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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

31 January 2005
previous articles

SCIENCE & MOTION --
Dr Christian Marquardt, the SAM PuttLab Training System, and the Yips

Dr Christian Marquardt is a research neuroscientists in Munich specializing in the neurological rehabilitation of focal hand dystonia, a movement disorder thought to underlie the predominant form of the yips in golf.


Dr Christian Marquardt

Dr. Christian Marquardt -- Scientist; more than 15 years working in neuro-science and motor behaviour rersearch. His work is dedicated to the development of new concepts for movement analysis, motor learning and treatment of movement disorders. Coorperating with the University of Munich in research on the Yips syndrome for seven years now, since 1998, developing a revolutionary approach for treatment of the Yips in golf.

WHAT THE SAM PUTTLAB DOES:

The putting optimizer uses sonic signals to monitor the position of the putter during a stroke to within 0.1 mm (under 1/25th of an inch), in all 3 dimensions, to generate real-time data on 28 different movement parameters for duration, timing, velocity and acceleration, swing path, alignment, rotation, direction and impact spot.

All data is transmitted to a computer for analysis and reporting on either a large-screen projection, the computer screen, or a printer.

Stroke flaws are instantly revealed and corrective measures monitored with objective feedback to guide the learning / training process and expedite improved performance. A complete "competence profile" identifies areas needing attention during training sessions.

The precise moment of a Yips flaw can be identified, and Dr Marquardt then applies his extensive knowledge of movement rehabilitation to directly address the flaw and rebuild a yipless stroke.

Yips Before

Yips After

Christian Marquardt (L) and Frank Honisch (R)
of SAM Puttlab

He is also a biomedical engineer who has designed a sonic putting monitor / training device for leading-edge putting instruction that he further uses in his unique rehabilitative approach to overcoming the yips. His new SAM Puttlab System is revolutionizing putting instruction.

Dr Marquardt and CEO Dr Richard Jaekel have been explaining their SAM Puttlab system and Dr Marquardt's approach to the yips. The team has seen explosive success in using the system on the European Tour and currently have over 20 top players using the system, including Padraig Harrington (perhaps golf's top current putter) and other top putters on the European PGA Tour, and they also operate the SAM Puttlab Academies in Europe. Their US visit has included stops in California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.

This week at the Orlando PGA Merchandise Show , their booth is the hottest spot in golf, attracting visits from ALL the top teachers (Butch Harmon, Harold Swash, Hank Haney, David Leadbetter, Jim McLean, Todd Sones, Dave Pelz, and many more.) Science guru Frank Thomas singled out the Puttlab system as an example of the best trend in golf science on the Golf Channel's coverage of the Show.

Christian Marquardt demonstrating the system to top putting instructor Todd Sones

Recent Golf Digest articles by top instructor Hank Haney have featured the SAM system, as he explains his meeting with Dr Marquardt in Germany and his subsequent incorporation of the system at his Texas teaching ranch. Haney personally suffered a severe form of the driver yips for years that hampered his instruction, and he was very impressed with the SAM approach and built a series of three articles around the subject for Golf Digest.

The Yips Part 1: Hank Haney, How I cured my driver yips, GolfDigest.com (Aug 2004)

The Yips Part 2: Randy Smith, The chipping yips, GolfDigest.com (Sep 2004)

The Yips Part 3: Hank Haney, How to beat the putting yips -- Mark O'Meara found a way to overcome them, and you can, too, GolfDigest.com (Oct 2004)

The David Leadbetter Golf Academy at ChampionsGate in Orlando has also made the SAM system a prominent feature of its new hi-tech putting studio.

The SAM uses sonic (ultrasound) transmissions on four channels to track the position of the putter in 3D throughout the stroke to within 0.1 mm. A lightweight transmitter is attached to the shaft and calibrated in seconds to a stationary receiver, which feeds the data into a software program for analysis, storage, and reporting. The special software package generates a detailed report of 28 different components of the stroke (about twice as many as existing video systems) and compares the player's stroke to a growing databank of the strokes of other pros. Training using the feedback of the SAM then addresses specific stroke flaws for rapid and effective motor learning.

To learn more about this revolutionary wedding of technolody and neuroscience expertise, visit the Science and Motion website, or see this posting about SAM Puttlab on the Flatstick Forum.

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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

14 January 2005
previous articles

Q&A on Staying Connected in the Putting Stroke

 

Geoff,

Much is said about staying "connected" during the full swing. What are your thoughts about staying "connected" during the putting stroke?

I look forward to your response!

Regards,

Steve

A Relaxed but Intact Triangle, with Learning Exercises

Dear Steve,

In putting, at least the way I teach it, you also want to "stay connected." I'm not entirely sure what is meant by the phrase in the full swing, although I believe it means not letting one section of the body outrace another but instead have a coordinated leading-following relationship (lower body, trunk, arms-hands). The notion of the "triangle" in a shoulder stroke implies a similar "connectedness."

By "triangle" I mean the shape of the relationship of the line of the shoulder frame (base of triangle), and the lines of the two arms to the hands (sides of the triangle). If the "triangle" comes unconnected as we are discussing the notion, one or more of the three angles of the triangle change -- the angle at the lead armpit, at the rear armpit or at the hands on the handle. If you include the putter in the shape, it all looks more like a "Y" than a triangle. The picture in the box above is a fairly conventional illustration of what is usually meant by the "triangle." I would draw the line for the base of the triangle across the top of the shoulder frame, and would have my arms a little straighter naturally, without the crook in the lead elbow shown above.

We can explore the different aspects of a "connected" triangle action, but I would stress at the outset that establishing a base-level of muscle tone in the setup that is needed to preserve the triangle shape during the stroke motion does NOT mean the stroke is not made with a very relaxed and casual body as a whole. The muscles that move the stroke are not involved in the triangle shape, but are in the waist area, and most of the connectedness in the stroke comes from gravity and biomechanics positioning rather than muscle tension in the upper chest and arms and hands. So overall, even though there is a certain base-level muscle tone used to connect the triangle into a unified whole, it still feels very relaxed and casual and easy to move smoothly back and forth.

The specific aspects of a connected triangle setup and stroke (in what I consider an optimal technique) include:

@ A fully relaxed hanging of the arms and hands

@ Elbows hanging vertically below the shoulder sockets

@ A slight in-turn of the elbows towards each other accomplished by a little extra bicep / upper arm tension

@ Lead edge of putter handle fitting along the lifeline of the lead palm, which conforms the shaft to the line of the forearm and angles the whole hand down a bit ("look at these filthy shoes" gesture)

@ Lead hand thumb aimed straight down the top of the handle and thumbtip flat on the handle but not especially pressed tight

@ Grip pressure set and held steady at about 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being as tight as you can grip, or about the same as shaking hands with a fine lady

@ No obvious "play" left in the elbows other than a mild angle between upper arm and forearm that results from normal muscle development (i.e., elbows not held "tucked" back at sides of ribs higher than they normally hang

@ Distance from pivot to bottom of putter sole established by NOT lifting the hands any higher than they hang when placing the grip onto the handle but rather by soling the putter flat to the surface (even if the lie is uneven of tilted towards or away from the feet) and then "bringing the body and hands to the putter" so that adopting the grip does not alter the soling, the face aim, or the position of the handle in space

@ A slight hovering of the putter, not in the air, but with the sole slightly on the cushion of the grass, just not resting inertly onto the turf

@ Joint pairs set square to the putter face aim, starting with the skull line across the eyes and working back and down thru the neck to square the lower joint pairs in sequence (shoulders / elbows / wrists as one unit, hips, knees, ankles) to end with "happy feet"

@ Starting the triangle with the lead shoulder shoving the putter head back from the dock -- by aiming the lead shoulder socket straight at the balls of the lead foot and letting the shoulder frame work in a vertical plane rocking beneath a steady neck, versus staring the putter back by pulling / pushing the dead weight on the ground with the hands and arms independently, as this very often sends the putter head away from the stance out beyond the line of the putt into a loopy stroke path

@ A sense that the shoulder frame as a whole is a unit not unlike a heavy wooden ox yoke hanging by a metal ring on a peg so that it is balanced level to begin with and is easily tipped down on the lead side by a single finger pushing it down, with the rear side necessarily tipping up the same amount, poising at the top heavily, ready to drop and swing downward once the finger is removed

@ An optional sense of pulling the putter head back straight from the ball with the palm of the rear hand as if pulling a cord straight back with the cord connected to the lead shoulder socket by a pulley centered between the balls of the feet and oriented parallel to the putt line, thus coordinating the pulling back of the hand while moving the lead shoulder down and back over the balls of the feet so that you can't really tell whether the hand is pulling or the shoulder is pushing

@ The armpit on the side of the extension of the stroke (rear on backstroke, lead on thru-stroke) does not open, as this indicates independent and unconnected arm action separate from the shoulder frame movement

@ Hands do nothing and there is no sense of "reaching" back or thru and flat top of handle does not roll back or roll thru

@ Elbow on opposite side of stroke extension (lead elbow on backstroke, rear elbow on thru-stroke) does not glide across abdomen

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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

6 January 2005
previous articles

Q&A on Grip Form and Putter Face Opening and Closing

Geoff,

My question is about the position of the hands on the grip and the subsequent possible effect they may have on opening or closing the clubface before or at impact.

In the full swing, a weak grip (in the palms) tends to open the clubface, and a strong grip (in the fingers) tends to close the clubface. In putting, do the same rules apply?

Is it possible for the position of the hands to some extent cancel each other out?

I would very much appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

All the best,

James

Arm Rotation Opens or Closes the Putter Face, Not the Grip Form

Dear James,

There is a major difference between a putting stroke and a full swing. That is, with the full swing, the golfer's shoulders don't turn enough for the required power, and the arms move back and thru independently of the range of the shoulderframe turn; this does not need to occur with the vast majority of putts, as this sort of power is not needed for putting except in the most extreme situations. What difference this makes for our issues requires a brief look at anatomy.

When the arms move further back or forward than does the shoulderframe, the forearms rotate. This seems mostly to be an effect from "reaching" with the hands back and thru and also the rolling movement of the one elbow across the abdomen communicating thru the two hands on the handle to oppositely rotate the other forearm. The rotation is exacerbated to the extent the shoulder motion is other than in a vertical plane, but is instead either in a tilted plane or a swinging around of the upper torso on an arc. If a person held his forearm and hand out as if to shake someone's hand (thumb on top), and then rotates the palm 90 degrees downward ("look how steady my hand is" gesture), this is "pronation." If the person rotates the palm upward to the sky ("give me a dime" gesture), this is "supination." The muscles of the forearm and upper arm working thru the elbow joint actually make the pronation or supination of the hand occur.

For example, if you placed your right palm flat on a table and then rotated the palm thumb rightward until the palm faced up, the muscles in the upper arm connecting to the radial bone of the forearm thru the elbow (biceps brachii) and the forearm muscle (supinator) together accomplish this motion tugging on the radial bone thru the elbow joint and rotationally around the ulna (the other forearm bone). You can feel this by pinching your biceps when the palm is down and feel the biceps tighten as the supination of the hand takes place.

The forearm muscles (pronator quadratus and pronator teres) are responsible for pronating the hand.

This University of Michigan Medical School movie illustrates supination and pronation (click on the picture to see the Quick-Time movie). This University of Arkansas Medical School, Anatomy Department page shows the muscles of the upper arm and forearm and their action.

University of Washington Medical School, Department of Radiology

When a right-handed golfer makes a full-swing backswing, the right forearm "supinates" and the left forearm "pronates" somewhat going to the top. In the opposite direction, the left forearm supinates going to the top of the follow-thru and the right forearm pronates. Right at impact, one hopes, the clubface is redelivered to the back of the ball in the same "square" orientation it had at address. See Chuck Winstead on the grip: "In order to gain control over the face of the golf club, you must match the position of your hands at address with the position of your hands at impact." According to Winstead, some golfers use a weak grip, some a neutral grip, and some a strong grip, but they are successful only when the positioning of the hands at impact matches the hands at address.

So, my answer is that the grip form itself does not "cause" the putter face to open or close. Instead, the action of the arm muscles do this, especially when the movement of the arms exceeds the range of the shoulderframe turn.

If the golfer in putting uses a stroke that looks like a miniature full swing, then it is likely that the forearms will outrun the shoulderframe and the forearms rotate going back and then going past impact. Paul Runyan addressed this situation by supinating the left forearm (and hand) in his putting grip, and by supinating his right foream (and hand). Supination either going back of going forward is the same as the arms and hands "coming around the feet" to the inside. Going forward in the stroke, this is a pull. Hence, Runyan's solution avoids a pull by pre-supinating the left forearm so there is not much or any further supination that can take place.

A similar technique is taught by David Leadbetter. He teaches that in putting, the elbows should be rolled slightly inward in the setup of the triangle. This is a supination of both forearms, similar to what happens when in the Runyan grip the hands are rolled to the outside (about 45 degrees), supinating each arm.

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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

24 Dec 2004

Q&A on ProAim Glasses & Gaze Control

 

Hi Geoff,

I was reading an old message about the Pro Aim alignment glasses. You said that you would receive some glasses to try them out. I was wondering whether you received any and if so, what you thought about them. I am considering buying a pair, so I would really like your opinion about them.

Thank you again!

Bastiaan van Slobbe
Netherlands

How to Get the "Good Stuff" Using the ProAim Putting Glasses

Dear Bastiaan,

The National Sales Director for ProAim, Greg Fudge, was kind enough to send me a pair of the glasses. The glasses are light plastic and work with ambient light, so there are no batteries to mess with and they work indoors or outdoors. The ambient light is filtered to yellow and a yellow pattern of lines is projected onto the lens of the glasses, so that the yellow lines seem as if they are actually on the ground.

The visual pattern is basically two parallel lines running horizontally left to right and a single vertical line where the putter rests behind the ball. The idea is that by setting the putter face to the vertical line, the two horizontal lines indicate where the putter is aimed, which presumably is also where the target is located.





This is the same as my teaching about squaring the "skull line" to the aim of the putter face. The lines help, but really only if you are focused on how a setting of the skull line to the putter face is accomplished and how it feels in the setup. Just wearing the glasses without this focus is not really good enough to help a lot, but using the glasses properly can help due to the lines helping you get the skull line correctly aligned.

There are five other points about aiming from beside the ball that bear commenting.

First, the straight gaze. The glasses facilitate directing the gaze of the eyeballs straight out of the face because the eyes are directed between the two horizontal lines. When the golfer looks between the lines, the way the glasses sit on the face, the gaze if necessarily directed straight out. This avoids the VERY common flaw of golfers setting up with the eyes gazing somewhat down the cheeks, which usually makes the target appear / seem to be located to the outside of where it actually is.

Above, Lee Janzen on the left indicates the head-eye realtionship when the gaze is straight out of the face such that a line from the tops of his ears across his pupils aims at the ball. However, in the photo on the right, he has lifted his forehead up, and this redirects his gaze down his cheeks at the ball -- the common flaw in beside-the-ball targeting. He needs to aim his face at the ball so that the pointed arrow is aimed at the ball. The golfer to the far right is wearing the ProAim glasses, and this keeps the gaze aimed straight out of the face when looking down at the ball.

Second, head turn down the line. If the skull line is set correctly to the putter as aimed, and the gaze is directed straight out of the face, then looking from the ball down the line to the target in a fashion that KEEPS the line of sight moving on the line from ball to target is best done by rotating the head on a stable axis (no movement or change of the gaze itself, just a head roll). When the skull line is set, the axis of the neck out the top / crown of the head is the same as the line of the putter head from heel to toe, and hence the axis of the head is perpendicular to the line of the putter aim. A head turn that KEEPS the line of sight moving straight on this line REQUIRES that the axis stay put, even though it rotates during the turn. If you wear a cap, the button on the cap turns but does not wander towards the rear shoulder in the turn / "look" down the line.

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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

10 Dec 2004
Putts per GIR 2001-2004
Full Report HERE
Change

2004
n=263

2003
n=254

2002
n=274

Improved Big = > +0.030
13
16
27
Improved Some > +0.010 < +0.030
25
29
61
No change =< +/- 0.010
53
54
65
Worsened Some > - 0.010
44
35
54
XWorsened Big = > -0.030
22
25
40
Insufficient data < 200 GIR / <20 Events
106
95
27

Q&A on Stan Utley at the PGA Summit


on Friday

 

Geoff,

I am leaving tonight for the PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit. Stan Utley will be presenting his material on Friday morning. What is your opinion of his methods?

All the best,

Scott
Scott Fossum Golf School
Charlotte NC

Stan Utley and His Putting SUV

Stan Utley, Jay Haas, and Unneeded Complications

Dear Scott,

My thoughts about Stan Utley are that his method is unnecessarily complex, especially with the forearm rotation. His method was taught to him by an old man in Missouri over 25 years ago, when Utley was a teenager. The method is not substantially different from the method taught by George Low in the 1960s and 1970s, which is probably indirectly where the old guy in Missouri learned what he taught Stan circa late 1970s. George Low's book (with Art Barkow) was published in 1983, but apparently Stan hasn't ever read it. The only real difference between the method of Low and that of Utley is that Utley adds forearm rotation to the gating stroke path, adds a serious forward-press that requires adding loft up to 6 degrees on the putter so it can be removed by the forward press, and adds hitting down on the ball, all changes ill-advised in my view.

George Low's book

Utley basically believes that the putting stroke "naturally" arcs or gates around the feet like the full swing, and he also believes that golfers' heads move too much in a straight-back, straight-thru stroke. He doesn't seem to worry much about the complexity of his technique or the problems it creates with ball position and consistency. The bottom line is I think his method works pretty well for him after 25 years of honing and yearly fix-ups, works okay but not great for Jay Haas, has some temporary benefits for anyone, and is just too complicated and fragile for almost all golfers. I also don't think, flat out, that it is as good, reliable, accurate, or consistent as a well-learned shoulder stroke that leaves the arms completely out of the stroke motion and that minimizes path, timing and ball position complications.

With regard to Utley's reputation for putting prowess on the Nationwide Tour, I'm sure he's quite good, but he also misses many, many greens in regulation. He's one of the lowest-ranked golfers for GIRs. This means his first putts are usually shorter than players hitting the green from 150 yards out, since he's chipping on from 20-30 yards out after missing the green with his approach shot. In general, his poor GIR play means he typically has 4-5 putts a round that are inside 8 feet when for a better GIR player these 4-5 putts are 20-30 feet. So he gets about a 15-20% leg up in the stats due to poor iron play. His best 2003 finish was to blow a huge final round lead on the Nationwide Tour and drop to 3rd with terrible putting over the final four holes.

Utley's method is difficult to learn and easy to lose. Apparently, Utley has been getting used to this method for 25 years, so I don't think it's highly recommended that the average golfer put in that much time, and even the astute pro wanting to benefit from Utley's method has to be willing to spend a considerable period of time to "make it his own." Jay Haas took about two years working with this method before it really kicked in for him, even though it appears not to be working all that well for him now. About once a year, Utley loses his precise sense of setup, which is critically necessary to use a gating stroke with consistent accuracy, and he takes a tune-up trip to Rob Akins in Memphis to let him spot his setup flaws and try to get back to his method. (I guess this should tell anyone that unless they want to lose the system once a year, they should try something simpler.) Jack Nicklaus had a similar experience with george Low's (simpler) version of the gating stroke in the 1960s -- he tried it but couldn't maintain it because he kept losing the "feel" for how the stroke worked. George Low's highest-profile student, Arnold Palmer, saw his putting skills evaporate in 1974, never to return.

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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

2 Dec 2004

What is the distance claimed in record books as the "world's longest putt"? Answer: ON THE eve of the Ryder Cup in 1999, Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal putt a ball a record 9.2 miles during a Concorde flight to the United States. His putt broke American Brad Faxon's 1997 world record of 8.5 miles (13.68 kilometres) and travelled the length of the supersonic airliner's 150 foot cabin in 26.17 seconds to land in the cup at the first attempt. With Concorde travelling at 1,270 mph, the ball was actually in motion for 9.232 miles, a spokeswoman for British Airways said. The flight time of three hours six minutes was also a record for the London Boston route. Source

Q&A Thought Control & Consequential Practice

Geoff,

I must say I've read a lot about putting including the books by Mr. Pelz and Dr. Bob. While I've found some (not all) of their insights useful, I think alot of what you say makes great sense. Keep up the good work. It's very interesting although maybe I'm reading too much into putting, which may explain my problems. My problem seems to be a mind problem.

My putting stroke, while not perfect, can be very good on the practice greens but when it comes to the golf course, it can be very suspect. I play off a handicap of 9 but if I could putt a little better it could be down to 4 or 5.

Can you tell me what you would think about when looking to make a putt or stroke. Lately (in practice), I've been counting 1 on the backstroke and 2 on the follow through and it seems to be helping my rhythm but I tend not to do that on the golf course.

Any suggestions / comments are very welcome.

Thanks

Mark.

Thought Control & Consequential Practice

Dear Mark,

I am responding to two questions:

1. What to think about when making the stroke
2. How to make good practice putting transfer to the course

THINKING

Thinking happens in different ways during the course of executing the putting ritual. Hopefully, all thinking (defined as analysis and problem-solving for reading the putt and picking a target to putt at and to, or some other manner of planning the putt) is concluded while still sighting the putt from behind the ball and before starting to walk into the ball to place the putter and aim the putter face. From this point forward, execution should be all physical. However, this simplifies matters a little too much. Thinking also means "the little voice inside your head," and obviously this little voice keeps on running its trap during the ritual, even after the planning is complete.

The Zen approach to the little voice is to disconnect from it, simply leave it alone and observe it from a distance silently, not really caring what the voice is saying, but regarding it as the natural noise of the brain. You cannot calm the waters of the mind by stirring, in an attempt to flatten out the ripples on the surface.

The standard golf psychology approach to this little voice is usually positive self-talk, such as "make a good stroke" or "commit to your read" or "last thought: touch" -- typical positive swing thoughts to override the random worries or distractions of the little voice.

The post-modern psychological approach to this little voice is more along the lines of self-hypnotism, as in Nuero-Linguistic Programming's "swish" or touch the glove snap to invoke a beneficial mind state.

The neurophysiological approach uses physical tricks to still the conscious mind, such as parking the tongue half-back inside the oral cavity to check the subvocalizations that accompany the inner voice, or focusing attention simply on the perception of the grass or ball to fence the mind into simply being in the here and now without thought (I prefer this one).

My friend Tony Piparo uses a technique he calls "read the label," in which the golfer actually reads the label on the golf ball while executing the stroke (use the inner voice to say inside "Titleist" as the stroke is made.)

All of these techniques are quieting the conscious mind in favor of something better -- the non-conscious processes of the brain vital to accurate and consistent stroke-movement execution (e.g., the cerebellum, the right brain, the instincts, etc.) The basic idea is that at this point, where movement is the main show, conscious thought of any sort does not help the movement execution and only hurts -- by taking away vital brain resources for thought needed instead for movement, and by broadcasting irrelevant noise that interferes with the brain's movement processes, and by invoking the ghostly emotional disturbances that often accompany thoughts of the wrong sort with the result that emotional forces interfere with the stroke movement.

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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

11 Nov 2004

What is the distance claimed in record books as the "world's longest putt"? Answer: ON THE eve of the Ryder Cup in 1999, Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal putt a ball a record 9.2 miles during a Concorde flight to the United States. His putt broke American Brad Faxon's 1997 world record of 8.5 miles (13.68 kilometres) and travelled the length of the supersonic airliner's 150 foot cabin in 26.17 seconds to land in the cup at the first attempt. With Concorde travelling at 1,270 mph, the ball was actually in motion for 9.232 miles, a spokeswoman for British Airways said. The flight time of three hours six minutes was also a record for the London Boston route. Source

Q&A on Aiming
from Beside the Ball

Geoff,

Is it true, that aiming the putter is affected by your eyes reacting differently to certain elements in one's putter. For instance, would certain head styles tend to influence aiming to the right or left of the target as well as different hosel shapes? Does, maybe, an offset hosel effect aim and send the ball off to the left of the target? Of course, there is the lie angle to consider also.

What would you consider to be a fair percentage for people mis-aligning a putt, say from 8 feet away? In closing, I feel that there is a possibly that the eyes cannot correctly resolve the conflicts between shape of the putter and aim.

I look forward to your comments.

Bob Montello

Good Visual Skills for Accurate Aiming

Tough question, Bob!

You are correct that the shape and hoseling of the putter can complicate accurate aiming for almost all golfers. As it stands now, golfers have to trust their gut about the "look" of a putter. You often hear golfers talking with very vague terminology about how the "putter sets up to the eye," or some junk like that. It's a "pretend" way of acting in control when the golfer really doesn't know what he is saying, but his gut prompts him to say something anyway, so he acts knowledgeable. (All vague jargon gets generated in this adoption of a false authority to cover over a lack of real knowledge.)

However, when you closely examine what is occurring visually when a normal adult human looks down at a putter in the process of aiming it and assessing the aim, the shape and hoseling of the putter face are merely visual distractions from what the golfer really needs to look at. Every putter today has a straight edge of the putter face from heel to toe. Looking down, depending upon the loft, the golfer can see the top edge, the vertical plane of the face, and the bottom edge. Both lines as well as the vertical surface rectangle are all visually parallel to one another and also SHOULD appear visually square to the intended line of the putt, pointing the face at the target accurately. Using the putter face with good visual skill is the key to targeting accuracy from beside the ball.

Please note that the putter face is initially aimed only based on the sense of direction or line between ball and target developed from behind the ball, followed by placement of the putter and aiming of the putter face along this line to the target WITHOUT trying to look at the target. Perceptions are "built" by the way in which we gather the information -- by positioning, posture, and movement of sensory organs in relation to our interest in the world. The use of the body to build targeting perceptions behind the ball is completely different from that beside the ball. You need accurate physical procedures for both sorts of targeting. The aiming of the putter face separates the two procedures.

The manner of looking from ball to target from beside the ball is what really matters in your question, and if you try to aim the putter face from beside the ball while also trying to locate the target from beside the ball, you are replacing the perceptions you generated from behind the ball with haphazardly generated perceptions. Don't do that -- use perceptions gained from behind the ball about where the ball points to the target and how the ball sits on the line as seen from behind and use these at-the-ball cues to aim the putter face to start with, WITHOUT trying to locate the target beside the ball while also aiming the putter face. The putter face aiming is done almost entirely with ball-related visual cues, and without much or any attempt to coordinate putter face aiming at the target as "looked for" while aiming the putter face. Only after the putter face is aimed, THEN square the body to the putter face as aimed and THEN use the physical procedure to assess exactly where the putter face is really aimed. That is, aiming from beside the ball is ONLY checking to see where you have aimed the putter face, and is not really trying to find the target.

If in checking to accurately determine where in fact the putter face has been aimed, the result is that the putter face is aimed exactly at the target as hoped, then you're set to pull the trigger. If not, recycle the targeting in whole or in part as needed.

To do all this, the golfer needs training in use of four physical features: 1) matching the skull line to the putter face aim; 2) gazing straight out of the face; 3) rotating the head on the axis of the neck to move the fixation point of vision along the line of the putter face's aim; and 4) using the "aim spot" of visual fixation in the dominant eye to identify the endpoint of the putter face aim once the head turn has progressed as far as the target. Your specific question really addresses 1) only, but I want to make sure the context of the ensuing discussion is clear.

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The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

6 August 2004

DAVE CURRY & BCG
TEAM UP for BOSTON

Boston B^3™ is the latest team effort between Dave Curry of Big Oak Putters and Jeff Lindner at Balance Certified Golf. Very good performance made better with shaft-balancing technology.


Dave Curry


Big Oak Putters


Jeff Lindner


Balance-Certified Golf

Shut up and Putt, Fool!

After several years of working together on the PGA Tour, Jeff Lindner (Balance-Certified Golf, Inc., President) and Dave Curry (Big Oak Putters, President) have agreed to produce a custom putter called the Boston B Balance™(B^3™). Lindner noted, "the B^3™ putter evolved directly from our efforts on Tour as a product that offers the absolute best that both our companies can produce."

Balance-Certified Golf (BCG) tested Curry's Boston series putter head design in their state-of-the-art high speed video test fixture and found that it exhibited extremely low gear effect characteristics. A 15-foot putt struck a full 3/4 of an inch off of the center of gravity toward the putter toe resulted in only a 1.69-inch deviation off line at the hole. This putter also rolled the ball very smoothly. The outstanding roll characteristics were directly related to Dave's original Patented "Top-Weighted" putter head design.

BCG has designed a version of their award-winning shaft balancing system specifically for the B^3™. This is the first putter on the market that BCG has invested such a significant level of engineering effort in. "We ran parametric modal tests on Dave's Boston design and optimized our Pro-Balance system to maximize feel and feedback," Lindner said. While BCG products can improve any putter, the B^3™ is the first putter to be fully optimized through the addition of a custom designed BCG system. Lindner added, "This putter represents the future in golf club structural dynamics where solid feel is obtained from an in-depth understanding of the vibration properties of the entire club."

Curry also noted "we go way beyond simply gluing a plastic face on the putter to cover up and soften its feel at impact." The B^3™ is 100% made in the USA. This putter is entirely computer milled from a 12L14 Leadloy Billet, including the hosel. No "welding on the hosel and grinding off the flashing with this product." Curry noted, "It cost a lot more to manufacture a product like this since it is not a production line corner cutting process. But, in the world of mass produced off-shore manufactured golf products...sometimes you get what you pay for...it's that simple."

The Putting Clock at Miami 1905

On the Clock
with Geoff Mangum

20 May 2004

MIKE SHANNON

At the Wachovia Championship in early May, I had the great pleasure of meeting Mike Shannon -- one of a select handful of the world's top putting instructors.

 

After aim, Mike teaches an open-square-closed stroke, with the critical ingredient being distance back from the ball. He claims that the best position back from the ball does not have the eyes directly over the ball, but slightly inside.

Mike has a number of observations to offer:

  • Open or closed stances are fine if comfortable to the player.

  • The upper arms should maintain contact with the torso throughout the stroke, resulting in a more compact stroke with better line and distance control.

  • The optimal stroke pattern is a "triangle" stroke with the top of the putter staying aimed at the same spot it is aiming at address from top of backstroke to top of follow-thru, with no wrist hinge.

  • Players who aim by feel and by seeing complete curving paths instead of lines and targets should be encouraged to aim and putt this way, without conflicts.

  • Players who are consistently either always aggressive or always nonaggressive have much better touch and distance control than players who use "situational" touch and putt aggressively sometimes and nonaggressivlye at other times.

Mike agrees that players using the Putting Arc training aid should not manipulate the putter going back or thru, but should make a stroke on an angled plane that allows the putter to rise naturally going back and thru. The exact angle of tilt varies a little for each individual.

Private Lessons:

MIKE SHANNON
Sea Island Golf Learning Center
Sea Island GA
800-732-4752
seaisland.com
Individual rate: $150 per hour

Mike works out of the Sea Island Resort with Jack Lumpkin and is long associated with the "optics" of putting and with a stroke that has the face gating open and closed to the putt line.

In this month's issue of Travel and Leisure Golf (May / June 2004), Mike's teaching is featured in an article entitled: "Is Your Aim True? Probably Not, Says a Top Putting Guru," pages 117-119. He is currently finishing up a book on putting titled The Art and Science of Perfect Putting to be published later this year. And he is also in the end-stages of completing work on a teaching-training device for putting.

So what does he teach?

Mike teaches that golfers differ in their natural ability to aim the putter depending upon how their eyes "triangulate" when looking down at the ball at address. According to Mike, a study of golfer optics by a team of Orlando-area optometrist in the late 1990s determined that most golfer's perception of where the putter is aimed is skewed left or right by their unique combination of eye dominance and near- or far-sightedness. Bad aim produces bad strokes.

The fix? Move the ball position. Determine whether the golfer's vision "triangulates" directly beneath his nose on the ground, to the left, or to the right. If the eyes triangulate behind the ball, he moves the ball back in the stance to the triangulation spot; if the eyes triangulate forward, he moves the ball forward.

According to Mike, this adjustment corrects the visual process so that the golfer accurately perceives the aim of the putter face, and so can aim the face accurately at the target.

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