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Do you fit to the putter, or should the putter fit to you?

by Donald Crawley

Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.

Donald Crawley Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) -- I wish more people took putting lessons.

Everyone seems to take their [lack of] ability to putt well for granted, and put it on the back burner when preparing to go out for a round of play. Can you believe that the top 173 PGA Tour players average less than 30 putts per round, about the same number you took on that last par five? They are, however, a very talented crew, and unlike the "weekend warriors" that dabble, understand the importance of that final step of actually putting the ball in the hole.

The pros practice, and have putters that fit their style and posture. Meanwhile, the vast majority of you reading this article are undoubtedly using a putter that doesn't fit you, and is what you saw in the hands of the pro you are trying (without success) to emulate. You may like your putter, the way it looks, the way it feels, and all the nice comments your playing partners make about it before you attempt to use it.

My suspicion is that you purchased that putter "off the rack" because you simply liked it and figured that if it was good enough for Tiger or Phil, it was good enough for you. Wrong. Does it really fit? Have you adapted a set up and stroke to accommodate the putter instead of the other way around? If your putter doesn't fit, then you are faced with having to make adjustments to accommodate the putter. That's the wrong way to approach this. You should be using a putter that fits you, your height, body shape, arms length and your natural posture. This will give you the best chance to stroke the putter and ball on line.

Some of the key putting fundamentals that the vast majority of good putters, those that are the "boss on the moss" or "guru over the grain" all seem to apply when knowing what they are. Let's review;

Ben Crenshaw
Ben Crenshaw will always be regarded as one of the finest putters in Golf history.

  • Eyes over the line
  • Hands hanging under the shoulders
  • Square shoulders at address (OK, Jack was an exception to the rule and stood open, but you are not Nicklaus)
  • Eyes and head still throughout
  • Smooth accelerating stroke
  • Light grip with better touch for feel of distance
  • Same rhythm on all putts
  • Same routine on all putts

    Sounds simple enough. To try and achieve some of the above, you need to start with the correct setup, and must have a putter fit that allows you to stand in the correct address. Either that, or you will return to miniature golf with kids and grandkids.

    Try to adopt the correct posture without a putter. That is your starting point. Stand up, back straight. Tip at the hips until your arms hang straight down, fingers over your toes, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, elbows very slightly bent pointing at your hips, upper arms touching your ribcage. Eyes should be over the ball. Chin out of your chest. Narrow stance. Do them all, one at a time...slowly.

    The correct posture will allow you to swing your arms and shoulders as a unit, keeping your eyes and torso centered and still. The arms and shoulders will work as a unit. Some like to rock the shoulders, some rotate a little on the follow-through. Be comfortable and, yes, some adjustments are expected and acceptable. Just stay centered, let the arms and shoulders work together. Tiger releases his right palm at the target but doesn't flip or cup his left wrist. There is a softness to the grip. The faster the greens, the lighter the grip.

    The putter will swing on a slight inside-to-straight-through arc. On short putts, the putter will swing straight back and through.

    Why so much emphasis on this? Because it is worth as many as 7-8 strokes per round. Aha!!!

    A putter should fit into this correct posture. People who are under 6 feet tall often need a putter 31 - 33 inches long, on a 71 degree lie, and 4 degrees of loft. A shorter putter should weigh more, up to 365 grams, so that you won't need to make a huge putting stroke to roll the ball the correct distance. Visualize Tiger's stroke...short, firm, accelerating.

    The average putter specs, the majority you pull off the shelf, are 35" long and 330 grams. That is often too long for a lot of players. So, you grip down and it feels better. It feels so good that you cut the putter down. Now you have lost weight and head feel. The putter feels, and is, too light. So you compensate by adding lead tape to the head trying to bring the weight back up. You have ruined the balance of the putter. Compensation, in this case, is not the answer, a correct fit at the outset is.

    The other alternative is to stand too upright in an effort to try and adjust your posture to fit the putter. This ill-fit stance either brings your eyes inside the line, or you bend your elbows outward like a cradle. I will often see a player taking the correct posture, but the sole of the putter head doesn't lie flush to the ground. The toe or heel is in the air and that can create a miss-hit where off center putts will become common. Not good. My advice is not to use a putter that is tied to any of the following - "looks good," "my spouse gave it to me" or "it was a good deal."

    Use a putter that fits your posture and feels good, and you will roll the ball well with it.

    I just treated myself to a custom-fit putter that measures 33 inches long, has a 4 degree loft and 71 degree lie, weighing 350 grams. This is 20 grams heavier than my older putter, and I am finding I can shorten my stroke achieving a more accelerating roll.

    Look out, Tiger and Phil!

    Donald Crawley
    Donald Crawley

    Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs? Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.

    Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA?s Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.

    Comments? Contact Donald Crawley at dcrawley@luxuryresorts.com.


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