It had to change, and it has! My putting revival!

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In my last post I talked about how my short game has shown a much-needed improvement in part mostly because of my new SCOR wedges and some ideology from the great mind of Terry Koehler. I made a quick mention to the improvement to my putting as well but didn’t have time to cover it in that article so that’s what this one is going to be about. My putting hero, Bill, once again has been able to help me when nothing else was working, and this time he completely nailed it! I stated back in May that my putting had to change, and it has. What follows is my putting REVIVAL!

A while back, I can’t remember when, I was seriously struggling with my putter. Nothing was working and I was on the verge of complete self-destruction when Bill agreed to meet with me on a practice green and spend some time trying to figure a few things out. That session went really well and afterwards I did show some signs of putting better, but something was still missing.

I even spent a little time with Dustin, when he was still at The Nicklaus Academy, trying to see if he could find some flaw or something that I was doing that was causing my putting woes. We worked on posture, alignment and even did a little session with the Ping App on an iTouch, but there was still something not quite right.

Real quick, the Ping App is AWESOME! I can only say of you have an iPhone or iTouch go get the docking station that attaches to your putter and download the app, it is a really good app that has some substance to it. The app is free and it’s very user friendly! Yeah, you have to pay for the docking station but it’s worth it for sure!

I’ve been putting with a TaylorMade Corza Ghost Mallet for almost two years. I bought it right when TaylorMade came out with them back in 2010. After playing around with one for a good 15 minutes at the Golfsmith I was visiting in Alabama I knew right then and there it was my next putter. Good theory right? Spend 15 minutes with a stranger and decide “they’re” the one! That doesn’t work in real life (very often) and it certainly didn’t work for my putting game.

Back in 2010 was oblivious to face balance was or a putting swing path was. Tempo, backspin rotation and any of that technical stuff I was clueless about. To me it was simple. Line up the putt and if it goes in, we have a winner!

It wasn’t until the lesson with Dustin that I learned what face balance even was. I also learned that I had been using a putter that’s designed for a straight back and straight through stroke. Not the “Out to In to Out” stroke that I have, better known as the strong arc. Having learned that little nugget of info I figured I had two choices. 1) Switch to a putter that fit my stroke or 2) change my putting stroke to fit my putter.

With money being a key factor, I took a pass at option one and instead chose to go with the more financially sound choice in option two. While financially it was the smarter decision, improving my putting it did not! You can only spend so many nights hitting putt after putt after putt trying to change your arc. After months of trying to get it right and some really bad numbers on more than a few rounds, I decided it was time to move forward. The search for a new putter was in full effect.

Long story short (like that’s possible with me) I ended up going with the new TaylorMade 2012 Ghost Tour DA-62. I also changed back to a standard grip deciding to get away from the trending “fat” grip you see all over the place now. Yeah, I took a bite of the trendy apple, but you have to understand I was desperate. The new Ghost Tour feels absolutely amazing and the roll I’m getting off of it is down-right disgusting. My only gripe has been my inability to fall in love with a grip. I don’t mean the actual grip on the putter, I’m talking about how you hold the putter in your hands. I’ve tried everything and every way imaginable but, like I’ve said a few times so far, something just wasn’t right.

The last change I made before completely revamped my putting was to go back to the standard grip and say good-bye to the Left Hand Low style of holding the club. I should have never switched. In my defense though, using the left hand low style with a mallet putter and a strong arch was somewhat working. That is if you consider 36-38 putts per round as “working”. That there is a good reason why you don’t see me presiding over legal battles in the courtrooms of America. I plead a lousy case!

All of my putting woe’s and anxieties changed one night a few months back when Bill and I spoke at a First Tee open clinic. Once we were finished speaking we headed over the range to get some work in. Afterwards I asked Bill if he could, once again, help me get this whole putting thing figured out once and for all. Asking Bill for help with anything related to golf is a lot like asking Grandma for a cookie right before bed. You know she’s going to give you one no matter what Mom and Dad had just said. That’s one of the many great qualities that Bill possesses, he’s always going to help if you ask. So of course he agreed to help me out and we made our way over to the putting green.

After just a few putts he immediately saw some problems. “You look very stiff. Can you feel how stiff you look?” He was right. My hands were a complete wreck and I had zero connection with the club. It was like someone had duct taped my hands to tree branch then asked me to perform a triple bypass. The last place my hands wanted to be was around that putter grip. I let him know that I’ve been struggling with finding a grip that I like and this atrocity I’ve been using has been the only way that I can hold the club and be anywhere near OK.  His reply was quick, simple and short “Have you tried the Tiger Grip?

Now I have no idea how accurate this grip is to how Tiger actually grips his putter but ever since Bill showed me this setup I’ve done nothing but stare at Tigers hands lately when he’s has been putting on the tube and it looks awful damn close. So don’t beat me up about this if one thing is off or a little different.

The “Tiger Grip” is very simple. It’s a traditional grip with the left hand high and the right hand low. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Hold the putter in your left hand (more in the palm of your hand than the fingers) and pull back your index finger and thumb away from the grip so you’re just holding the club with your other three fingers
  2. Now grip the club with your right hand (more in your fingers than your palm) and while keeping your right hand thumb off of the grip, slide your right hand towards your left hand until the pinkie from your right hand makes contact with the middle finger of your left hand.
  3. Allow your left index finger to rest on top of your right pinkie and bring the left thumb back to the grip with it pointing straight down the shaft.
  4. Lastly bring the right hand thumb down on top of the left thumb with it also pointing directly down the shaft. There you have it.
This is how I apply the “Tiger Grip” to my putter.

It really is a lot simpler than the directions above make it out to seem. Now, when I’m putting, I don’t even think about it, it just comes naturally. At first it felt very strange. Let me rephrase that. My first thought was “How in the hell are you supposed to putt like this!” I laugh at that now because I can’t see myself holding a putter any other way, it feels that good. That was the first major overhaul that evening. After I putted around with this new grip for a bit we started talking about what my process is for setting up to a putt.

After I went through what I now call my “lengthy” process for setting up and hitting a putt, Bill was in shock. “You have WAY too many thoughts going on in that head of yours, let see if we can get rid of most of them.” Again, he was so right. Too many thoughts about speed and distance and posture and grip and…. I could go on for a while. Bill’s approach is much more simple and direct. Stand a few feet behind the ball and visualize the ball rolling and finding its way to bottom of the cup. From that visualization, you then line up the path the ball will take, while you squat down behind it, with the alignment mark that is on the ball. Once you stand over the putt there is no more thoughts about alignment, just ball speed.

I won’t bore you to tears with what I used to do. The fear of embarrassment is way too high for that. I will tell you this though; I used to think I was a pretty good putter and now I know just how far away from reality that was! Things are looking up though. I can truly say that this “revamping” of my putting procedure has tremendously improved my putting and just like in my short game post I have the stats to back it up!

Looking at my last eight rounds of golf, that’s when I implemented the changes, my 3-putt avoidance percentage is at an average of 4.9% which is 0.875 three-putts per round. My total putts-per-round average is at 32.37. Comparing those numbers to the seven rounds I played before the changes you get these figures; Three-putt avoidance percentage of 23.0% which is 4.14 three-putts per round and a total putts-per-round average of 36.14. That’s an almost 4 stroke swing and to me that’s dramatic!

Just to make it seem even sweeter than it is, four of those last eight rounds of golf were played on some really, and I mean really bad greens. My total putts on those courses were: 33, 35, 35 & 36. Now on the tracks that I played that had legit greens my numbers we outstanding: 29, 32, 31 & 28. I’m not making any excuses but it just goes to show that the changes that Bill has helped me implement are working and they’re working well!

Follow Mathew Wangrycht:

Writer and founder of the golf blog The Breakfast Ball. My wife will tell you I'm obsessed with the game, she's right! It's that obsession which drives me to become a better player and make this site enjoyable for everyone.

2 Responses

  1. Mark
    | Reply

    That’s some really nice improvement!

    Which do you think helped the most? The hardware, the grip, or the the more relaxed and thoughtless stroke?

    • Mathew
      | Reply

      As uncomfortable as I’ve been with gripping the putter since I can’t remember when, I think having a repeatable, solid grip has taken so much angst away from my mind and has allowed me to be more focused on the putt. That has lead to the more relaxed and thoughtless stroke.
      The hardware is just nice because it’s at least fitted to my stroke now. Without a doubt though it has been the grip that has been the biggest benefit.

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