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September 1, 2017

Perfecting Tour Pro Putting Strokes

BY: DEREK UYEDA, PGA written with Scott Kramer

I use a unique filming method when it comes to analyzing my players’ putting strokes. I place a camera down low to the ground behind the golfer (pictured above). Filming the way I do is proof.

Tour players have been taught a lot of things from a lot of instructors. Where their elbows should be and what various body parts should be doing during the putting stroke. There are a lot of different ideas about how to move the putter and make the ball go where you want it to go, but nobody does it the same. No fundamental motions are set in stone, but the ball starting on the line is an absolute must for any good putter.

I deal with facts. I don’t have a method or potion. I tell people this is what you’re doing, these are your patterns, and I use the camera to prove it. You can argue with me all you want, but you can’t argue with video evidence. This has been especially effective with Charley Hoffman. When we first started working together, his green reading was good but not great. His right-to-left aim was better than his left-to-right aim, but he may have never known his tendencies unless I showed him. If your students don’t know their tendencies, it’s hard to help them improve.

His left-to-right misses had to do with his aim. He would read them correctly but would aim high, then hit them the correct speed and miss on the high side. His other tendency was to aim high and not hit it hard enough, and the ball would cross in front of the hole. The putt he made to win the Valero Texas Open last year was a 12-foot, downhill left-to-right putt – the very path he struggled reading properly his whole career. Four years ago when we started working together, he made over $4 million the next year. He hasn’t made less than $2 million since. I see him three or four times a year. Each time, I get him on camera to make sure everything is good to go with his stroke.

PICK A SPOT

First you have to know what the player is seeing. There are different ways of figuring out how they visualize the putt. Some use AimPoint, Vector Green Reading or simply trust their eyes. I don’t really have a preferred method, I defer to what the player is most confortable with. The most important part is understanding what lens they view green reading through. Most players stand behind the ball and look where they should hit the putt, and then they do it. I make them commit to a spot by putting a tee down on the aiming spot and now everything is relative to that point. This helps them pick a straight line that the putt should start on, rather than visualizing the curve and break of the putt.

READY, AIM, FIRE

Once they know where they’re trying to hit it, that’s where the fun begins. Few golfers really aim exactly where they say they want to aim, nor do they start the ball exactly where they say they’re wanting to start it. Some putts go in – I suppose that’s why the cup is three-times larger than a golf ball. Few instructors would admit this, but putting is part skill, part luck and a healthy portion of feel. Charley and Xander Schauffele can’t afford to have bad feel. It has to be consistent, and they have to understand their tendencies.

CHANGE PUTTERS ONLY WHEN NECESSARY

I do optics drills with golfers to see how their eyes triangulate. Some golfers aim better with different shapes, lines on the crown, no lines, a 2-ball alignment format, etc. If a player is comfortable with a putter and won’t change it, I won’t even try to change it. But I may adjust the posture, head position or eye-line.

UNIQUE METHODOLOGY

In listening to many of top instructors, I haven’t heard any of them teach putting in this fashion. When Charley and I first started working this way, he thought it was cool and different. He found some success with it and wanted to keep doing it. One thing I’ve found is that pretty much all the tour pros hit and chip well, but they don’t all putt well. What I’ve come to learn and believe about these top-level players is that it’s not about the putting stroke – they obviously have pretty good strokes to have made it that far. It’s about what their situational tendencies are. What do they do on uphill putts, down hill putts, left-to-right breakers and vice versa? What do they do from 15 feet, as opposed to four feet? And when someone can show them, it will become apparent.

With tour pros, sometimes their reads are wrong and sometimes their aim is wrong. Or their tempo or contact is off, so they may hit it on the right line but at the wrong speed. But if I can narrow it down to the exact problem, I can fix it.