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Putting - DO NOT Accelerate Through the Ball

post #1 of 201
Thread Starter 

Here are three graphs of putting strokes. The s axis is "speed" and the "t" axis is time.

 

We'll take a look at each of these in a moment, but consider first how putting can behave like a pendulum.

 

In virtually all good putting strokes, the ball is hit with a slight positive angle of attack (AoA) - about 2-3° or so. This positive AoA helps minimize backspin, produce no spin, or even to produce a tiny bit of forward spin if the dynamic loft is 1-2°. But the point is: the ball is struck while the putter head is ascending, or after low point.

 

If you were to swing a pendulum back and through, maximum speed would be where? At the bottom. At low point. At every point after that, the speed would be lower. Even one tenth of one degree after low point, the pendulum is slowing down (negative acceleration, or deceleration).

 

The best putters almost all tend to have a decelerating putter head at or even slightly before impact. Their putting stroke resembles a pendulum, reaching maximum speed at or slightly before impact.

 

Consider also the length of a pendulum's swing. A theoretical pendulum (no loss of energy to friction) swings as far past center in one direction as it does in the other direction. Whether you measure it in degrees or a linear measurement, the pendulum swings 22.7° left and 22.7° right, or 13.1 inches left and 13.1 inches right.

 

The best putters almost all tend to have similar length backswings and through-swings in their putting strokes. Their putting strokes continue to resemble a pendulum in this sense.

 

Now let's take a look at each of these putting strokes.

 

 

Here's a putting stroke typical of a golfer who has a terrible time controlling their distances. This golfer may have a great sense of touch from 5-10 feet, maybe even out to 15', but when you ask them to hit a 30' putt, you start to see issues. They'll hit one 27', the next 34', the one after that 25', and then maybe 33'.

 

These golfers often make a backswing that's - let's just say - eight inches for a six-foot putt, nine inches for a 12-foot putt, and ten inches for a 30-foot putt. They're almost the same length. Then they have to accelerate their putters various amounts to reach various speeds at impact to send the ball various distances.

 

If you wanted to make a pendulum swing faster at the bottom of the arc, given the same pendulum length and weight (we aren't changing putters or our setup appreciably), how would you accomplish this?

 

Why… you'd simply pull the pendulum back farther before letting it go.

 

So look at the speed and time plot of the poor putter above. I've marked the instantaneous speed at two points: just prior to impact and just after impact. Note that impact - even on a putting stroke - severely slows the putter head down. I've exaggerated it quite a bit in these graphs, but that's something I can do given that I haven't added any scale to these charts. :D It simply makes things clearer to see and thus easier to grasp.

 

At any rate, note that the direction of each of the arrows - both the dashed (pre-impact) and dotted (post-impact) lines is pointing upwards. This means the putter head has positive acceleration. It's speeding up. Note the pronounced "hump" after impact. Though the ball slows the putter head down temporarily, it's still speeding up, so you see a second peak speed after impact.

 

This golfer is roughly 99% likely to have poor distance control.

 

Let's look at the good and great putting dynamics (and by good I mean pretty darn good, because as you'll note the differences between these two are subtle):

 

 

Note how in Good the putting stroke reaches maximum speed at the ball. The proof of this is that the acceleration is neither positive nor negative - the arrow is pointing horizontally, indicating that the speed is neither going up nor down. Constant speed is no acceleration (positive or negative). Notice that this condition continues immediately after impact, and the putter head continues to slow down thereafter.

 

In the Great image, the putter head is actually slowing down slightly at impact (the arrow points downward). Then you see the BIG deceleration caused by the putter impacting the ball, and then the deceleration continues from there.

 

Contrast those with what we often see from the golfers with the absolute worst distance control:

 

 

This golfer actually manages to reach peak/maximum speed after the ball has left the putter. Note that his acceleration curve going into impact actually steepens - he is accelerating more at impact than at any other point in the downstroke. Then he accelerates MORE until he rapidly decelerates, well after impact, to bring the putter to a halt.

 

This is more common than you might think. Golfers have been told for decades to "accelerate through the ball" and to "putt authoritatively" and so on. This advice ranks near the top of my list for counter-productive, harmful advice.

 

By and large, the poorest putters accelerate far too much for far too long (including up to and after impact), while the best putters have roughly matching backstrokes and through-strokes that deliver the putter head to the ball while it is either not accelerating at all or is negatively accelerating (i.e. decelerating, or slowing down).

 

If you feel you may be "accelerating" your putter into impact, put three coins on the ground, equally spaced from each other, in a line. Put the ball near the middle one, and practice making backstrokes that go to one and finish at the other. Try to feel that you're not adding anything to the downstroke or follow-through: you're not accelerating the putter much (just let gravity do it - in reality your muscles will contribute, but it's uncommon to feel much muscle contribution) and you're not forcing yourself to "brake" the putter too much at the end, either. Just make a natural, smooth stroke that matches - coin to coin.

 

To change how far you hit the ball, move the coins farther apart or closer together, keeping the distances the same.

 

It's that simple.

 

P.S. Note that I've made no attempt to show the scale of t and s. Specifically, I've fudged things a bit by implying that the the t is the same for all of these strokes, and that impact occurs at the same moment. This is very unlikely to be true: if you make a short backstroke and accelerate all the way up to and even after impact, you're likely to have a shorter (time) downswing and to reach impact sooner. They line up because I wanted to keep things simple, and because timing isn't really the topic here.

 

P.P.S. A really old example of a SAM PuttLab read-out can be seen here.

 

P.P.P.S. (2014-08-13) A great series of pictures and a simple explanation of the "why" is found in post #179: http://thesandtrap.com/t/74295/putting-do-not-accelerate-through-the-ball/162#post_1040098 .

post #2 of 201
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 

 

 

If you feel you may be "accelerating" your putter into impact, put three coins on the ground, equally spaced from each other, in a line. Put the ball near the middle one, and practice making backstrokes that go to one and finish at the other. Try to feel that you're not adding anything to the downstroke or follow-through: you're not accelerating the putter much (just let gravity do it - in reality your muscles will contribute, but it's uncommon to feel much muscle contribution) and you're not forcing yourself to "brake" the putter too much at the end, either. Just make a natural, smooth stroke that matches - coin to coin.

 

To change how far you hit the ball, move the coins farther apart or closer together, keeping the distances the same.

 

 

 

Excellent idea. I will try this out. I do find even with my Edel putter my old putting stroke sneaks its way back in from time to time, when I was forced to judge distance by changing how fast the putter head moved instead of the length of the putting stroke. 

post #3 of 201

iacas,

 

The most helpful explanation I have ever read.  Thanks.

post #4 of 201
Quote:
Originally Posted by Always an 80 View Post

iacas,

The most helpful explanation I have ever read.  Thanks.
Agreed. If I'm honest with myself about distance control, I fit your profile of a bad putter. I'll bet my graph would show an accelerating stroke at impact, and that presentation format was very effective. Thousand words and all that.
post #5 of 201

@iacas are you including this type of information in your LSW book as well?

 

Of course it will take some time for me to fully understand what you have written, it's really impressive. Looks like my 3D accelerometers will come in handy for putting as well?

 

I really regret not having joined this site 3 years ago.

post #6 of 201

Thanks very educational.

I make a "yip" something like a jabbing stroke. acceleration to the ball then dec at impact and then accelerate again which is my hitch. 

is that the two peak velocity in graph 1?

post #7 of 201

Very informative.   Thanks.  Good common sense that isn't so obvious. 

post #8 of 201
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lihu View Post
 

@iacas are you including this type of information in your LSW book as well?

 

Not with this much detail. We may link to this thread, though, if we get the chance and think it will fit. Perhaps I'll go add the URL to a footnote now.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lihu View Post
 

I really regret not having joined this site 3 years ago.

 

No need to regret it. You've righted that wrong. :D

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dennyjones View Post
 

Very informative.   Thanks.  Good common sense that isn't so obvious. 

 

File under "Feel ain't real… again." The "accelerate through the ball" advice is everywhere.

post #9 of 201

Finally had a moment to read the whole thing, excellent thread! 

post #10 of 201
Great thread. Thanks for the drill.
post #11 of 201

Great post Erik, but I have one significant issue with it.  I went to the Oxford English Dictionary and got this search result:

 

No results found for “craptacular”.

That being said, this is what I work on in putting, increasing the stroke length for longer putts and not the velocity of the down stroke. When I feel off, it is usually because I rush the down stroke.  So I go back to smoothing out the stroke.  I honestly don't even think about the stroke length when I am playing.  I don't even take a practice stroke.  I just visualize the distance, set up to my line and putt.  If I think about anything mechanical, it makes things worse.

 

Can you tell us who were the subjects for the data?

post #12 of 201
This is all pretty much exactly what you guys told me when I got on the SAM last year.

So ... great read. c2_beer.gif
post #13 of 201
Thanks for the information, @iacas. I'm definitely guilty of using a push stroke. As you said, I'm pretty decent from short to mid range, but I'm awful at long lag putts. I have to work on that gravity feel.
post #14 of 201
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamo View Post

This is all pretty much exactly what you guys told me when I got on the SAM last year.

So ... great read. c2_beer.gif

Same here, and the drill has changed my putting making my ability to judge distance and hit my lines so much better.
post #15 of 201
Quote:
Originally Posted by cipher View Post


Same here, and the drill has changed my putting making my ability to judge distance and hit my lines so much better.

 

Which drill?

post #16 of 201
Quote:
Originally Posted by saevel25 View Post

Which drill?

With the coins.
post #17 of 201
Quote:
Originally Posted by cipher View Post


With the coins.

 

Thought so, but I wanted to ask just to make sure I am not missing any sort of awesome putting drill :-D

post #18 of 201

Went to practice putting today and tried to position the ball opposite my knuckes or palm of hand so that my hands were either slightly ahead of the ball or inline with the ball and this conscious thought seem to improve my putting. I will no longer position the ball off my front foot for putting.

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