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.
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?
- 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...
- different shaft lengths and flexes
- different weighting options (for both head weight, grip weight, and mid-shaft weighting)
- different putter heads (shape)
- a template for drawing different lines on the top and bottom of your putter
- 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.