Bill's Blog

Putting: Rolling Versus Hitting

Every golfer is looking for the next way to lower their handicap. But truthfully, there isn’t a new secret method to shooting better scores – the best way to lower your handicap is to make more putts from 8 feet and in. Sounds simple, but it’s a difficult task.

Players on the PGA Tour make, on average, 50 percent of their putts from 8 feet; amateurs only make about 30 percent of the putts from that same distance. To make more short putts, you need to learn to roll the ball and not hit it. This is also true on the Tour. When a Tour player makes a poor putt, chances are he got caught up in the moment and hit the putt rather than rolled the ball.

So, why is rolling the ball better than hitting it?

When you roll putts, the ball skids less after impact; therefore, you experience better distance control and the ball takes its true break. Your goal is to minimize the skid and get the ball rolling end-over-end as soon as possible. Our research shows that on an 8-foot putt, the ball can skid as much as 5 feet before it starts to roll. When the ball skids too much, the ball will roll through the break and miss the hole. Your miss may be caused by too much skidding rather than misreading the break on the green.

Not rolling the putt efficiently can be a biomechanical or an equipment problem. An ill-fitted putter can lead to an inefficient setup position, which then can produce inefficient mechanics.

How do I know I am a hitter? These are the symptoms of a hitter:

1. A short backstroke and forced acceleration at impact

2. Inconsistency in distance control

3. The left shoulder or left elbow pulling or opening at impact 4. The wrist breaking down at impact

To tell if you are a hitter, draw a line all the way around the equator of the ball. Aim the ball at the hole and make sure the line you drew is pointing at the hole. If the line on the ball wiggles a lot during the putt, then you are a hitter.

To roll your putts like a Tour player, make sure your arms can swing more naturally, like a pendulum.

Swing Solution: You must change your setup and get the arms away from your sides.

1. With your palms up, stick your arms straight in front of your chest

2. Drop the arms until your elbows are touching your chest or stomach

3. Make sure the arms are relaxed and there is little bend in the elbows

4. Bend from the waist

5. Start swinging the arms, creating a pendulum motion

6. Since you eliminated any need for compensational moves to square the putterface, the hands, elbows and shoulders will stay quiet

7. Look into non-traditional putting methods like the claw, lefthand low, brush, etc.

Equipment Solution: The only way to reinforce the correct setup is to make sure that the putter length and lie angle are optimal.

1. Make sure that it is not too long for you. I see too many players at every skill level using putters that are too long for their bodies. Ill-fitted putters will lead to inefficient setups. Make sure the lie angle is optimal; an incorrect lie angle can create tension in your forearms. After all, in golf, 90 percent of the success comes from an optimal setup.

2. There are three basic head designs to match your stroke – face balance, toe balance and heel balance. Make sure the putterhead design matches your stroke.

Finally, as mentioned before, there are many non-traditional methods of putting like left-hand low, claw, brush, right-hand only, looking at the hole, side saddle and anchored putters. We have discovered from our research that the best putters on Tour feel the putterhead release when they are stroking it really well. The proper release of the putterhead is what produces the pure roll. Therefore, try one of these methods to see if you are releasing the putterhead better, which will help you roll the ball more effectively.

If this sounds too confusing to you, find a local pro or fitter to help you. This game is way too hard to work alone.

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