Written: Tom Stickney II
Music: Johnny Rock Bashy
If you watch the vast majority of Tour players putt, you’ll notice that their hands start in front of the putter head at address, and this condition doesn’t vary throughout their stroke.
Most golfers don’t putt this way, though. Their hands start behind the putter head at address and tend to break down even more. They “slap” at the ball through impact and beyond, which is detrimental for both speed and direction control.
Golf instructors can agree that in order to be effective on the greens, golfers must have the putter shaft returning to neutral or even leaning forward at impact, allowing the hands to lead the blade throughout the stroke. Fundamentally, we know that the left hand controls the putter face and its direction, while the right hand controls the putter head and its effective loft (for right-handed golfers). These two factors together allow golfers to roll their putts more consistently.
The bottom line: if you do not lead the putter head with your hands on today’s fast green, you’ll struggle to be an effective putter.
So isn’t the solution as simple as forward pressing your hands during address. Why is that so hard? Well, when most amateurs forward press it’s almost never enough. That’s because they’re fighting an illusion.
That’s right, there’s an optical illusion that occurs when golfers look down from address at their hands and their putter shaft angle. It influences the breakdown of their impact alignments, and promotes a “slapping” action of the wrists and hands. It also encourages the putter head to swing past the hands, leaning the shaft away from the target at impact adding loft to the putter — not something we want.
Try It Yourself
To understand how putters are designed, place your putter flat on the ground, and up against the wall as pictured below. You will notice that the shaft leans away from the target.
If you still don’t buy it, take your setup in front of a full-length mirror and look down at the shaft of the putter. From your address position, you will swear that your putter shaft is even or slightly ahead of the golf ball. But when you look in the mirror you will see an entirely different picture. The putter shaft will actually be behind the putter head.
The Illusion Explained
Putter manufactures have built-in this backward leaning of the shaft and loft into the putter face to promote good mechanics (as well as other things) by forcing players to forward press their hands at address.
This was and still is a great idea, but the problem is that it causes an illusion, leading golfers to believe that their hands are pressed forward more than they actually are. This means that when the shaft is set in a forward-leaning position, the hands are really just over the top of the putter head, not in front of the blade as it looks visually from above.
How to Overcome the Illusion
Most golfers would be better off if they forward pressed their hands too much, rather than too little at address with their putter. This way, there is more room for error if something does breakdown.
A good rule of thumb is to always point the butt end of the putter shaft at the first belt loop on the target side of your belt buckle. As you look down, you may think you have the putter shaft pointed too far toward the hole, but when you look into your mirror you will find that it is only slightly forward leaning. This is the most desirable position for you to roll a putt.
Use a mirror to help you understand of the illusion of the putter shaft. I promise it will give you better control over your line and speed, and knowing you’re set up correctly will give you more confidence on the greens, too.
Hitting the green.com