A putting sin amateurs make that stunts improvement, a top coach says
You have the putter.
You have the ball.
You know the read.
You know the speed.
Why aren’t you getting better at putting?
Ralph Bauer has a thought.
Bauer is a good source. He’s one of the country’s top putting coaches. He’s the co-inventor of Tour Read Golf, an app that assists with green reading and was vouched for by pro Lee Hodges during his win last month at the 3M Open. In short, Bauer knows the short grass. Which made an exchange last week between him and Travis Fulton, another well-respected coach, an interesting listen.
On Fulton’s podcast, the Stripe Show, it lasted about five minutes. It started when Bauer was asked this:
What is a top breakdown amateurs make that stunts putting improvement?
To which he answered with one word:
“They might go hit a driver,” Bauer said on the podcast, “they’ve taken some lessons, they’ve got great posture, they’re making a good turn, they’re hitting good shots and then they go on the putting green and their shoulders drop forward, they don’t have enough knee flex and they’re controlling the stroke with their small muscles, with their hands, instead of having good posture, having appropriate knee flex and controlling the putter with their shoulders.”
At this point, if you haven’t already, you should listen to the entire podcast — and you can do so by clicking here. It digs into other putting thoughts and the Tour Read system. As for this story, let’s move forward with some questions.
So what is good posture?
Everyone, of course, is a little different — comfort is key — but on the podcast, Bauer had some ideas.
“Every great putter that I’ve worked with,” he said on the podcast, “it’s a given that they’re using the shoulders to control the stroke. If we could get our shoulders square at address, if we could have them open and close as a mirror image of each other, we’re going to go a long way toward — and then the job of the hands then is to be able to control the putter head, but let the shoulders do the work.
“Whenever you see a handsy player, like someone with too much hands, it’s invariably because their shoulders aren’t working properly.”
On the podcast, Fulton then had a question about setup, a cousin to posture.
“So when you look at the setup and some of the things that go into a good setup — I always look at the setup in putting when I work with my students and if I’m changing something to create an environment at address that when they do engage their shoulders, the putter head has the best chance just to move on its most natural arc, like there’s nothing in the way at address that’s going to disrupt this path, which should work on a very subtle arc. So are there some key things at address in addition to the posture that might lead a student down that path where you’re improving the probability of the stroke just to naturally be better?”
Here, Bauer noted where the ball is positioned.
“I see a lot of people who put the ball in the middle of their stance,” he said on the podcast. “We’re trying to hit up on the ball about a degree, a degree and a half, and so it’s pretty easy to do that if the ball is slightly forward or middle. So if the ball is an inch, inch and a half forward of our center of gravity, that’ll make the upward strike, that’ll put a better roll on the ball much more probable. Ball position is pretty big.
“Keeping our shoulders square is very important. And having good posture where your shoulders are not rounded forward. I always think, if we’re standing around talking to each other and that’s the posture that you have, that would be the perfect posture to have when you’re putting. I see so many people with great posture when they’re walking around, and then they go and they putt and they round forward and their hands dominate and it’s a slippery slope because they’re not hitting it solid and you have the small muscles.”
One last question here.
On the podcast, Fulton wondered about rigid postures.
The answer was notable.
“I feel like good posture is just a good, athletic position that you feel comfortable based on your everyday life,” Bauer said on the podcast. “I feel like if we got decent posture when we’re walking around, then that’s the posture that we should use. I don’t think we need to be artificially extending our back to create something.
“Like if you’re in grade two, and the teacher tells you to sit up straight and you arch your back, that’s not what we’re talking about.”
Editor’s note: To listen to the entire podcast, please click here.