05/12/2016

Putting is difficult… but television makes it look a lot easier than it really is!

There are always approximately 150 players who start a typical PGA European professional tour event, but how many do we actually get to see on the television? The featured groups and the leaders…

Statistics can always be misleading, but over the course of a season they certainly tell a story. The best player on the PGA Tour last season (2015) made 65.90% from the 5-10ft range. The player ranked 150th on the list of 5-10ft made 52.80%. If any amateur golfer can average over 50% over the course of a season from 5-10ft, I would very much like to meet them! But let us be honest, nobody keeps statistics, so how do we know if we are improving?

Outside 25ft, the best player on the PGA Tour, playing on the best quality greens, made on average 10% of his attempts. So the next time you hit a 5 iron to 30ft, be happy you two putt, because statistically (PGA Tour 2015), once you are outside 25ft you are more likely to 3 putt than make a BIRDIE!

The putter is the most used club in the bag, but the most overlooked part of the average golfer’s practice. Technology is widely used to help analyze and improve the golf swing. It has transformed golf teaching along with driver & iron club fitting. However, when it comes to putting rather than analyzing what our putting stroke and the ball are actually doing, we simply opt to buy another putter with little more than hope that it will truly improve our putting performance.

The statistics over the past 10 years are highlighting players are actually getting worse on the greens of PGA tournaments.

Research undertaken by Quintic during (2013/2014) highlighted the dominance of face angle to be approximately 92% of the balls initial direction at impact, with just 8% the result of the putter path. The two together determine the horizontal direction of the ball and also if there is any hook or cut spin applied to the ball.

Previous published research on the subject from Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible (2000), reports:

“…for a solidly struck putt that face angle determines 83 percent of the starting line while putter path direction determines 17 percent. 

Therefore, a square face angle is five times more important to starting putts on line than putter path.”

Why different? Experimental design? Maybe, but after discussion with Dave Pelz, I was happy with his experimental design. So why the difference between the two experimental results? After brainstorming numerous ideas and concepts, the answer became clear, the ‘Golf Ball’ itself! There was almost 20 years difference in the golf ball’s research and development between the two experiments.

[bctt tweet=”Face angle is 92% of the balls initial direction at impact, with just 8% the result of the putter path.” username=””]

During the year 2000, there was a significant change to the golf ball dimple patterns, along with new layers on the ball, all designed to make it fly further. The Pro V1 made its debut on the PGA Tour at Las Vegas on October 11, 2000, the first week it was available to the pros.

Shortly after its introduction the Titleist Pro V1 became the most played ball on the PGA Tour, and three years after Titleist’s initial breakthrough with the Pro V1 came the Pro V1x, a ball with 60 fewer dimples. The combination of a larger, firmer core, a thinner cover and 60 fewer dimples resulted in a ball that claimed to retain the same soft feel of the Pro V1, whilst reducing spin and increasing distance. Other manufactures quickly followed suit, developing balls that essentially flew further, fueled by the industry’s obsession to hit the ball further.

However, in my opinion, the new style golf ball has inadvertently made it harder for us ALL on the putting green…. The data displayed below (courtesy of Chris Sells) closely follows the introduction of the new style of golf ball.

The golf industry’s obsession to hit it further and further, the golfer’s obsession to hit it further, coaching, technology, fitness, conditioning and nutrition all played a part in the golf ball development!

Screenshot 2016-05-05 10.23.30Screenshot 2016-05-05 10.23.38Screenshot 2016-05-05 10.23.46

I don’t believe that putting standards are really are getting worse on the PGA Tour or that the coaching of putting has changed significantly. I would strongly argue that putting coaching has improved, the drills and training the players adhere to must make them better! Moreover surely the greens and quality of the surface have improved over the last ten years. If putting standards are indeed slipping, does that in simple terms mean players have to hit the ball closer to the hole to make the same scores (or hit it even further down the fairway)?

Look at when the statistics started to drop on the putting green! All the manufactures were making an equivalent ProV1x ball! But how many paid any attention to the putter/ball contact phase? 

Using a 50,000fps camera, Quintic have researched the new golf ball and the role the dimple effect plays in start direction. The manufacturers have continued to make a harder cover ball that will fly 300yds + and spin on a wedge around the green. That’s nice for full shots & chipping, but not so good for putting. When you combine the harder golf ball cover with random, uneven patterns on the putter face designed to create a rougher surface and improve overspin with a positive attack angle, you have a recipe for disaster.

When you start to think about how slim the margin of error is directionally on a putt (1° open or closed will miss from 8ft), it’s easy to see how this can be occurring. We are starting to learn more about how a slight club head twist at impact can all cause the ball to go off line as well (we are seeing over 0.75° twist of the club face with Tour Professionals).

All of these contributing factors that the player has no idea are happening. Since the player doesn’t understand and know this is a potential cause, they assume the player has a problem with their stroke or alignment and make the problem worse by trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

[bctt tweet=”1° open or closed will miss from 8ft.” username=””]

Is it any wonder that players when putting don’t fully appreciate what they have done, when numerous factors can cause a ball to miss the target (or even go in)? 

Factors such as alignment of the putter face, path of the putter, launch angle, speed, impact location, grip pressure, forward or backwards rotation, hook or cut spin, grain, spike marks, slope and even wind can play a significant part. The vital question we like to ask our players is simple “Do you know the difference between a good putt and a poor putt?

Without feedback on the launch conditions of each putt, is it possible to begin to answer this question?

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Screenshot 2016-05-06 08.59.31

Dr Paul Hurrion

www.paulhurrion.com

Twitter @PHurrion


 

More Information on Quintic Putting

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To learn more about this putting method in the U.S., visit toddkolbgolf.com.