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Friday, May 2, 2014

Bill Smittle's Putting Palace

Bill Smittle demonstrates putting science technology
We all know that every missed putt is a stroke lost forever while an errant drive can be wiped from the scorecard with a good recovery shot. We also know that putting amounts to about 50% of our scores. So why do we spend hours on the range whapping the big stick and just minutes on the practice green wafting the flat one?  Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to practice our putting—or even what a good putt looks and feels like in the first place!

Bill Smittle, head professional at Scarsdale GC, went to England to study the latest putting techniques at the Harold Swash School of Putting Excellence, which may sound like someplace Harry Potter would go to play mini golf but is actually the home of teachers who have sharpened the putting skills of leading European players like Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson, and Martin Kaymer. Smittle returned a as certified instructor in the putting (and teaching) techniques that helped the Euros to carry home the Ryder Cup in 2012.

He’s created a state-of-the-art putting studio to analyze student’s strokes using numerous high-tech tools like Science & Motion’s Putting Lab that uses ultrasound to measure and analyze 28 different putting stroke parameters. When I went through a session with Smittle, I found out that my aim was 2.3 degrees closed to the perfect line and my stroke was 2.2 degrees open—which sounds like it would send the ball on the correct path but actually gave my putts some hook spin (not a good thing). Those were just a couple of the significant flaws that need correction in my putting setup and stroke.

“We’re not trying to build a perfect stroke,” Smittle says, “but rather to give you a consistent one. Most three-putts are because the player hits the first putt the wrong distance.  If you don’t strike the ball with a consistent strike, you can’t control your distance.” That consistent strike includes hitting the ball at the same place on the club face, keeping the club face square to the line, putting the right amount of top spin on the ball, swinging with the proper amount of force….you get the picture. It’s a science.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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