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The Man Behind the Putter

I’ve been toying with my putter grip and changing out putters during the last couple of years. I owned only one putter for many years, a classic Wilson 8802 blade – it has a name, “The Great Santini” – I still have him. I was always an “it’s the man, not the putter” believer. I don’t know when exactly that changed, but now I own several putters (and a PING putter collection to boot) and have switched game putters out about 6 or 7 times in the last 4 years. What’s going on and why did I stray?

I have only started playing real tournament golf the last few years. Before that I basically stayed at my home course and played the same greens throughout a season. They tended to be of average speed, not fast but sometimes slow. It is easy to become accustomed to conditions and comfortable with putt speeds when you play the same course all of the time. As I graduated to tournament golf I found myself putting terribly because routinely I was playing greens much faster than I was used to. Putting stroke faults seem to really amplify on fast greens. I would blow putts by 4 or 5 feet or leave them alternatively well short. My feel for fast greens was not there, so naturally it couldn’t be me…it must be the putter!

I’ve used a PING iN half mallet for awhile, a PING Crazee (my wife calls it Mickey Mouse), a Rife two bar mallet, a Rife Martinique (Anser style), and now a Scotty Cameron Laguna. I have also moved to a course that has fast greens as the norm, and sometimes they are REALLY fast. I am working on my putting faults and I have committed to a single putter – the Rife Martinique. So, how do I fix my faults? Both speed (pace) and direction have been suffering – nice. I have been missing an inordinate number of 3 and 4 footers! It has not been uncommon for me to have 3 or 4 lip outs a round. Man!

I don’t have the yips, I feel comfortable over the ball, but my putting has not been working well. So, I did a little research about putting basics to include the putting grip. Seems there are as many opinions on the grip as there are putter styles. I keep finding that putting is an “individual thing” and that I should improve upon what feels comfortable to me. OK. Not so much help. Then I found an article by Joe Sullivan on GolfLink.com that resonated with me and I am trying it out, so far with pretty good results. The article (http://www.golflink.com/golf-tips/tips/sullivan018.aspx) suggested that one might consider Corey Pavin’s style of gripping the putter. It is simply and essentially to hold the putter in your hands with the palms facing out (away from you). This makes it impossible for your wrists to break down and creates a nice “Y” for you to use your shoulders to move the club head. Combining this with good fundamentals such as eyes over the ball, forearms in line with the putter, and more thoughtful green reading and it is getting better.

I have taken it out on the course a couple of times and find my distance control has improved dramatically. Direction is coming, but I am still making some subtle adjustments to the grip to get it “locked in.” First I had both thumbs down the center of the grip, but now I have my left thumb over my right hand middle fingers and my right thumb down the centerline. Also trying less right index finger trigger, seems to inadvertently steer at times. I need to eliminate that. And finally, for the first time, my putting grip has an interlocking grip.
I am at a stage now where repetition and practice must take over. I am excited about my improved distance control and improved 3-4 foot putt accuracy. My goal is to eliminate three putts – a round killer every time! I will probably not reach the 100% accuracy on 3 foot putts Luke Donald managed to execute the 2011 season, but I think I should make at least 8 or 9 out of 10 anyway.

Interestingly, in light of the long/belly putter these days, it’s not for me. I have toyed with them at golf shops and they never felt “right.” In addition, I am of the opinion that you should not be allowed to affix the putter against your body. Besides, if you believe the data derived by Marius Filmalter (great name) in his article in the Jan 2012 Golf Magazine, the results of a switch from short to long putter wouldn’t make much difference anyway. His “long-standing teaching philosophy” is that “every golfer has a signature stroke pattern that’s so hard-wired it’s impossible to change it with a simple putter switch.”

So, “thumbs up” to the Pavin grip. It is, in fact, the man not the putter. And, Santini, you may be back in the bag someday, but I’m not ready for you yet.

Happy New Year 2011

Another new season is here.  It is a little difficult to watch the professionals playing on television in Hawaii, it makes you want to get out and play and therefore brave the cold weather.  I have been playing in very marginal weather here in southeastern Virginia the past couple of weeks.  A couple of Sundays ago the snow came and melted twice during the playing day.  Of course, after the first snow had come and gone, there I was out there again only to be pelted by snow once more two holes into it.  I gave up, but there were some who braved on later in the day.

I have been riding the cart a lot in recent months, a knee problem, but I walked yesterday – well, semi-walked.  That is, I don’t think you really walk a round unless you actually carry your bag.  But, now that I think of it and feel my back and knee this morning, I am going to make that rule apply only to the under 50 crowd.  If you are 50 or over, anytime you are not sitting and moving is good and should be encouraged…in fact, the mere idea of being above ground and outside moving around is good. 

I have one of those tricycle bag carts that I push.  The three wheeled cart is really very nice and kind of the best of both worlds (walking and riding) if you get the right cart.  Mine has some places to conveniently keep things like pens, glasses, wallet and blackberry (on buzz), a parking brake (yes it needs one becasue it is that smooth), and some other nice extras.  I bought it at the All Marine Golf Try-Out Tournament in South Carolina last fall.  I hadn’t realized that the tournament did not allow riding, so I purchased the push cart I have now from the pro shop.  I used a rental pull cart the first day, but that was painful – those of you who have used one of those rental pull carts before know what I am talking about. 

I am doing some experimenting with equipment early this year.  Of course, there is always room to experiment throughout the year isn’t there…?  My driver is set – PING G15.  I have changed my 3 wood and utility wood back to the Bobby Jones (I am really striping the 3 wood right now).  My irons are currently Hogan APEX FTX with Graphite Design GAT 95 shafts.  These shafts have a great feel, but a little high on the launch.  Not complaining, the irons feel absolutely terrific, just thinking.  I have some Cleveland CG1’s with Project X 6.5 Tour Issue Graphite shafts coming this week.  I am expecting a little lower ball flight, we’ll see.  With those irons ($300 from ebay seller) will come a putter as a bonus – a Taylormade Daytona Rossa putter (white).  The irons alone were a great deal, but an added treat with the putter as it goes for $129 new.  Anyway, I had found 3 classic PING putters at a flea this winter for not much each and with new grips I have found I like to use 2 of them.  We’ll have to wait for the putter choice as the game bag go to putter until the weather gets nicer and the greens get into springtime condition.

Looks like I’ll have some ebay deals for someone else in a few months.  Look for 1putt on ebay.

Log 11/22/10

I have had quite a year on the golf course.  I have changed irons more than most people do in a lifetime.  Since this spring I have shifted from my PING I3’s to I10’s (sold) to Hogan Radials to Hogan APEX FTX.  I still love the radials, but they are too pretty to hit routinely.  I found the APEX’s with GAT 95 shafts and I hit them better than any iron I have ever hit.  I also shifted from the PING I15 driver to the G15 with serrano shaft as well as the serrano shafted G15 3 wood.  I am not sure the serrano stiff is stiff enough…contemplating an all GAT set.  For the most part, I have settled into a bag of clubs I am comfortable with.  Now to find the consistency.

I was accepted to try out for the All Marine Golf team.  I tried out, but it was a difficult scenario.  I missed both practice rounds.  A family friend died suddenly that week so instead of driving to South Carolina leisurely, I ended up there via Kentucky arriving in the wee hours of the AM just prior to my first tee-time for the try out.  That coupled with the impossibly slow and grainy bermuda greens of MCAS Cherry Point made it a challenging try-out to say the least.  I did not make the team, but enjoyed the challenge.  I thought this might be my first and last chance to do this, but I have been given another year in the Corps, so next year I intend to try again. 

My handicap is creeping back up, it is 3.8 now (15 Nov).  I am really playing to about an 8 or so.  While I feel I am striking the ball as good as I ever have, my scoring isn’t there.  My short game is coming around, but I can’t seem to put all aspects of the game together often enough.  Still reading and using Hogan’s principles.  I can’t see how I will go wrong that way.  Practice.