In the latest issue of one of the leading golf magazines, you will see a putting instruction tip with the following title: Accelerate to sink more putts.
In the piece, the featured instructor advises that you “accelerate through impact.”
Thirty pages late in the same issue, however, another article features a leading putting instructor, who says, “The best strokes reach top speed before impact and maintain that pace through the hitting zone… So thinking ‘accelerate through’ can hurt you.”
We don’t mention this to knock the magazine, but rather to simply use it as a vivid illustration of the varied beliefs regarding perfect putting stroke.
Here you have two instructors who are accomplished enough to be featured in a leading golf magazine, and yet they are offering completely oppositional advice.
This is nothing new, as there have always been different schools of thought on virtually all aspects of the putting stroke.
For example, in another golf magazine this month, Jack Nicklaus advises that you get your eyes directly over the starting line of the putt—a concept that several of today’s top instructors refute. Indeed, Pat O’Brien and Stan Utley say that your eyes should be slightly inside the starting line.
Nicklaus also reveals that he employed different types of strokes during his career, stating, “I didn’t know which stroke I would use until I got to the tournament venue and checked the green conditions.” Whoa! Kids, don’t try that at home.
So what does all of this mean? It’s really just a reminder that putting is an art as well as a science.
In the new book The Stack & Tilt Swing (which is not a putting book, but rather a book on the full golf swing), the authors talk about the difference between so-called “fundamentals” and what they call “preferences.” They make the point that the former is often actually the latter when it comes to the full swing, and the same could probably be said for the putting stroke. Sometimes a “fundamental” is really just a preference.
So where does that leave us? Do we just each do whatever we want and make it up as we go along? No. Just because there is no single “way” to putt, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better “way” when it comes to your particular game.
The best option is to simply be acutely aware of the different schools of putting thought, and to find your own “way” within them. Through trial and error, you will find an approach that works for you.
From there, you can begin to strategically build your putting game, settling on mechanics that work for you and practicing your game within the framework of those mechanics (and finding a putter that fits those mechanics as well).
If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is a bit complicated. Nothing in golf comes easy—but a little knowledge and a thirst for discovery can go a long way toward raising your game.
P.S. What are your thoughts on this subject? Have you had a personal experience that would shed some light on it? If so, please comment!