Putting Aids Used By Some Of Golf’s Best … Special report by Kiran Kanwar.

Nassau, Bahamas …

Putting Aids used by some of the top Golfers of the World  … Special report by Kiran Kanwar.

What would be the bottom-line most important requirement of any golf swing, including its mini-version, the putt? To increase the margin for error, given the fact that the club cannot help but swing in an arc, especially with the longer putts, simply because the two arms are locked on the club’s handle and are at either end of a centrally rotating spine. 

A look at all the professional golfers on the practice putting green prior to their first round at the Tiger Woods Foundation’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas shows that they continually try to practice a good stroke using some teaching aid or the other. Do these teaching aids make scientific sense, and are the pros actually getting any improvement in their strokes from using these gadgets? Jordan Spieth and Jimmie Walker swing along an alignment stick. Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed use a small flat mirror with an alignment line down its middle and a semi-circle along its front edge in which the ball sits. Zach Johnson uses a slightly different flat board, and sticks two tees in one end to serve as an alignment guide. Henrik Stenson uses a much longer plate marked off in one-inch increments and having a slightly curved line on it, along which he is presumably trying to swing.

So, the question is, do any of these aids make scientific sense and what precise move are they training? A straight back and through movement is surely the one to train, considering one wishes to hit a ball flush in its middle, and have it travel straight too! The school of thought that believes in curving the putting stroke in an arc is a dangerous one for two reasons – the arms move in an arc in any case – the cannot help it – as they form part of a closed, rotating system consisting of the arms and the shoulders. Secondly, in order to increase the margin within which one can err, if the putter moves straight down the target line post-impact, it is more likely to “catch” the ball during its path than if it is only momentarily along the target line, arriving from the inside and going rapidly back there again.

So, for those players training a curve, surely it is a waste of time. As for those training a straight-back and through movement, they stand on a straight line but never actually move their putters straight back and through. And it is anatomically impossible for them to do so, because they “rock” the shoulders, elevating the trail one which will usually result in a very inside, across-the-line movement of the shoulders and an incorrect followthrough path as a result. Some of them, such as Bubba, feel they are swinging straight merely because their ball goes straight. However, the arms and putter move slightly inside the target line (instead of momentarily along it), but the pull inside is accompanied by some compensating change of club-face angle so that the net effect is for the ball to go straight. Can this dangerous stroke be repeated under differing situations on the golf course itself – without the security blanket of the teaching aid available?

There is little science on the PGA Tour, as can be seen from the putting practice routines of most players. They stand in one spot hitting several putts at a time from the same spot, using the same teaching aids. What happens when the situation changes (for instance slope of green or length of putt)? The brain re-tools the movement based on the actual task at hand and the environment (as is known from the science of motor control), so that all this practice does not convert to anything beneficial. Also, it is known that for long-term retention, random practice (changing the circumstance of each shot) is far better than blocked practice (standing in one place and hitting the same shots for dozens of repetitions). It is also known that the brain controls movement in a very variable way, changing (at a minuscule level) it with every swing, in terms of precise path travelled, speed of travel, joints, muscles and nerves used, while still delivering the desired end-result.

Only one golfer used no training aids, changed his distance-to-hole and slope after each putt and even did a drill to prevent his right shoulder from coming forward too early – Tiger Woods. After so many years of experience and being interested in the science of golf, one can see that he surely knows all the useful drills there are in golf!

Why do all the professional golfers with access to the best possible information, practice with gadgets they do not truly use or benefit from? Will their practice ever convert to something useful during the round?

Kiran Kanwar,

  •   Developer of The Minimalist Golf Swing System -100% scientific, simple and specific
  •   BS (physics, math); MS (sports science, nutrition); PhD (biomechanics, anatomy – student)
  •   Class A Member: the LPGA, The NGA of India, The PGA of India

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