This is Keith Mitchell’s 2nd year on tour. He has played in 40 PGA Tour events and has made 70% of his cuts so far in his career. His putting has been very poor so far this year, but with the victory last week, it was the first time Keith has been a positive number against the field in the Strokes Gained-Putting (SGP) category. In this episode we take a few minutes to define SGP for a few of our listeners, then we dive in to see just how much more money Keith Mitchell would have made in the previous 5 tournaments, if he has just putted as well as he did last week, while playing in them. Additionally, we take the PGA Tour’s leader (Brian Gay) in SGP and use his average to see how much more money Keith could have made if he was the best putter on tour. It makes for some pretty fascinating data. Let’s tee it up!
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Equipment manufacturers are producing better putters, grasses on modern greens are quicker due to better agronomy and watering strategies. It all means that we have better surfaces, better technology, but we aren’t making statistically more putts. So what it the problem? In a nutshell, we can’t read greens well enough to adjust to these conditions. What can we do about it? Let’s tee it up!
Winter is a perfect time to work on our putting strokes. In this podcast, we will go over 3 golf putting drills that won’t cost you anything, is easy to set up and do, and will transform your putting game into a strength. These drills focus on making a precise stroke, making sure the putter face is dead square at impact, and ensuring you are not moving during the stroke. Use these three drills until Spring and get ready to take money from your buddies pockets. Let’s tee it up!
Do you move during your putting stroke? Are you sure? Let’s tee it up.
Welcome, Data Axis Golf, your home for rapid golf improvement. And now from the thin air of the Rocky Mountains, next on the number one tee, your host, Aaron Stewart.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Data Axis Golf, the podcast. Appreciate you being here. Yeah, I wanted to jump into putting a little bit. The offseason is such a good time to practice putting that I just wanted to jump in a little bit deeper. I discussed a little bit about putting back in the podcast when we are talking about targets. So I’m going to not really set up how we line up a putt necessarily. But there’s a problem that’s going on in the amateur ranks with putting that is far more difficult to diagnose that most can appreciate. And I see probably, as they’re watching, go out and play a lot of golf and hang out with different golf schools and different tournaments and those sorts of things watching High School golfers, I am shocked at how many of us as amateurs move while we’re putting. I get it. I understand the whole concept of it all. We get into our heads that with the natural motion of the golf swing, we go back and we shift to our back leg and we come back through. But so many of us have taken that movement and actually used it into our putting stroke. And it creates all kinds of problems, terrible, terrible problems. So we want to get into that today.
Okay, so we want to work in the wintertime, we want to work on our putting stroke. It’s a great time to work on our putting stroke. There’s a lot of different technologies out there that can help us do that. But I just want to talk about some real basic drills that can help us with our stroke. And then it can help us with our putter face. Make sure that our putter face is square and impact. And then we’re also going to talk about whether we’re moving or not in our putting stroke. So three drills to do this. If you use these three drills, you will improve your putting over the winter. I can promise you that 100%, this will help you.
Okay, so first off, you want to work on your stroke, we want to make sure that our strokes are very, very precise. We want to make sure that we are hitting the ball in the exact same spot on the putter every single time. Making a pot is a precision operation. We’ve got to make sure that we are operating with precision. So to do this, there’s a lot of tools out there and I know that Dave Pels has this really cool kind of putting tutor I think. It’s called it’s a little black sort of play that looks like kind of an arrow. It’s got a line pointed on it. It’s got four indentations. You take out maybe it’s eight indentations. I can’t remember now. You take out these ball bearings and you stick them in the holes and it kind of helps you with your stroke. If you watch when they warm up, you’ll see Phil Mickelson using it sometimes to work on is putting stroke. This is essentially the poor man’s version of that. So to work on your stroke, there’s a very easy way to do it.
So first off, take your putter and put it down on the ground, grab to golf balls, and on the toe, on the heel, and have your putter just to put to golf balls down there. And just put them just a little less than maybe a quarter of the ball on either side. And then do two more balls so you have six of them, probably about two inches apart on either side. And then just work on your putting stroke, just be able to move the putter back and forth between these six balls without hitting any of them. That is just such an amazing way to make sure that you’re putting stroke is super precise. And you’ll develop some fields when you’re doing this, and what that feels like to you. Okay, and just continue to work on it. The more you work and do this drill, the more you understand which feels are real and stick with you day after day after day. And which feels are completely fake and change from day to day today. And as soon as we start to distinguish between the real feels and the fake feels, then we’re going to get better, then we can trust certain things. And then we’ll know that we just don’t pay attention to other feels. OK, so we’ve talked about that before.
Next, we’re going to try to set this up via podcast. I’m going to try to paint a mental picture here. So stick with me. Hopefully, we can do this. So now we’ve got six balls set up below us on the floor and they’re all parallel to each other and they’re exactly just a little bit wider than our putter head. So the front two balls I now going to move in, I’m going to take another golf ball, and I’m going to stick that down, I’m going to move the front two balls in and tell they’re about a quarter of a ball on either side of this ball, right? So the ball can be pot and pass through these two balls, that it will only pass through these two front balls if it’s hit perfectly square. I will leave the back for balls in place. And then I’ll make putts this way, right? So will line up a ball right in front of where the putter faces and the putter is centered between the two center balls. I will take the putter back and through. And I will hit the golf ball and try to have it passed through the front two balls that are slightly wider than a standard golf ball and see if I can put through those two rails. The golf balls have become essentially rails or posts or whatever, we’re looking at, guides. And you will work, this then helps us work on controlling our putter face.
So we’ve worked on our stroke to make sure that it’s precise. Now we’re working on our putter face to make sure it’s dead square when it gets to impact. So we can hit the golf ball and send it on the exact line we’re looking, which in this journal, means that it will pass through the two golf balls in the front without touching on either side of them. Okay. And hopefully, you have a flat floor to do this. Hopefully, that explains that well enough. Two balls that form of a square and then two balls up ahead that just a slightly wider than us then a golf ball. So that makes sense. Hopefully, that works. Okay. When I get set up to do these sorts of drills, I tried to do 50 and 50. And then this last drill, I’ll do about 20 times. Okay, so you go 50 and 50 that will work on your stroke that will work on your club on your putter face to make sure that it’s dead square. And again, really pay attention to what you are feeling day today. Pick up on the real feels and pick up on the fake feels and distinguish between the two. That’s where learning happens.
Do not move
Okay, all right, finally. And this is the part that I was talking about in the intro. I am shocked at how many of us, including myself, move during the putting stroke. It makes sense because we move during the full golf swing. But it’s amazing to me as they go out and watch how often this happens. It’s amazing to me how it creeps back into my putting stroke time and time, and time again. I have to be looking for this all the time. And so I’ve created a method in which I can determine if I’m moving or not. Because for me, it’s very hard to pick up on. It’s not like I’m moving a ton. But even if we’re moving just a half an inch, we’ve essentially turned that stationary golf ball into a moving target. And anytime we’re trying to be precise with a moving target, we’ve got problems. So do this. As you’re standing over, and you don’t have to do this. If you want to, you can, using the poor man’s putting stroke, you know. Set up with the golf balls or not. But this is a very good way to figure out if you’re moving your golf swing or not and to work on it. So as you’re standing over the putt, and you get all set up and you’re ready to go. Just the last thing you do before you take the putter head back is taking a peripheral snapshot of everything that you can see. I started the top left of my peripheral vision and I will just kind of walk all the way around till I get back up to the top left. And I will have this mental picture of everything that I can see in my peripheral vision as I’m looking down at the ball. And then that’s all that I pay attention to when I make the stroke. And I see if anything moves. Now if I am dead still, that picture won’t change. It stays exactly the same. But more often than not, two things happen for me. And I think that this is what happens to most people. You will see that the picture shifts a little to the right or back if you’re left-handed. You will just see that the picture shifts back. Okay. Now if the picture shifts back in, okay, we’ve got a problem because we’re moving back in if it shifts back end up. Now we know that we’re moving back up. But we will be able to successfully understand which way we’re moving in our putting stroke. And if we are moving in our putting stroke. Now how often does this creep into your game? Way more often than you think it would. I have to check this to see if I’m moving into putting stroke. When I’m out playing, I know right now that if I stood up and started messing with it, I haven’t practiced my putting this week. If I stood up and looked at it, I’m probably moving a little bit. But it happens to all of us and it will creep its way back in. So when we’re out playing golf this summer, when things in spring and summer, and things start to warm up, make sure before you go out, check it every single time before go out and play on the putting green just to make sure that you’re not moving. When I’m on putting greens getting ready to putt, if I’m waiting for somebody else to finish out, I will sit there and do this drill. Nobody knows what I’m doing. Nobody knows that I’m working on something. But it’s very easy to get set up in you’re putting setup, in your putting stance. Get ready to go. Take a peripheral snapshot of what’s going on and make practice strokes and see if you’re moving and then you can work on it. If you’re just aware of that, then great! I can promise you can develop a skill where you will pay attention to that on every single putt.
Now, here’s something to keep in mind. If you are going through your round and you are feeling very, very unsettled about you’re putting, you feel like you’ve made a good read. You feel like you’ve put a good stroke on the ball but you’re making nothing and you’re starting to get a little frustrated and a little freaked out. Because putting should be so, so easy. It’s such a small stroke, you’re really not moving that much. If you ever get to the point where you’re freaking out, chances are you’re moving. And you’ve made now the ball a moving target. You’ve increased the difficulty of making a putt. So, take a quick second and look to see if you’re moving. I’m telling you, this will help a ton if you stop moving. When you make a putting stroke everything kind of becomes way more clear. And then you starting to send the ball exactly where you’re looking. You start making more putts all these precision drills you’ve done with your stroke and making sure that the putter face is squared impact. All of that is awesome if you’re not moving and if you start moving. All of it feels like complete garbage. So check that out. Take a look at it. Let me know what you think. All comments are welcome at email@example.com or just leave comments down on the podcast where you’ve heard this. Phil Mickelson with a 60 today. Hello! He makes us old guys feel really really good about ourselves. Anyway, always remember better data and better input means better golf. Thanks.
Thanks for listening to Data Axis Golf with Aaron Stewart’s check us out online at dataaxisgolf.com and we’ll see you on the next episode.
How do you plan to improve your golf game in 2019? In the last show of our Data-Driven series, we will review some 2018 PGA Tour statistics to calculate some reasonable benchmarks to measure our own games and use those to set proper expectations for maximum enjoyment and maximum game improvement in 2019. On today’s show, we examine proper expectations for putting and Greens-in-Regulation statistics. Let’s tee it up!
Why do you putt the way you do? Why have you chosen this technique? Is there a better way to do it? Let’s tee it up!!
I have always loved to putt. I think it goes back to when I was young. We had a ranch up in Idaho, there was a golf course available to us, but my grandpa and his brothers, my great uncles, they wouldn’t allow us to play on the golf course. We were all “too young,” but they would let us chip and putt and so they would stick us down at this green, and they would just leave us there all day. So sometimes there were dozens of cousins, and we just hung out, some wood fish, some would hike, and some would chip and putt, and I just loved to putt.
I loved everything about putting, I liked watching the ball roll on the breaks, I liked the sound of the ball going in the hole. I love the speed of the green up and down, it was just totally amazing to me. And so that’s kind of probably where my passion for putting started. So, I’ve always seen myself as a pretty decent putter that as I got older and my whole game got better, my putting begun to suffer a bit, it wasn’t the most substantial part of my game anymore. Which was pretty frustrating. Putting is the most straightforward motion of the entire golf game. It’s just a simple back and through movement. It’s an effortless motion. And yet once you start thinking about how you putt and worrying about your technique, it can go bad quickly. And because the result of putting is such a big part of your final score, the importance starts to grow in your mind. When I was young, it was just a fun thing to do, when I started being concerned with my score, putting became less fun. Golf is funny that way, the less you care about your score, the better you score. Crazy right? So when we play golf there is a buildup, and then and the end of it all, you have a putt to polish off your performance for the hole.
And if you’ve played beautifully from tee to fairway to green and you finish it off by making a lousy putt, it can really leave a bad taste in your mouth. So I think that that’s why putting becomes more and more critical as you get more into golf and you come to a realization how important putting is to your final score and your mood, and that puts additional pressure on your putting stroke. That is the theory anyway.
I was driving into work this morning, and I heard Michael Breed on his show talking about Jordan Spieth and Jordan Speith. Struggles with the putter are at least recently are well known. And they talked about, you know, his different stats through different rounds, which is, of course, fascinating to me as a data geek. But as I was listening, they got to a point where they started discussing why Jordan decided to try the left-hand low putting technique, why is he looks at the hole and other things. The premise behind what they thought was that Jordan had probably run into some putting problems, and so he was trying different things, sort of trial and error and trying to find something that worked for him and then that’s how his putting stroke became what it is today. And that is also why he sometimes looks at the hole, I think they said he looks at the hole for putts 10 feet and less, and outside of that, he does not. And that’s relatively similar to how I like to play, and we’ll get into that in a little bit.
Your Golf Putting Technique
So I just want you to think back and think about your own putting stroke. Why are you doing it this way? What are the reasons behind it? Is it based on you trying things to fix a problem with your putting, as Michael Breed was suggesting? Much like they inferred with Jordan Spieth’s putting stroke? Did you start messing with your stroke to hide or fix something, or to mimic someone else? If so, is that the very best way to go about it? I mean with all the technology we have available to us right now, is trial and error, or mimicking someone else, the best way to go about determining if your putting stroke is right for you?
I’ve shared this story previously, but when I went to my first Extraordinary Golf school, I was on the putting green working on my stroke, and Fred Shoemaker came up to me and observed me for a little while. Now admittedly I was in a bad way as far as putting goes at the time, I was all over the place and not putting well.
I did not feel very comfortable or confident on the putting green as I had when I was younger. And I was trying all kinds of things to putt better, but for the school, I went as traditional as possible, so I didn’t look like a complete fool. And so there I was there putting, working on my stroke as Fred was watching me. He eventually asked me “What is your target?” And I replied, “that hole right there.” Fred’s is very direct, which is really awesome, so Fred then said, “Well then you would have made one by now.” That was a stinger. 🙂 He probably watched me hit 12 putts at that point, and I had made nothing. It wasn’t a long putt either, it was only like a 10 footer. So I’d gone zero for 12 or so.
So there I was with Fred Shoemaker, arguably the most exceptional golf coach in the world, providing me with some stinging comments about my putting. He then proceeded to have me look at a Nike swoosh on one of the range balls that was 8 feet away. And he told me that the Nike swoosh was my target and send the next ball to hit that Nike swoosh while looking at it, that’s your target with this next putt, hit it. So as I was looking at the swoosh, I putted, and I hit it dead in the center. And he had me do that five or six more times, and I hit every single swoosh. Then he said, “You just didn’t have a good target.” Okay. Lesson learned so for any of us when we’re on the putting green, we need to make sure that we have a defined target in mind. And that’s pictured, it is identified, and very distinct in our minds.
For me, the target has evolved over the years. I now pick a spot at the hold where I want the ball to roll over as it falls into the cup. So if I have big breaking putt from right to left, my target will be on the right side of the hole. I’m going to see something next to the hole, and I’m going to picture the ball, toppling over that spot and falling into the hole. So that was great from Fred, and it has changed much of how I play golf, we always have to have a target clearly defined in our minds. After finished the Extraordinary Golf School, I went back home and putted really well for a couple of weeks and then as fast as I got it back, it left, and I was putting horribly again. I finally realized I wasn’t really focusing on a target anymore, so that was easy to get back into and fix.
But then I started thinking, back with Fred Shoemaker I was actually looking at the Nike swoosh the I was putting, and I was dead-eye putting. So, I began to look at the hole for every putt, and it went really, really well for a for a few months. I was making a ton of putts because the technique was so new and strange to me, it was all I could focus on. I was not thinking about anything else, I would just look at the hole and fire away, no swing thoughts at all. My body was making the motion required to make the putt, without any thought. Over time, this technique stopped anymore. I started thinking about stuff and, and the method stopped working like it had, and I became an average putter again. I was back to thinking about my stroke, and not really focused as much on a target and started to get into my own way.
It was during this time I was practicing my putting stroke looking in a mirror, and I noticed that with just a traditional grip, right-hand low, my left shoulder is way higher than my right shoulder and it looked really uneven. So I start messing with my putting grip and realize if I set my left-hand low, then my shoulders are level. Well, that makes sense to me. If your shoulders are level, then it seems like you should be able to make a more level controlled putting stroke. So, due to just that I switched to left-hand low. It had nothing to do with performance or anything. I just looked in the mirror, saw something I didn’t like and fixed it. That seems like a weird way to do things to me now, but back then it made sense.
I’ve been left-hand low ever since. So those are the processes that I went through to get my putting stroke to where it was at that time. It was trial and error and seeing something in a mirror I didn’t look right to my eye. But never did I measure anything to see if that was how I should be putting. I never tested anything to know if I was better or worse for doing any of that. I am sure there are many out there who kind of found their putting stroke the same way. Just messing here and there, and coming up with something that worked for a time, and we just keep using that technique until we decide we should be making more putts, so we tinker and come up with something else that may work for a day, week, or month or so, but eventually it doesn’t “work” either.
But now technology has changed all this. It’s an entirely different ball game, and we aren’t left to trial and error to find our best stroke. For example, I have this PT30 Putting Analyzer and Trainer developed by Voice Caddie that is a killer piece of technology to measure the specifics of your putting motion. It is an excellent tool!! So now how do we go about using a piece of technology like the PT30 or the Blast Trainer to better develop our putting strokes?
Well, these devices make life super easy. For example, let’s use Jordan Spieth’s putting stroke. If Jordan Spieth is sitting there and kind of going, “I’m not making as many pets as I want, I think I’m going to go right hand below again and let’s see how that goes.” Well, that’s great, you can try anything you want to try, but if you put on a putting analyzer to give you accurate and instant feedback on what is really going on, then you can actually check to see if a change is delivering a better result or not. So, what is a better result, the easy answer is you would make more putts, but these devices don’t measure that, but what they do measure if the angle of your face at impact, which directly determines if you are starting the ball precisely on the line you want it to start on. So Jordan could try some putt’s right-hand low, then make some putts left-hand and see which stoke delivered a more consistent and square putter face at impact. That’s it. You have data now to compare all these different techniques and tricks we have picked up over the years and see which ones help, hurt or do nothing for us.
When I first got this PT30, I was able to check every rotten little thing I had tried over the years and was able to see what was right and what wasn’t. It took such a load off my mind. Instead of 50 different things that I have tried over the years, I have just the ones that actually help me deliver a squire putter face at impact now. I mean from different grips to different lengths of backswings, to different putters, different stances, grip pressure. It has been awesome!
It turns out for me that left-hand low did actually deliver a squarer putter face. I have tested others were right-hand low is better for them, and that’s great. Whatever is better for you, then that is what you do, but it needs to be based on technology. Now. I also realize there is a caveat with technology. For example, I tested looking at the hole and not looking at the hole using the PT30. It appeared that not looking at the hole was a better option for me based on the results of the testing. But here is the problem. One day I was videoing my putting stroke and tried a few looking at the hole, and I realized by watching the video that when I look at the hole, I was actually swaying during my putting stroke, which I didn’t do when I putted with my head down. I was literally shifting my weight back to the right side and coming back to the left during the stroke, and I had not felt it. Now for me to have a fair comparison between looking and the hole and keeping my head down, I had to stop swaying. I had basically made it, so the ball is a moving target, and of course, I would be more inconsistent with it. The more stationary we are when we putt, the better off we are to find the center of the putter face and start the ball where we are intending.
My swaying was not being picked up by the PT30, it isn’t designed to do that, so that is the one problem when comparing techniques, you want to remove as many variables as possible, and only measure one thing at a time.
So I worked on not swaying when putting, and when I finally got that taken care of, I went back to testing looking at the hole and looking down, and low and behold, they were almost identical. So it doesn’t really matter which technique I use, both technically deliver the same square face at impact, so when that happens, it is up to personal preference. And I have that dialed in for me now. For example, if I think I should make it more than 50% of the time, around eight feet and in, then I’ll look at the hole. The only real difference for me when I look at the hole vs. when I don’t is my speed. When I look at the hole, the putts are pretty aggressive, and they go in or miss with pace.
When I’m looking at the ball, I putt with a speed that is more likely to die at the hole, which is a great way to lag putt. So that’s how I’ve developed my putting stroke, it’s based on data. It’s based on feedback. So if any of you out there, who have created a putting stroke out of thin air based on trial and error, I would recommend getting some tool or borrowing one from someone and do some testing. It is a great exercise. I personally like the PT30 over the Blast Motion, just because the blast requires that you use Bluetooth to a mobile phone, but that also means the data is saved to your mobile phone for review. The PT30 had a display right on the face, so you are able to set up and get going in seconds.
Both are great devices for sure, and either is light years better than just banging a few balls around a putting green or in your office to trying to figure out how you should be putting.
The data doesn’t lie, the data will tell you what’s best for you. You just have to give it a chance and remove as many variables as possible for the most accurate results.
With accurate feedback and technology, you will have a better putting stroke and have data to prove it to yourself. When the data and the numbers tell you that your putting stroke is, in fact, better, you will develop increased confidence in the putting game. We always hear about the effects of confidence when it comes to playing good golf, and thereby your golf will get better with increasing confidence, and that increased confidence comes from better data and better feedback because it’s proof that you’re doing the right thing to make your game better. And that was a very circular argument, but hopefully, it made sense.
Please work on your putting over this the long winter months. This is a great time to do it, but get some technology to give you the feedback to make sure that you’re doing it exactly the best way for you. Please remember, better data always means better golf!
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