The Key to Putting
(Pelz, Dave. "Back on a Roll." Golf Magazine. September 1998.
Being able to drive a golf ball 300 yards to the green is a huge benefit for a golfer, but the ability to putt is a true skill. There are many great golfers, but is the great putters that win the trophies. Even if you are not the greatest putter in the world, you should not get down on yourself, because you can still be helped. The best way to improve your putting skills is to understand the physics of it. Then you can apply this knew knowledge into your game.
Lee Janzen, the winner of this year's U.S. Open Championship, credits his victory to Dave Pelz, the coach who opened his eyes to the physics of golf. Before his training, Lee was having a lot of trouble with his left-to-right breaking putts, even though his right-to-left breaking putts were good. The problem was so persistent that Lee started aiming his iron shots to the sides of holes in an effort to leave only right-to-left breaking putts. This is when Dave stepped in to see where Lee was having a problem.
After a series of tests on stroke mechanics and set-up positions, Dave found two problems that caused these effects: Lee was aiming slightly to the right of where he intended, and he had a tendency to slightly under-read the amount of break. For right-to-left breaking putts, these two problems balanced each other out, and Lee was able to make the shot. Left-to-right shots, on the other hand, were going wide.
Dave set up an exercise that allowed Lee to see these points and to correct them. Aimlines were set up along several holes to help Lee see the line that he needed to choose. An Aimline is two metal stakes connected by an elastic string, which is positioned precisely on the perfect starting line for a putt. Lee would shoot several of these on straight shots to correct his inaccurate aim. Then he would use the Aimline on harder shots where you had to judge the tilt of the green. A green can often have hills, which adds a slope to the green and causes the ball to curve downhill.
A very important note to consider is your line of sight though. You should keep the ball spaced the same amount from your feet for every shot. This will allow you to see the ball from the same reference point every time, so it is easier to concentrate more on your speed and direction of the ball. This tip will help you see where you are making your mistakes in your shot. Lee finally saw the mistake he was making in his judgement, and he practiced his new technique until the U.S. Open, where he took home the trophy.
These steps all have to do with the physics of putting because you are considering the force and direction for which you hit the ball. This is determined by taking into consideration the distance between the ball and the hole, the angle of the slope of the hill (which will directly affect the direction of the ball), the thickness of the grass (which gives more or less friction), and all other factors that could physically affect the reaction of the ball. Lee Janzen won the U.S. Open off of this information. Just remember that you, too, can improve your game a great deal after understanding the physics involved in putting.