Groom the Green's Mane with the Takeaway
by Geoff Mangum
Sure the putter stroke needs to move straight back and thru, but there's more to it: the putterface orientation has to move as a unit and stay square, at least for five or six inches on either side of the ball.
If the putter's sole had bristles like a brush, the trick for the takeaway would be to keep the brushing action headed straight back. If you twist a brush while moving it, it snags. The same is true of a comb. A brush is really a bunch of combs clamped together so the teeth are all pointed parallel. A brush with only a few fine and short bristles sparsely but orderly arranged would move through the bent grass of a green fairly nicely.
The image of such a brush on the bottom of the putter is useful in getting the stroke straight in the takeaway, initially, and then in the throughstroke. In moving the putterhead back, imagine the short gap between the sole and the turf is spanned by the short grass blades coming up and by an sparse array of fine putter-bristles going down. The motion of the putter is then closely enmeshed with the grass, so it has to stay straight as it moves or it will snag. As the putter goes back, it will rise a bit, so the combing / brushing action will lift out of the grass as the putterhead moves to the top of the backstroke. The brushing combs the grass out so it lays parallel in a lane as wide as the putterhead, and this lane serves to guide the stroke back through the ball.
Perhaps this image is a bit baroque for most golfers (perhaps not) -- but the important point is the sense of movement implied in the image. That's what needs to be felt and learned. This is not a tip about watching the putterhead, but about moving the putterhead and feeling how to move it this way.
If you want, change the image to the stroke of a paint brush applying a smooth stripe of paint. It's pretty much the same, but just remember to focus on the feeling of your movement.
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 email@example.com.