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Disc Review



Twelve Characteristics of Good Putting

by Blake Takkunen

Originally Posted: 5-24-04
Last Updated: 5-26-04


Table of Contents

Overview

1. Putt With a Balanced Stance

2. Minimize Error Causing Variables

3. Maintain a Simple Routine

4. Minimize Body Motion

5. Maintain a Linear Motion

6. Execute a Clean Release

7. Enough Spin

8. Wind Neutral

9. Putt How You Practice

10. "Miss" Is Not Part of Your Inner Monologue

11. Know How To Miss Well

12. Understanding "Clutch"




Overview

Everyone putts. Everyone putts differently. Only a few putt very well. After thousands of putts and many hours of studying footage and looking back on the practice drills I picked up in other sports I have compiled a list of tendencies that I notice are consistent between most strong putters. At least one-third of putting is mental, and this list reflects that. My intentions with this article are to provide an agnostic set of tips independent of style (but don't hate me if some of my personal technique opinions bleed through). The first three characteristics I outline will cover the foundations of putting. The rest elaborates upon these basic ideas. While this article will probably be a little vanilla for most experienced players, I look at it as a “putting checklist” that may serve useful for those who struggle with putting. Also of note, these are targeted at putts inside 10 meters, as when you are sufficiently far away many of these rules will need to be broken. If you are interested in my putting technique, it can be found here: Short Arm Putting.


1. Putt With a Balanced Stance

The stance is the cornerstone of every putt. While there is no one right stance for every player, there is one right characteristic about every good stance for every player. Experienced putters take this as a given so this is mainly targeted at those who are not yet comfortable with their putting style. I believe this is important enough to put at the top of the list. Whether your putting stance is staggered, straddle, a mix of the two, or something totally different, you should feel completely stable in your starting position. You should still feel stable after your weight shift at the end of your follow-through. If you worry about falling forward at the end of your putt, then you have an unnecessary mental variable and should turn attention to the cause.

What is good balance? Simply put, it's not feeling off balance. Ideally, your stance will reflect this principle and you will never feel off balance at any time during your motion all the way through your follow-through.

2. Minimize Error Causing Variables

The heading seems simple enough but often people hang onto bad habits simply because they “have always done them” or “don't see enough of a reason to change.” Basic fundamentals of probability theory will hopefully have some influence if you are one of these people. My putt has 4 physical variables that can make me miss a putt. The average advanced am player has around 7 of these variables.

Lets say on a 25' putt (for simplicity's sake), assume each variable has a 1 in 20 chance of making me miss. With these odds, on average, I should make 81.4% of my putts. The player with 7 variables that have a 1 in 20 chance of causing a missed putt will, on average through 18 holes, make only 69.8% of their putts. While this difference is less than 12%, think about how that reflects over the course of a round. If we each threw a round with a 25' putt on every hole, I will, on average, make 2 more of these per round and have a higher % make on come-back putts, leading to an average of 2.5 strokes per round. Over the course of a three-round tournament, that's 7.5 strokes better and quite likely several spots in the standings. Hopefully this will give enough motivation to rid your-self of bad habits.

Around now you are probably thinking “put away the calculator and get to the good stuff.” Unfortunately, the “good stuff” relating to this category is further down the list but I feel that this section was necessary in order to provide a basis to work from as I may be “selling” ideas that you may not agree with. As for a very general list of “error-causing variables,” anything that involves conscious timing-dependent motion, non-linear motion, non-uniform incidental motion, specific disc distances, or overt wind-dependence falls into this category.

3. Maintain a Simple Routine

Putting is simply a method of executing a set of motions as consistently as possible. I equate it very closely to free throw shooting and throwing darts. Free throws in that it involves a constant routine with nothing in your way and it's something you SHOULD make, darts in that it involves a very quick, precise, repetitive motion with little margin for error. Whether you take the entire 30 seconds or just step up and fire, every time you do it, it should be the same. Muscle memory and feel are the key factors here. Muscle memory is the result of practice. Feel comes from your own memory: remembering what a good putt feels like from start to finish.

The “simple” part of this heading just implies the routine should not be over-complicated at any time before or during the putt (after the putt is free game, I recommend cartwheels when hitting a really long, really important putt). Basically, anything not included in the actual putting motion that you could do wrong, shouldn't be there.

4. Minimize Body Motion

While this sounds simple, a large number of players have excess motions that are not integral to their putt. However, because putts are an execution of a routine, excess motions can become part of this routine and add another variable that must occur at the right time and in the right way for a comfortable putt. While not all excess motions are detrimental to the accuracy of a putt, there are a few that are generally frowned upon.

For example, most upper-level players agree that there should be minimal movement of the head during a putt. While some motion may be inevitable during your weight shift, it should never be so much that it can distract you from your focus.

Another common motion is a tendency to drop the off-shoulder during the putting motion paired with a lunge of the throwing shoulder. While players may feel like this gives them more power, it actually detracts from the effectiveness of the arm extension. This is the case regardless if you putt with your shoulders square or staggered and I recommend keeping your shoulders on the same plane from start to finish.

5. Maintain a Linear Motion

Another good characteristic is that the disc should stay on a straight line to the target throughout your motion. This should hold true for most putting styles. Any off-line motion of the disc before it leaves your hand will affect the trajectory of the disc and cause tendency for an off-line flight. Keep the disc straight on line to give yourself the greatest chance of success.

6. Execute a Clean Release

This is pretty much a given, but a good putting form has a clean release. This will keep the release consistent, with minimal wobble and lower tendency to pull the disc both in terms of direction and nose angle. This very well may require a conscious, forced release of the disc. If the disc has to slide out of your grip, it has a chance to stick on your fingers and yank.

7. Enough Spin

A lot of players recommend putting with as little spin as possible as too much spin will increase spits and cut-throughs. So what is “enough” spin? A disc spins “enough” when it can travel the length of the putt without a lot of wobbling (to the extent that it reduces the distance your putt will travel) or fading prematurely due to the gyroscopic effect (as a disc loses spin, it will fade).

8. Wind Neutral

Putting in the wind can be a nightmare if your putting style is not conducive to the ways that wind affects the flight of the disc. Putting styles that involve a lot of nose angle or anhyzer are prone to these effects. Nose up putts will lift into a headwind and fade more with a large tailwind. Nose down putts will be thrust downward by headwinds. Anhyzer putts will want to turn more into a headwind or left to right crosswind and less with a tailwind or right to left crosswind. While there are very good players that putt with these styles, they are also often good enough to place their drives on the side of the green with wind most agreeable to their styles. If you find yourself unable to do this, I strongly recommend a wind neutral style that usually involves either a flat nose angle or hyzer putt.

9. Putt How You Practice

This is the first section dealing with the mind-game of putting. I have often read or been taught to practice how I putt. Use the same routine I use during a round when practice putting. Lacking patience, I often would grab a stack of putters and rapid-fire putt in order to build a rhythm and get in more putts for my time. However, on the course, I rarely executed on the level that I did in practice. Where was the breakdown?

I realized that after 200 practice putts a day for about a month, that my true putting form was my practice putt (compared to an average of 20-30 putts in a round of golf). The result was that I began putting during rounds of golf in a similar manner to my practice putt that resulted in a noticeable improvement when it counted. What I learned from this is that your in-game putt should model your practice form. If you believe in your in-game routine, then your practice should be the same. If the problem is more that your in-game routine greatly differs from your practice routine and you find yourself much more consistent in practice, then you should try to execute in-game in a similar manner since you will throw a hundred practice putts for every 10 in-game putts.

10. "Miss" Is Not Part of Your Inner Monologue

The title of this section may be misleading to an extent. It does not mean to run every putt without a thought of the consequence. What I do mean by this is that you should evaluate the risk/reward of the putt before you ever step up to your marker. If you have the green light to run it, commit to the run. Keep the idea of a miss out of your head. Part of execution is knowing that the putt is good if you “do your thing.” Once you commit, focus only on the make. You'll miss putts, but believing that you'll make the ones you choose to run is key.

11. Know How To Miss Well

Knowing a good miss is important. First, are misses on putts that are within your range and no extreme consequence for missing (e.g. a dropoff, OB, etc.). Ideally, your misses will be on-line and high with a comeback putt still within your make range. If you miss low, you never had a chance of making it and if you miss left or right, something went wrong. While missing high may lead to some longer comeback putts than you would have liked or some bounces that make the disc roll away, as a whole, if these are your only misses, your make percentage on first putts should be maximized. There are mixed opinions on whether or not missing in the same way whenever you do miss is a good thing. While some like the consistency, others believe that any miss that keeps occurring is a problem that can be fixed and prevented in the future. This choice is up to you.

Second, when putting from outside your true make range or with potential hazards the smart play is to pull up short, ideally, at the base of the basket. Play smart, play within yourself, and know the putts that are realistic for you. While you may occasionally get the “nice up” comment from your playing partners on these putts, you have the best odds in the long run by laying up in these situations.

12. Understanding "Clutch"

You want to hit every big putt. You try your hardest knowing it's a big putt. You miss the big putt as your friends look on gripping their throats and calling for the Heimlich maneuver. So how does one become clutch? Clutch players are not “great at making big shots,” but they are great at treating every big shot as if it's an ordinary shot they have thrown a thousand times before. So when you have that big shot, get out of your head and execute. You know how to putt, you know what a good putt feels like, focus on executing what you've done time and time again. Not all of them are going to go in, but we miss plenty of “normal” putts every day. Play your game and it'll happen.

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