Putter
Path

What are the options and

does it matter how your putter swings?


IN SHORT

Your putter path and how much your putter rotates depends on where the shaft enters the putter head. A heel-shafted putter swings more on an arc than a centre-shafted putter.


Even though a pendulum-like stroke is widely advocated nowadays, experts disagree on the most advantageous putter path for consistent putting.

The disagreement is over whether the curve of path should be straight back and through or an inclined (arced) plane.

In the past there was no disagreement. The greens on tour were much slower and professionals used their wrists to putt rather than their shoulders and arms.

This vertical hinging of the wrists created a natural putter path that was straight back and through. Of necessity it was more of a pop action.

However, the two different approaches of a vertical or an inclined path do share some common ground:

  • The objective of any putting stroke should be to keep it simple with as few moving parts as possible.
  • The path of the putter should remain on plane throughout the stroke.
  • The putterface should be square to the target line at impact.


Vertical Plane


Square to Square

A vertical stroke is associated with the straight back and through putter path on a vertical plane.

In other words the putterface remains at right angles to the aimline and the path of the putter throughout the stroke. Dave Pelz refers to it as a pure-in-line stroke.

It is achieved by moving your shoulders up and down in the same plane rather than rotating them around your spine as you would do in a full swing.

Advantages:

  • The putterface remains square to the aimline through impact and beyond.

  • The putterface does not open or close in the stroke and therefore eliminates directional errors from an inconsistent ball position.

Disadvantages:

  • It is possible, but more difficult, to make a straight back and through stroke without manipulating the putter with your hands.

  • As the putter shaft is not perpendicular to the ground, it is more natural to use an inclined arc that matches the lie angle of the putter.

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Inclined (Arced) Plane


Inside-Square-Inside

An inclined (arced) stroke is associated with an inside-to-inside stroke on an inclined plane.

Putting Arc

Putting Arc

In other words the putter head arcs back -slightly upwards and inwards at the same time - while the putterface stays square to the path of the putter instead of the aimline.

In an inclined (arced) stroke the putterface will appear to open slightly on the back stroke and close slightly on the forward stroke. This is caused entirely by turning your shoulders on an inclined plane. 

This is the dominant putting stroke on tour and is favoured by professionals using a blade or heel-toe weighted putter. However, it also has its short-comings despite the notion that a more natural stroke translates into greater consistency.


Advantages:

  • It is more natural way to move your shoulders on a slightly inclined plane than on a vertical plane. A putt is in effect a mini-swing.

  • The slightly downward-hinged position of your wrists is similar to when you are hitting a full shot. The vertical stroke encourages an arched wrist position.

Disadvantages:

  • The angle of the putterface is only correct at a single point in the putter path. More than 80% of any face angle error will be transmitted to the ball on contact.

  • The ball position is important in relation to where your putting stroke bottoms out with a square putterface.

    Too far back in your stance and your putterface will still be pointing to the right at the moment of contact.

    Too far forward and your putterface will be closing and pointing to the left on contact.

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Third Way


Inside-Square-Square

The third way is a combination of the first part of the inclined (arced) stroke and the second part of the vertical stroke.

The focus is maintaining a square putterface through the contact area for a few inches before the putterface moves inside. You are briefly prolonging the squareness of your putterface past the bottom of your stroke.

As Harold Swash puts it "The blade of the putter must be square to the path of the stroke through the contact area."

The follow through is achieved by riding the left shoulder up slightly rather than letting it rotate backwards during the critical part of the stroke at and through contact. This movement is easy to achieve and reduces a common problem of pulling your putts left.

On this stroke the paths of the backswing and follow-through are not symmetrical - they are not a mirror image of each other.

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Related Topics
(Highlighted)

pendulum-like stroke

few moving parts

remain on plane

wrists

putting triangle

arched wrist

ball position

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