Searching For The Perfect Stroke

Searching For The Perfect Stroke

If you’re taking golf lessons to perfect you’re putting stroke, be careful. Trying to develop the perfect putting stroke may hurt your efforts. At least, that’s the conclusion of two researchers—a German neuroscientist and an American golf instructor. Helped by an advanced motion analyzer, they studied the putting strokes of 150 PGA professionals and numerous top amateurs. They concluded that while putting fundamentals are important consistency is more critical to putting well and lowering your golf handicap.

The motion analyzer they used is the most advanced in sports. Originally, Professor Christian Marquardt developed it for pharmaceutical research. It involved studying the effects of gingko biloba on the human brain as a potential cure for the “yips.” The analyzer employs high-tech hardware previously used only in medical applications—ultrasonic sensors for measuring and monitoring motor behavior. Clipping them to a putter shaft enables researchers to measure a putting stroke precisely.

Recording Exact Putting Positions
As the golfer makes a stroke, the sensors record the putter’s exact position every 15 milliseconds. They then wirelessly transmit this data to a laptop, which Marquardt places at the gofer’s feet. The data tells everything there is to know about the putting stroke: aim face angle, putter path, impact spot, rise angle, and timing. The system’s accuracy margin is .1 millimeter.

After conducting the research, Marquardt turned the device into the SAM Putt Lab. He then began selling it to teaching academies, fitting centers, and individual golfers, like Padraig Harrington. Steve Elkington and Hank Haney, Tiger’s teacher, each bought one as well. With help from Chicago-based instructor Jim Suttie, Marquardt turned his device into an effective teaching tool. Marquardt met Suttie, PGA Teacher of the Year in 2000, at the 2005 PGA Merchandise Show.

Interesting Tests, Startling Discoveries
Recently, Suttie and Marquardt recorded the strokes of 150 PGA Tour players and countless top amateurs. The data from this test has led them to conclude that there isn’t a perfect putting stroke. In general, better putters make shorter strokes with less face rotation and hit the ball on the upstroke. But this finding is not absolute. In other words, there’s plenty of room for individual style in putting. The data revealed some other surprising findings.

For example, it revealed that PGA pro Brad Faxon aims 2 degrees to the right at address. Faxon led the tour in putting average three times from 1996 to 2000. It also revealed that Loren Roberts rotates his putterface open against its path. Roberts is also a former Tour putting leader. In all, the data shows that 55 percent of PGA pros aimed outside the hole on a straight 12-foot put.

The obvious conclusion from all this is simple. While the putting fundamentals you learn in golf lessons are important, they’re not more critical than consistency. Executing your stroke in the same way over and over again is far more significant. Faxon, for example, has probably been aiming 2 degrees right for 20 or 30 years. But his consistency enables him to sink more putts than a golfer more technically sound, yet not as consistent.

Working On Consistency
Marquardt and Suttie’s findings don’t mean that you should forego golf instruction sessions altogether. Taking golf lessons can help your putting. But your main goal when taking them should be to develop consistency, not perfection. Trying to achieve perfection can only lead to frustration. In fact, there may not even be a perfect putting stroke. Instead, focus on developing consistency. It’ll build more confidence in yourself and your putting. More confidence will, in turn, cut strokes from scores and your golf handicap.

To help, here’s a good exercise to achieve consistency. Called the Five in a Row Drill, you can make it the six, seven, or even eight in a row drill. Use your pre-shot routine for every putt.

* Take five golf balls from your bag.
* Find a fairly flat hole on a practice green.
* Drop the balls about four feet from the hole
* Set your self up and try to make all five shots
* When you do, back up a foot and repeat.
* Then back up another foot and repeat again.

After mastering the flat putt, try side-hill, downhill, and uphill putts. Keep practicing this way and you’ll improve your consistency.

Jack Moorehouse is the author of the best-selling book How To Break 80 And Shoot Like The Pros. He is NOT a golf pro, rather a working man that has helped thousands of golfers from all seven continents lower their handicap immediately. Free weekly newsletter with the latest golf tips, lessons and instructions.