Sunday, June 7, 2015

Putting: At the Beginning

By TAFL Hols

First apologies for the delay in getting to this post. A lot of life has happened over the past several weeks, including my mother going in and out of the hospital and my wife breaking her ankle in three places (which means extra work hours for me). The arrival of monsoon season (sooo much rain) and not making it to the course also helped put a damper on things.

The previous two posts of mine looked at what I want to see at the end of a putt and during the flight of a putt. This post looks at the beginning of a putt--the part that determines what actually happens during the rest of it.

The first thing I want at the beginning of a putt is a motion that is repeatable. Properly, a motion that is accurately repeatable. I want to be able to train my muscles to make the same motion time after time, with an absolute minimum of variance.

The next thing I want of my putting stroke is the ability to put the disc on the exact line I want. For putting without having to curve around an obstacle, that means putting the disc on a line direct to the basket. When there's an obstacle to curve around, it means being able to provide the necessary turn to clear the obstacle, using the same basic stroke.

The means I use to achieve these ends is a spin putt technique. My upper arm moves in a single plane--vertically. It begins lowered and raises during the stroke, with the amount it gets raised determining the loft of the putt. The other hinges of the arm--wrist and elbow--are used to provide the spin and angles. The wrist is the primary generator of spin. The elbow helps provide drive for longer putts and help provide the hyzer/anhyzer angles necessary for bending putts around obstacles.

So, on short putts, only the wrist bends to provide the spin on the disc. Between the drive provided by the wrist, the forward shift of weight, and the loft provided by the rest of the arm rising vertically, the disc has enough speed to get to the basket. On longer putts, the elbow bends to add power/distance. The upper arm provides the line and the elbow and wrist bend during the backswing and then snap back into line with the upper arm for the delivery.

I work to keep my torso from interfering with the movement of the disc during the backswing. It appears to me that I line up with my body closer to perpendicular to the basket than most people. When I shift my weight onto the rear leg and draw back my hips, this seems to clear more room for the disc on the drawback/backswing and less interference from the torso. Or so it feels to me.

Now, push putting, as I understand it, locks the entire arm into a single unit and uses the weight shift and some springy fingers to launch the disc on a straight line. This makes for a repeatable stroke, certainly, as there are no hinges bending then realigning. The times I tried this approach, I couldn't shape lines worth a darn and gave up trying straight away.

One can stand broadside and deliver the disc in much the same fashion as an approach shot, a technique that meets the general requirements I have for putting. Indeed, I use this style at times. I've found that it's more difficult for me to have fine control over the loft of a putt, however, so I've not adopted it as my primary putting style.

I've discounted the chicken wing approach as having more hinges moving around than I'm comfortable using. The addition of the shoulder moving in more than one axis seems to be too much work for me to lock in accurately, especially when I may go long periods without much play.

Different players find different techniques useful, obviously. There are players who consistently putt well using techniques different from mine. I offer up what I do and how I think about it as a way of helping other players think about what they do. Close consideration of how one plays is how one figures out how to get better, I reckon, so is a useful exercise.

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