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Geoff Mangum's PuttingZone Newsletter

December 2002 Issue
December 5 , 2002

Hi Folks!

I hope this finds you well during the holiday season. It's been a very hectic summer and fall. Inside this issue --

1. World Q-School Report

2. Dr Patrick Cohn and Dr Tony Piparo on Short Putts

3. Six New PZ Tips

4. Putting Science: Math and Physics for Putting, WSCG Report

5. Teaching at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy

6. Interesting Online Stories & Resources

7. PZ Website Developments


1. World Q-School Report

The Final Stage of the PGA Tour Q-School is currently underway in La Quinta, California. The Field of 171 contestants (reduced to 170 by the medical withdrawal of John Riegger) began the six-round, 108-hole contest Dec. 4, and the competition for the top 35 spots plus ties continues thru Monday, Dec. 9. The PuttingZone is closely following the action with a special page that reports not only on the PGA Tour, but also on the Q-Schools for Tour Golf around the world. Other notable Tour Q-Schools include the European Tour, the LPGA, the Champions Tour, and the Austrtalasian Tour.

The PGA Tour Q-School coverage includes the Leaderboard, historic stories of Q-Schools past, and daily postings of special-focus news items from the world press. Interested specifically in the Canadian players? the Aussies? The PZ has the info daily. Click to see the full World Q-School Report.


2. Dr Patrick Cohn and Dr Tony Piparo on Short Putts

The PuttingZone has been fortunate to enlist the help of noted golf psychologists Dr Patrick Cohn and Dr Tony Piparo to teach us all some important approaches to putting excellence. Both consented to offer their views on the Short Putt and its special problems. If you have a specific issue you would like to see addressed, drop me a line and I'll see what I can do. With any luck, these two great teachers will make regular contributions to the PuttingZone.


Dr Patrick Cohn, top sports psychologist for pro golfers and head of Peak Performance Sports in

Orlando, Florida, has agreed to help visitors to the PuttingZone by offering his observations and suggestions about putting. Dr Cohn, along with Dr Robert Winters, authored The Mental Art of Putting (Diamond Comms. 1995), and most recently has written Going Low and Peak Performance Golf: How Good Golfers Become Great Ones. Dr Cohn is unquestionably one of a very select few golf psychologists who have made a special study of putting problems, and his book on this subject is far and away superior to anything else ever written on putting psychology. In this exclusive PZ article, Dr Cohn discusses the unique problems of short putts. In the future, it is hoped that Dr Cohn will offer his views on other subjects as well.

Short Putt Q&A

Dr Patrick Cohn


Orlando FL

Q: "Why do some players struggle with short putts and what is your approach to teaching players to make them?"

A: From a mental game perspective, I think players struggle with short putts (3-4 feet) because they put extra pressure on themselves to make them. These are the putts that players expect to make. "Everyone makes short putts, it would be awful if I missed this one" a player may feel or say to him or herself standing over the putt. It is this extra pressure that a golfer puts on himself and thus a "result focus" about the potential for missing that creates problems. In addition, some players are afraid to embarrass themselves for missing a short putt, which causes too much trying and tension in the stroke. After players miss a couple of short putts in a row, they get the "I-can't-make-the-short-ones syndrome" and thus talk themselves into thinking they will miss them.

As a mental game coach, I try to get players to first understand what mental breakdown they are committing. Are you trying too hard, worrying about missing, embarrassed to miss, or just don't think you are a poor short putt putter? With this information, I am better able to deal with the specific challenge of the player.

With that said, there are a few things you can do to help you make short putts. First, don't label the putt as a "short putt" and treat it differently than a 12 foot putt, for example. The bottom line (or what I call the common denominator) in putting is that you have to hit your line with the right pace -- and some players forget about this basic principle.

Second, you don't "have to" make it. Even the pros miss short putts once in a while. When worrying about making, you are too result focused. Keep your focus on the process of hitting a solid putt on your line that you selected.

Third, don't baby the putt into the hole and try to guide it. Give up control to your hand-eye coordination. You already know how to stroke a putt on line and you have trust that you can do just that. See the target (maybe right edge for example) and allow your body to start the ball on that spot. Feel it into the hole instead of trying to make a good "stroke."

Fourth, the past is over with. Let go of past missed putts. Every putt is a new putt and has to be treated as such. You have to treat every putt as if it's the first putt of the day -- with confidence and optimism that you will hit it on line. Take the same amount of time -- not more or less -- that your normal routine dictates.

If you have any more questions for Dr. Cohn, send him an email at DocCohn@aol.com.


Dr Tony Piparo, like Dr Cohn, is one of the very few sports psychologist to concentrate on putting.

Winner of the prestigious American Psychological Association Award for his dissertation on the Effects of Chronic Fitness on Putting, Dr Piparo has attracted a wide following with his recent book with optometrist Dr Steve Kaluzne, Master the Art and Science of Putting: Training the Eyes, Mind and Body (Sports Performance Centers of Am. 1999). Dr Piparo has studied the physiology of putting extensively (with a Masters in Kinesiology to complement his Doctorate in Sports Pyschology), and combines this knowledge with his vast understanding of sports psychology and his experience of over twenty years teaching elite golfers. His 1Putt Golf School is located here in North Carolina.

 

Dr Tony Piparo
1-Putt Golf School
Winston-Salem, NC

Q: "Why do some players struggle with short putts and what is your approach to teaching players to make them?"

A. Probably the missed shot that devastates golfers the most is the short putt. Miss a 3- or 4-footer and not only do you lose your confidence on all short putts the rest of the round, but it's so easy to become completely frustrated that you lose you focus on all shots. While missing short putts is cause by a break down in mechanics, working on your mechanics in practice will not necessarily eliminate the problem.

Research shows that eye movement causes the mechanical breakdown on short putts, or any putt for that matter. How do you eliminate eye movement? To keep your eyes from moving you must understand what causes eye movement. There are two reasons. The first is peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is a survival skill and is very sensitive to movement within the peripheral field. For example, if you are driving your car and catch movement out of the corner of your eye, your head turns so that you can better see the movement to determine if it presents some sort of danger. Unfortunately, your peripheral vision can't discriminate between dangerous and non-dangerous movements. So unless you deliberately keep your eyes focused, your eyes move automatically as soon as your peripheral vision observes any kind of movement. So you must consciously keep your eyes from moving.

The second reason for eye movement is your central vision. Central or focusing vision is tied directly to your conscious mind. For example, if you're concerned about the accuracy of your putting stroke, your conscious mind tells your eyes to follow the movement of the putter to determine whether or not the movement is correct. If you're concerned about whether or not the putt will drop your eyes move to see if that happens. If your eyes move too early, the path of your putting stroke may change and cause you to pull or push the putt. Unfortunately, once golfers miss a short putt they become concerned about their putting stroke and whether or not the putt will drop and their eyes start moving like tuning forks. The more important and more uncertain you perceive the outcome of the putt, the more your eyes will want to move and the more difficulty you will have in controlling them. So just trying to keep your eyes on the ball may not prove effective.

To keep the eyes from moving, not only must we visually focus on the ball, we must actively keep our minds occupied with something other than mechanics, past missed putts, or concern for the outcome of the present putt. There are a number of techniques that work well. The one I find most effective is called "Reading the Label".

Reading the Label

Here's how it works. Pick a spot in front of the ball on your target line. Align the label to run along this line. When standing at address, the label runs in the same direction as your target line. While at address, bring your attention to the first letter of the label (for example, the T in "Titleist"). As you begin your putting stroke, start spelling Titleist with the same tempo and rhythm as your putting stroke. If done correctly your putting stroke will be completed long before you finish spelling the word. As you spell the word, your eyes should focus on each letter as you say it. This forces your eyes to stay focused on the ball. And because the conscious mind can only complete one activity at a time, it cannot be concerned with your putting stroke, past missed putts, or the outcome of this putt. Your putting stroke will be completed from memory so there can be no breakdown in mechanics. As you start sinking putts your confidence soars decreasing any uncertainty about the outcome so it becomes easier to keep your eyes from moving.

Now keeping your eyes quiet like this is a skill and requires discipline and practice just like your putting mechanics. In fact, when you first try this technique you may find you have no control over your eyes. The best way to develop the necessary discipline and skill is to start out with putts you feel fairly confident about making. Two-foot putts that are flat and straight are fairly simple for most golfers so you might want to start with these. When you can sink 10 2-foot putts and you lose your awareness to the movement of your putter (you don't see it moving) and you don't see the ball drop in the hole your focus control is improving. Remember, you probably can already sink putts in practice without worrying about eye movement, but your eye movement may become more erratic and out of control when you play. So it's necessary to work on your focus control in practice. After working on 2-footers, then move out to 3-, 4- and 5-foots putts on a flat straight surface until you can sink 10 of each in a row while deliberately controlling your focus (Reading the label). Finally, using the same process, work on downhill, uphill, and side-hill putts from 2-5 feet.

Now, this may sound like a lot of work. However, once you get accustomed to controlling your visual and mental focus you will not miss many short putts. And if you do, you will know the reason and know how to correct the problem. And since you are already spending time practicing, you might as well practice smart in addition to practicing hard. Eventually, your focus control will be so strong that once you focus on the first letter of the label your eyes will lock on instinctively and you won't have to deliberately read the label. It will be done in your subconscious, the same way that practice makes your putting mechanics instinctive until you have to putt for dough.

For a related story, see Don't Cink It! - Eye Movement Main Cause of Missed Short Putts. If you have any questions or comments about using this technique you can contact me at DrTee1@aol.com.


3. NEW PZ TIPS

1. TARGETING: Salute the Dawn

2. TARGETING: Finger Your Target

3. TOUCH: Zeno's Lag Ladder

4. TECHNIQUE: The Rib Cage Crunch

5. PRACTICE: Baseball Putting

6. PSYCHOLOGY: Bubbleheaded Putting


1. TARGETING: Salute the Dawn

Having a straight and level gaze is more important than whether the eyes are positioned directly above the ball or slightly inside, and a reliable way to get the gaze straight and level is to "salute the dawn" with your saluting hand level with your pupils and then bend at address lowering your head towards the ball until the ball "rises" above the salute into vision like a dawning sun coming up over the horizon.

2. TARGETING: Finger Your Target

Hand-eye coordination is essentially knowing how to "touch" the end-point of your line of sight, and hence coordinates the arm-hand movement in the brain with spatial awareness of the target location by dominant-eye directional sense plus distance or depth judgment -- so putting to the target is similar to "touching" the target.

3. TOUCH: Zeno's Lag Ladder

Long putts that cause concern about coming up too short often cause the golfer to blow the ball too far past the hole, and a useful approach is to take a practice stroke to a target merely halfway to the hole, then take another practice stroke to a second target halfway between the first target and the hole, and then make the real stroke not shorter than the second practice stroke and with the same size increase in the stroke -- one big step halfway there, then two halfsize steps the rest of the way.

4. TECHNIQUE: The Rib Cage Crunch

In the backstroke, don't let your descending rib cage get shoved forward by the midriff and pelvis, as this twists the shoulderframe and throws the stroke path curling inside on the way back -- instead, AIM the bottom of the rib cage straight for the pelvis, and move the lead shoulder socket straight down at the balls of your lead foot to keep the shoulderframe "rock" within a straight vertical plane aimed parallel to the startline of the putt.

5. PRACTICE: Baseball Putting

In this game for two players, test your skills under pressure to sink a 15-footer to strike out your opponent with the bases loaded, tying run on third, and the count 3 and 2!

6. PSYCHOLOGY: Bubbleheaded Putting

Thinking is Stinking! but my advice to "use your brain" stands. A great deal of the brain has nothing to do with that little voice we use to think with. Using the brain to putt means "shut up and putt" -- not bothering yourself with pointless thoughts, concerns, worries about the putt -- and the end result is your conscious awareness is empty except for the moment itself in a clarity that allows your brain-body to perform at its highest level.

 


4. Putting Science: Math and Physics for Putting, the WSCG

Dr Roger Brooks at the University of Lancaster, UK, has written a study of the mathematics of the shape of the putting stroke. Based upon this study, Dr Brooks has created the Trueplane Putting Trainer. The aid is based on the notion that a very good pendulum stroke has the shoulders moving in an inclined plane and the putterhead path straight-back and straight-through within that inclined plane, but the path describes an elliptical arc as seen from directly above. The Trueplane trainer uses a tilted sheet of plexiglass along the puttline with a "smiley face" section of the inclined putt path on the tilted sheet. Running the heel of the putter along the red curve on the tilted plexiglass allows the golfer to feel and learn a straight stroke.

The Putting Arc is a similar training aid being distributed in the US, based also on the notion that the natural stroke has an arcing putterhead inside-square-inside trajectory above the ground. The Arc is a long flat piece of wood to set on the green, with the near side straight and parallel to the putt path and the far side curved in a slight arc. The aid is used by securing the board to the green with tee pegs and running the heel of the putter along the arc. Both the Putting Arc and the Trueplane are using the same mathematics to define the curve; the difference is that the Trueplane plexiglass sheet defines the vertical dimension of the stroke as well.

  • The World Scientific Congress on Golf recently held the 4th Congress at St Andrews, Scotland. The Congresses take place each 4 years, and gather together a wide array of golf science. This Congress included a few presentations of note for putting, and these papers are available as part of the WSCG publication that includes over 70 papers on golf science. The papers relating to putting technique, with book chapter numbers:

10. A critical examination of motor control and transfer issues in putting, M. Fairweather, C. Button and I. Rae

11. Experimental study of effects of distance, slope and break on putting performance for active golfers, J.V. Carnahan

12. Is it a pendulum, is it a plane? – mathematical models of putting, R.J. Brooks

13. Putting alignment in golf : a laser based evaluation, A.D. Potts and N.K. Roach

14. Eye dominance, visibility and putting performance, Y. Sugiyama. , H. Nishizono, S. Takeshita and R. Yamada

15. Alignment variations among junior golfers, R.J. Leigh

16. The effects of outcome imagery in golf putting performance, J.A. Taylor and D.F. Shaw

22. Performance and practice; elite women European tour golfers during a pressure and non pressure putting simulation, K. Douglas and K.R. Fox

24. Yielding to internal performance stress – the yips in golf, K.M. Kingston, M. Madill and R. Mullen

47. An investigation into the effect of the roll of a ball using the C-Groove putter, P.D. Hurrion and R.D. Hurrio


5. Teaching at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy

During the summer, I was invited to present a putting clinic to the teaching staff at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Florida. This IMG facility is the world's top golf academy for junior world golfers headed for the pro circuit. Recent DLGA graduates include Charles Howell, Ty Tryon, and David Gossett. The half-day clinic presented the main concepts involved in the PuttingZone approach to optimal putting to a dozen golf professionals of the DLGA staff. My thanks to Director Gary Gilchrist and Assistant Director Tim Sheredy for the hospitality. For some of the materials covered, see the PZ PowerPoint presentation and the special page on Training Junior Golfers from the point of view of physical and cognitive development.


6. INTERESTING ONLINE STORIES & RESOURCES

Recent stories of note:


7. PZ WEBSITE DEVELOPMENTS

Since the last newsletter, these features have been added to the PZ Website:

  • Magazine Rack, featuring current putting stories in the print media.

  • Putting Science, section greatly expanded and still growing.

  • News, more sources for golf and putting stories, including a daily survey of 4,000+ online newspapers and sources worldwide by Google.com

  • Q-School World Report, providing coverage of Q-School events in pro golf tours around the world, from Japan and Australia to Latin America (see above).

  • More Tips, More Aids, More Putters, etc.


Later, and cheers!

Geoff Mangum
The PuttingZone.com
http://puttingzone.com
The Future of Putting Now -
Golf's most advanced and comprehensive putting instruction.

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