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Aim Bias and Putting Geometry

79 posts in this topic

If I post this image, people will understand immediately what they're seeing: how putts from the four quadrants will break.

Putts from quadrants A and B are downhill, and C and D uphill.

Putts from quadrants A and C break right, and from B and D break left.

Easy stuff.

But let's assume that a person can read a putt accurately and knows to aim at the X that I've marked on each of the putts (the "AimPoint" if you want to use that lingo, but basically the immediate starting direction of the putt).

If you can't aim your putter at that point, how are you going to consistently make putts?

Did you know that 80% of even PGA Tour level golfers can't aim their putters inside the hole on a straight putt from six feet away?

Consider that for a second. The average amateur isn't much worse, but how much worse could they be? 80% is already bad enough!

In other words, consider the image to the right. When the average golfer is asked to aim his putter at the hole, 80%+ of people can't hit it from six feet away. The guy on the right thinks he's aimed his putter at the hole, but it's aimed left. Some people aim to the right.

It's simply the way our eyes see things. The geometry of a putter - the colors, shapes, lines, edges, shaft length, hosel, offset, lie angle, etc. all combine to create a shape that looks square even when it's not.

Have you ever picked up a putter that "looked closed" to you? You open up the face until it looks good. Yet you might aim that putter better than your current one, because maybe you aim your current putter left and being forced to "open the face" because a putter "looks closed" is a good thing.

Consider the putt geometry again. If you tend to aim your putter to the right of where you think it's aimed, you'll hit putts B and D softer because they'll start higher, and you'll hit putts A and C firmer because they're starting on a lower line.

Vice versa if you're a left aimer. An aim bias will also lead to a stroke deficiency that's sub-optimal and/or difficult to repeat. For example, a left-aimer will tend to mis-align their elbows and will try to push their putts with the path going well right and the face "blocking" open. A right aimer will tend to rely on toe rotation (Tiger Woods tends to aim 4 degrees right - consider how many times you've heard him talk about releasing the toe of his putter...) to square the face. When you're not hitting 1000 putts per day (cough, ahem, TW, cough), it can be tough to time.

If you're having a bad day putting, what variable do you blame? Is your aim off? Is your stroke and timing off? Is your speed inconsistent because you're jamming putts that break one way and trying to glide putts that break the other way?

I think that there are three fundamentals to putting. The first is that you've got to be able to read the green. This led me to AimPoint ( ). The second is that you've got to be able to get the right speed of your putts. The third is that you've got to be able to start your putt on the intended line.

Turns out the last two are what led me to Edel Golf ( ). Take a look at their fitting cart, and I'll explain it a bit more below.

So what are all those things?

1. different hosels (both "L-"shaped and the softer "S" type necks), with varying amounts of offset and different lie angles. Oops, almost forgot - there's F hosels as well...
2. different shaft lengths and flexes
3. different weighting options (for both head weight, grip weight, and mid-shaft weighting)
5. a template for drawing different lines on the top and bottom of your putter
6. different faces with varying degrees of loft

ALL of those combinations of things can affect the way you "see" your putter. They will also help you with your speed control.

Here's a brief example as a test. Look at these three putters. The fact that they're all very close to each other greatly diminishes this effect, but it's still there:

Are these putters all pointing at the same place? Are they square to the left edge of the window or post?

It turns out that they all are, yet a lot of people will see perhaps the mallet as looking closed and the thinnest blade on the right as being a bit open. We see these shapes differently.

So in a typical Edel fitting, you're asked to line up at a target six feet away. A ball is quickly removed so the fitter can see your aim (but you cannot - lest you start to "try" to correct for your aim bias, defeating the purpose of being fit in the first place...). The fitter will then build a series of putters with different components to see how you use the various shapes, angles, lines, hosels, etc. to line up a putter. It's unique to you, and in the end, you will get a putter you can aim at the center of the hole time and time again.

And this aim won't change over time. It's kind of just the way you're wired - you see certain things a certain way, and if the testing is done in a good environment, you'll always tend to line that putter up the best.

The second part is speed fitting. You're asked to putt to a string 15 feet away. With a poor weighting setup (head weight, grip counter-weight, and mid-shaft weight combinations) you'll have a heck of a time doing this consistently. Some putts will roll long. Some will stop short. The stroke will appear jerkier than normal.

With the right combination of head weight and counter-weight, you can stop balls within an inch of the string time and time again. It's not just a matter of practice, either - you can drop 10 balls in a row on the string with your ideal setup and then change one piece by only 20 grams and go back to being erratic again.

Then, any time you're on a new green, Edel says you should drop a piece of string and hit some 15 footers to quickly calibrate yourself. If you have one of Edel's "Variable Weight" putters, you can swap out for lighter weights on slower greens and heavier weights on faster greens and your "natural touch" shouldn't need much calibration.

So consider all of this, and consider whether your putter truly "fits" your eye or not. Most people who have a lot of putters tend to go back to one putter time and time again - a trusted classic... Many times the weight will be better, or the shape will help the guy line up his putter better (or both!).

With a putter that you aim where you think you're aiming, you'll quickly adjust and putt much more naturally. Pulls will be obvious pulls, pushes will be obvious pushes, and you'll be able to remove one of the variables from your putting - the fact that you probably aren't aiming where you think you're aiming. Remove that variable, and you can remove the compensations and build yourself a better putting stroke.

I recommend you find a local Edel putter fitter. I'm not offering this as a sales pitch - we chose Edel at Golf Evolution because it's by far the most comprehensive putter fitting system on the planet. With 300 million combinations or some crazy number like that, you'll find a putter that fits your eye, and will truly be a putter you'll be able to use for a lifetime.

And if you're in the surprisingly small section of the population that can aim the putter you own reasonably well, then congrats - an Edel fitter will refuse to sell you a putter, unless perhaps your speed control is off.

Some food for thought... get your aim bias checked out from one of the fitters out there .

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You made me want to do this. Will they fit me for free before I buy a new putter? I've been using a 2 ball putter for the last 7 years or so and I feel like I need a change.

I feel like I have a good ability to aim putts, but this article makes me think maybe that i don't. Do you know of any tests you can do to test this on your own?

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Originally Posted by jshots

You made me want to do this. Will they fit me for free before I buy a new putter? I've been using a 2 ball putter for the last 7 years or so and I feel like I need a change.

Some do. Some will charge a fee that's waived if you buy a putter. Some will charge the fee regardless. Ask your local guy. BTW, you might just aim your Two-Ball fine, and not have to change anything.

Originally Posted by jshots

I feel like I have a good ability to aim putts, but this article makes me think maybe that i don't. Do you know of any tests you can do to test this on your own?

Short of getting a laser aiming thing and putting a little mirror on your putter and doing it at home, I don't.

You can almost "fit yourself" or measure your current putter yourself by doing this:

1. Put a small mirror or even a really shiny piece of metal on your putter face. Double sided tape works well.
2. Line up to a laser pointer sitting on a small white disc the size of a hole (you can make it out of paper or styrofoam or something) or a coaster or something.
3. Stand up a book or something (or use a wall or a piece of furniture) behind the "hole".
4. Stand six or seven feet away.
5. Line the laser up so that it's directly over the hole (loft will make it go up a little).
6. Ask yourself and be honest: does this putter look square to me? If it doesn't - if it looks open or closed - then your eyes don't like that shape and can't line that putter up very well.

I know the first post kind of slipped into a "salesy" type thing, but that's not really the biggest point. The biggest point is that aim bias is a very real thing, and you should be aware of it and the ramifications it has on your speed, your ability to accurately read greens, and starting a putt on-line versus not. Whether you solve this problem yourself or not (maybe you aim one of the 17 putters you own really well and the other 16 like garbage - figure out the weighting on the one you aim well and putt with it), I don't really care... just be aware of this and improve your putting.

I do recommend you see an Edel guy for a fitting. The system is unique and world-class, but that guy isn't too likely to be me given my location, so how much I truly care about that is smaller than my first post made it appear. We sought out Edel because we believe in their system and how well it fits with our fundamentals to great putting and I am passing that advice along to you guys because I care about y'all and want you to play your best golf.

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Hmmm... the guy I'm taking the AimPoint session from on Saturday is listed as Edel certified.  And Edel is listed as having a fitting event on the same day at the same course... I bet it's him.  I should talk to him about this.

One quick thing though:  when I putt, I line up the ball so the line (that says "B330 RX" or similar) is lined up with the line that I intend to start the putt (assuming my eyes are good -- I'm actually going to an eye doctor tomorrow).  How does this affect the ability to line up properly?

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Originally Posted by Shindig

One quick thing though:  when I putt, I line up the ball so the line (that says "B330 RX" or similar) is lined up with the line that I intend to start the putt (assuming my eyes are good -- I'm actually going to an eye doctor tomorrow).  How does this affect the ability to line up properly?

Lines on the ball help about 20% of people. They don't help (or even hinder) 80% of people.

I've trained myself to do this better. When I first started, the line on the ball would be about eight or nine inches left at 20 feet. By putting the ball down a little more under my right eye (I'm right eye dominant but that doesn't seem to be a 1:1 correlation in others I've tested), I can peg it much more accurately.

But... I'm just putting without a line these days. If I can line my putter up without needing the line, technically the line on the putter might throw off my aim. And then you've gotta spend that time being super picky about where the line on the ball is pointing, etc.

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Originally Posted by iacas

Yep, it's Jason.  I'll get there early (there's a demo day for many companies going on at the course that day) and check out what Edel has going, and I'll be sure to ask about this before going through a fitting.

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I play a vintage Ping Pal, and won a putter fitting at Golf Galaxy early last season.

I had been missing a lot of 10- to 15-foot putts to the left side. The fitter bent it 1 degree flatter, increased the swingweight (among other things), and straightened me out.

One thing I've noticed: consistent posture helps accuracy in putting. If I'm slouching or don't have my eyes over the ball, I have problems. I've noticed the slouching seems to rock my putter heel down, causing again the miss to the left (negates the 1* flatter).

Good posture and a relaxed arm hang helps me line up right.

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This is a very interesting topic. I never really thought of eye dominance and different perceptions of distance and shapes when putting.  I've been using my same putter for 6 or 7 years now, and I pride myself in putting within 8ft and getting very little if any 3 putts in a round.  I've always thought of it more mental toughness, trusting the line, making a commitment, and making a solid stroke.  Didn't think that putter face alignment with a target would change from one person to another.  From above, it sounds like an mental illusion that one must overcome to align properly.  But, as you've (iacas) slightly mentioned, I strongly believe in practice makes perfect.  With a lot of practice, the illusion will fade.  Although, I do think, more now than before, being fitted would help by a couple strokes.

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Originally Posted by phillyk

From above, it sounds like an mental illusion that one must overcome to align properly.  But, as you've (iacas) slightly mentioned, I strongly believe in practice makes perfect.  With a lot of practice, the illusion will fade.

I don't know that it will fade, really. You might just get better at timing your "shove it out to the right" move (if you aim left), for example. But you'll always mis-align the putter, just as you'll always align a properly fitted putter accurately. David Edel has made putters for a decade or so and nobody's changed their putter because they always line 'em up good.

What you see is unique to you. What looks square to you might look way open or closed to someone else.

I think people should check their putters out. If they aim them poorly, remove the variable of aiming poorly and you can focus on making a better stroke with less compensations . Compensations need to be made in pairs, and if one compensation varies, you miss the putt. Removing the "I aim somewhere to the left" compensation allows you to remove the "I have to push all of my putts" compensation.

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Originally Posted by Shindig

One quick thing though:  when I putt, I line up the ball so the line (that says "B330 RX" or similar) is lined up with the line that I intend to start the putt (assuming my eyes are good -- I'm actually going to an eye doctor tomorrow).  How does this affect the ability to line up properly?

i do the same thing and hope that it helps me keep my face square to my line. my putter design helps, too. looks like this at address:

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My Corza Ghost helps me line up putts like this, but more and more often I'm noticing that from behind the ball, I line up the putt, then when I stand over the ball, I look at the line on the ball and just go "wtf was i looking at?" and almost always ignore it (whether I was right the first time or not). I think like Iacas I'm not going to put a line on it anymore. I never use it when I'm playing anyway, only when I'm on the practice green to make sure I'm starting it correctly. I need to pull out my z-factor again, my stroke went to garbage for the last week. I asked my PGA pro about putter fittings, but the only place who does them in Wisco is in Madison at a ritzy club and I didn't even want to contemplate the price.  We just realized that for some reason the Corza Ghost laid flat on the ground and was comfortable right away as opposed to bending my old putter 4* flat. And by 4* flat I mean that I was at another store who had that ping adjustable putter, and apparently for how I stood and held the putter, it said I needed a 33.5" and 4* flat putter (not sure I trusted it but went to a golf galaxy and they said the same thing).

Originally Posted by dhanson

i do the same thing and hope that it helps me keep my face square to my line. my putter design helps, too. looks like this at address:

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Originally Posted by dhanson

my putter design helps, too. looks like this at address:

I must have failed to make this point properly...

Your putter design may very well HINDER your ability to align the putter at the target.

More lines and shapes and colors does not "help" everyone. Lines alone on the same exact putter head will change where people aim. Some will aim a putter with no lines better than they do a putter with three lines on both the top and the bottom part of the putter. Some people aim blades better than mallets. With the same exact head, some people will aim putters with less offset than putters with more offset. The opposite of all of these is also true for other people.

Your putter - and what lines, colors, shapes, offset, hosels, lengths, lie angles, etc. it has all affect your ability to line up the putter . This effect is almost always going to be "to make it worse" given that there's a very small group of characteristics that you might line up reasonably well. For example, let's suppose that you line up an Anser-style blade putter with a single alignment dot, a square ("L") hosel with a shaft of offset, a lie angle of 72, a shaft length of 34.5 inches, and 3 degrees of loft. You line that type of putter up perfectly. Any variation from this will negatively affect your ability to line up the putter accurately.

dhanson, maybe you line that particular putter up really well. If so, you should always stick to a putter that looks really close to like that: a shaft or 1.5 shafts of offset in an L hosel, three lines on the bottom in white and black, a 3/4 mallet, that loft, that lie angle.

More lines and alignment aids DOES NOT MEAN your putter is easier to align. It may very well be making it more difficult for you to align. I recommend you check this out. You'll be surprised at how many of your friends can't line their putters up inside the hole from six feet. And you're 80% likely not to do it, too.

The line on the ball is irrelevant, except, that it too can change your focus and thus your alignment, just the same way a line on the putter can change things.

Originally Posted by DarkPrince

I asked my PGA pro about putter fittings, but the only place who does them in Wisco is in Madison at a ritzy club and I didn't even want to contemplate the price.

Bear in mind that most putter fitters don't have the Edel system. We could have done some of these putter fitting systems that fit for lie angle, loft, and some other static things, but most of them end up building a putter head that "you like to look at" and not a complete putter that "you aim most accurately." Some account for the speed, some don't. Most of the "putter fittings" that try to fit you into a Cameron, Rossa, Never Compromise, PING, etc. type of putter are incredibly poor. They're little more than a wrist-to-floor measurement and have almost nothing to do with aim.

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Thanks for the info Eric.  It's good stuff for an engineering geek like me.  I worked all winter on my alignment and did a drill where I tried to putt and hit a ball as a target squarely at 2, 3 , 5 feet etc.  I guess I was training my eye to my swing.

My question is:

I use the Utley method and my dominant eye is inside and behind the ball.  Is this where the bias comes from?  Since I am at a slight angle to the putter, I am triangulating the aim, I guess.

I don't putt well when I align over the ball as some methods suggest.  I really like my putting stroke and worked this spring on green reading while I was rehabing my shoulder.  I also switched to a putter that was a bit more toe down so I could alway place the putter exactly in the middle of my stance.

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You've unwittingly given me a good example of how the line on a ball can hurt more than it helps.

Let's assume you've got a putter you can line up at the hole from ten feet on a dead straight putt. According to the math, unless you absolutely die the ball at the hole, you've got to hit your putt within about +/- 0.549 degrees of dead straight to make the putt ( Angles of Error article).

Is this within 0.549 degrees of perfect?

It turns out the answer is no.

The line on the ball makes the requirements to line yourself up properly as follows:

1. Line on the ball has to be lined up exactly at the target.
2. Putter has to be lined up exactly to the line on the ball.

Or:

1. Line on the ball has to be lined up x degrees off from the target.
2. Putter has to be lined up exactly x degrees in the opposite direction to be lined up straight at the target.

If you can do those things, great. Why did the line on the ball help 20% of golfers? Because they aimed their putters so badly that the line on the ball at least got them in the neighborhood.

Again, these two numbers don't lie:

• 80% of golfers can't aim their putters inside the hole from six feet.
• 80% of golfers saw no help or were actually hurt by a line on the ball.

Is the line on the ball helping the guy in the photo above? I would say no - he might line the putter up better without the line. Or, he might line it up worse... but either way he's still "off" by a degree, and has decreased chances of making a putt outside of 9 feet.

Originally Posted by boogielicious

Thanks for the info Eric.  It's good stuff for an engineering geek like me.  I worked all winter on my alignment and did a drill where I tried to putt and hit a ball as a target squarely at 2, 3 , 5 feet etc.  I guess I was training my eye to my swing.

You may have been. You might have also been training your compensations. For example, if you aim four inches left of the cup from six feet, you might have been training your stroke to push the putt back on-line.

That's not a terrible thing. IIRC, Loren Roberts always lines the face up a degree left and then shoves his putts two degrees right. But Loren Roberts is a bit of an extreme example, and he practices his putting almost as much as the rest of us work at our jobs. He's got the "timing" down.

But for golfers that don't play or practice as often as Loren Roberts, I think it's a hindrance - you're making a compensating move that has to match up for your poor aim (assuming you're in the 80% that can't aim your current putter).

Originally Posted by boogielicious

I use the Utley method and my dominant eye is inside and behind the ball. Is this where the bias comes from? Since I am at a slight angle to the putter, I am triangulating the aim, I guess.

The position of your eyes can affect things, yes. Eye dominance will tend to affect shaft lean predominantly (left eye dominant righties tend to have more shaft lean than right-eye dominant righties) and the position of the eyes can affect the aim as well. If your eyes get outside the target line, you'll tend to line your putter up to the left. Vice versa, to the right.

Getting your eyes in a neutral position is where length and lie angle come in. Once that's within range, playing with the hosels (which will also affect shaft lean), loft, lines, head shapes, etc. can get you aiming straight at the target.

Every human interprets shapes somewhat differently. Again, the reason we chose Edel is because it's the only system out there that 100% fits every piece of the putter to the individual who will be using it. We've done five or six fittings so far and it's amazing how even the smallest detail like having one line versus three lines on the TOP of the putter can change someone's aim by two inches at six feet. Everyone "triangulates" differently... the trick is to find a putter that you triangulate accurately .

Originally Posted by boogielicious

I don't putt well when I align over the ball as some methods suggest. I really like my putting stroke and worked this spring on green reading while I was rehabing my shoulder. I also switched to a putter that was a bit more toe down so I could alway place the putter exactly in the middle of my stance.

You might have found a putter you can aim. 20% isn't a small number - you might have put yourself into that realm and gotten close to the perfect putter for you. Odds say you haven't, but they're only 4 out of 5. ;-) We'd all take a 20% chance at winning the lottery... even at the cost of a thousand bucks, right?

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I skimmed it over... was a good post, I liked the display pictures. When I get a good hour I'll check back

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Looks great.  Love to do it.  But right now all my money and energy is in getting my full swing in order.  Just had my first video lesson a week ago and working on changes. (i'll post it once I get it back from the pro i'm going to)

In terms of the line on the ball,  you have to trust what you did when you set the ball down and lined it up.  It might look totally wrong but I trust what I thought behind the ball.  For me it helps (I think).  Once I've put the ball down, varified from behind that is the exact line I want to start the ball on, I just think about speed.  Things look totally different above the ball but I know I want to start the ball on that line.  Without trust in that then the only thing it does is take time and make you a worse putter (IMO).

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looks like i'm heading to lenexa for a putter fitting...

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This is why I'm a spot putter.

Figure I have a better shot at rolling the ball precisely over a tiny target four inches away than precisely toward a larger target fourteen feet away.

I'm also a 2.1 degree right aimer, according to the SAM PuttLab machine, so I'd probably benefit from an Edel fitting if there was anyone within 6,000 miles to do one. Switching from my usual face-balanced mid mallet to a flanged blade seems to have helped recently. Likely dumb luck.

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