it and then gently releasing the swing so that it falls straight and smooth. (Not shoving the child down towards the bottom -- that's for older children.)
The parent, once the swing has been released, has no more control over the swinging of the child and the swing will move effortlessly to its conclusion with the expected pendulum pattern. In putting, the patience during the dropping of the putter, arms and shoulders and then the moving of the lead shoulder up out of the way is just the same as releasing the swing from the top and giving up control to allow the "triangle" to swing freely and easily with the right path and pace. The shoulder frame, arms and putter all swing freely beneath the neck like the child in a swing moves under the top pole of a swingset.
Be a dare devil and swing the putter like a real pro!
Carlisle Graham 1886 (survived)
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.