The Local Knowlege

Instruction

Drop the anchor: There's a better way

By Jeff Patterson

As golf's governing bodies propose a ban on anchoring, we propose you copy the pros who've putted just fine, thank you very much, without getting any dirty looks. Arnold Palmer, Mark O'Meara, Steve Stricker and Luke Donald have won 95 PGA Tour events between them, but each one has a distinct bit of personal putting advice that can help even the most dependent of anchorers get weaned off their likely-to-be outlawed approach. Some of these adjustments are so subtle you might not have even realized they were there. While these four have stacked the deck in their favor by tweaking conventional golf instruction and even their equipment, their
methods have and still conform to the rule book. maar01_arnie.jpg

Palmer's proprietary double-overlap grip, as he described in a 2008 interview with Guy Yocom, "always seemed to knit my hands together just right." As if that weren't enough to get his putterface consistently returning to impact, he would jury-rig the grip so he'd always have his hands on the same way, "including running the wire from a coat hanger under the grip to serve as a reminder." When a coat hanger wasn't enough, he used hacksaw blades because "they were nice and flat."

O'Meara cut his number of three-putts down with the help of a different kind of saw. A grip that puts his right hand on the club "like the way you use a handsaw. If that image doesn't work for you," he offered, "the way I explain it to most people is that my right hand is in a similar position to how it would be playing shuffleboard. It helps that the goal of both motions is pretty similar: Smoothly propelling an object the correct distance along a certain path." After winning the Masters and British Open in 1998, O'Meara had "started to develop a little yip in my stroke, with my right hand." He needed a way to regain the fluid motion that had made him one of the world's best players. The Saw was the answer and "saved [his] career."


inar01_mark_omeara_feel.jpg
inar01a_steve_stricker_putting.jpgStricker's reminder, unlike Palmer's, is a natural one, the lifeline on his left palm. As he told Ron Kaspriske, "This gives me a feeling of unity between the putter's shaft and my left arm." Because Stricker grips the putter at "a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10," there isn't much wiggle room for the grip or the face to twist. And with the club always held the same way, there's no additional variables to contend with. An important distinction because the same thing can't be said about reading greens, playing break and dealing with wind.

Donald would argue your grip and hand motion pales in comparison to the importance of how you swing the putterface. That is, after all, what hits the ball. He told Peter Morrice that by swinging his arms, it "allows me to swing the head of the club without moving the handle as much." Too often the anchoring-style of putting keyed so heavily on what went on above the waist, when really the true measure of skill on the greens is how well you roll the ball by getting the putterhead to do what it was designed to.



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Instruction

How He Hit That: Jonas Blixt's cross-handed putting

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin looks at the putting style of Frys.com Open champion Jonas Blixt.

By Kevin Hinton

With his win at the Frys.com Open, Jonas Blixt became the third rookie to win on the PGA Tour this year. Jonas' superb putting made up for an average week of ball-striking, where he finished only T-59th in greens in regulation. Blixt led the field in total putts, with 25 putts in the final round and only 105 for the week. He also completed the event without a three-putt. Remarkably, this was Blixt's third consecutive event without three-putting. His last was 243 holes ago, during the third round of the Barclays on August 25th. Blixt currently leads the PGA Tour in the statistical putting category of stroke gained, which is considered to identify the tour's best putter.

blixt_470.jpgBelow we look at Blixt's cross-handed putting style, and whether it's something that might benefit your game.

Benefits to Cross-Handed Putting

Level is better
 
By putting "left-hand low," it becomes much easier to level your shoulders at address than with conventional putting. This will also help to level out your eyeline. Many people struggle with their putting simply because they have too much tilt at address.

Turn off the electricity

Similar to the variations of the "claw" grip, putting cross-handed can help eliminate the right hand from taking over at impact. The grip can definitely reduce a players' potential for yipping. The belly and long putters also attempt to counter any unwanted electricity at impact, but cross-handed often offers a much shorter learning curve than these other methods.

Winds of change

If you are struggling with your putting, the simplest fix can be just to change. Change your putter, change your grip, change your routine. . . change anything! Putting is so mental, and in theory should be so simple, sometimes all we need is a different perspective or a fresh loo. Switching to cross-handed just may provide that.  




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Instruction

What you can learn from watching Ryder Cuppers on the greens

By Kevin Hinton

Editor's Note: Kevin Hinton is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers. Here, he tells you how you can learn from what you'll see at this week's Ryder Cup.

Routine, Routine, Routine
Tour players spend a lot of time practicing their pre-shot routines for exact situations like the Ryder Cup. Some even time their routines with a stopwatch and practice maintaining that timing. While the time they spend analyzing a putt may vary, when they actually "walk" into the ball, it takes about the same amount of time for them to hit the putt. Average golfers tend to (1) not have a routine at all, or (2) change the timing of it depending on the importance of the situation. People often speed up or slow down (most slow down) considerably as their nerves kick in. Having said this, sometimes you do everything right and just miss. However, at least you'll know you fully committed to your routine, which is at least half the battle.

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Photo by Getty Images

The "Anti-Routine" Method
While sticking with your routine is certainly the first course of action, on short putts in crucial situations, some people just get too nervous and can't execute. If you're one of those golfers, try the "Anti-Routine" method. Next time you have a tap-in or short putt that matters, try stepping right up to the putt and casually knocking it in before you have time to think. Think of all the times you've made putts that didn't matter by quickly using one hand, scraping it back to the hole, or taking an odd stance trying to avoid someone's line. It often seems like we never miss this way. Maybe even try something extreme like using a different grip or talking out loud as you tap it in. These are all mental fixes to trick your brain. If you are taking a lackadaisical approach, maybe you'll relax and forget about the putt's importance. The more you struggle with these short putts, the more extreme your solution will likely have to be. For example, Johnny Miller often said he looked at the hole while he putted; others claim to shut their eyes just before taking the putter back; others advocate looking at the grip of the putter as you make your stroke. Experiment to see what works for you.

Related: How the teams stack up in the areas that really matter

"Aim Small Miss Small"
In golf we love small misses. Next time you have a short putt, pick out a specific blade of grass or small discoloration in the back of the cup, then really focus on it. The chances of actually hitting it are quite low, but I guarantee you won't miss the hole.

"Even Back, Even Through"
Try to have the image of your stroke swinging as a perfect pendulum. Keep your stroke even on both sides of the ball. No doubt, tour players' strokes are not exactly like this, but the image can certainly help the average golfer. I often see people miss short putts when their backstrokes and through strokes vary in size greatly. Some make excessively long backstrokes, and are then forced to decelerate into impact. Others make hardly any backstroke, then violently accelerate the putter through impact. By trying to have a consistent ratio and rhythm, you'll likely make a lot more than you miss.

Related: John Huggan and Ron Sirak's Ryder Cup predictions

"Putt Like A Kid"
The U.S. captain, Davis Love III, says his mental goal in pressure situations is to putt like a ten year-old, not caring about missing or making. He does his best to separate himself from the result. Kids don't attach dramatic implications to every made or missed putt, nor should we. Davis also recommends beginning your stroke immediately as your eyes return to the golf ball after your last look at the hole, no hesitation. This will prevent tension from building. There is no greater killer in putting than tension.

"Keep breathing"
This is a good life lesson in general, but is equally important to your putting. Tour players practice everything, even their breathing. Taking a deep breathe prior to stroking a putt will definitely help calm your nerves. Don't underestimate it.

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Instruction

Are the greens aerated? You can still make a bunch of putts

By Jeff Patterson

After Labor Day passes, it seems course superintendents across the northern states are given free passes to aerate their greens. Never is it as important for your score (and your sanity) to have a putting stroke that produces a consistent end-over-end roll, and leaves mindless tap-ins at worst. Otherwise you'll leave too many strokes out on the course and storm off much angrier than you arrived. The happiest golfers, after all, are those who putt well.

In our October issue, which features Matteo Manassero on the cover, 50 Best Teacher Sean Foley and LPGA star Stacy Lewis both offer putting tips that have staying power, even past the time it takes for your bumpy greens to smooth out. You'd fare well listening to their advice so you can hear the ball rattle in for birdie this weekend.

foley_300.jpgFoley's message is that in order to get the ball to scare the hole, your wrists must stay steady. The left wrist, especially, can't break down: It's got to maintain the same angle it held at address. For some people the conventional putting grip they use doesn't make this uniformity very easy to achieve. Foley suggests trying all different types of hand positions, even more so if they keep your wrists out of dominating the stroke. In reality, the excuse of aerated greens is an opportunity to try a different technique without much consequence. The ball isn't going to react like it normally does, so why try to putt like you normally do, expecting the normal outcome?

Related: Sean Foley -- Which Putting Grip is Best?


Lewis, who's over at Hoylake this weekend playing in the Ricoh Women's British Open, is second on the LPGA Tour in putts per greens in regulation this year. She told Assistant Editor Stephen Hennessey that she uses the same putting drill every day to help her fine-tune her already prolific stroke. She hits 10-foot putts with two tees stuck in the green, one even with the ball and the other a sizable distance behind it to act as checkpoints and encourage a longer, free-flowing stroke. Too many people, she says, rush their stroke and jab at the ball. This is a death wish on bumpy greens because the ball hops off the face more than usual with this kind of contact and will get deflected by every uneven surface it hits. A pure roll, on the other hand, will have the ability to withstand irregularities in the surface up until a certain breaking point.

Related: Stacy Lewis -- Steal My Feel

One last tip: Play more break under these conditions. The way aeration holes are cut, they can work in your favor as they keep a pro-side-miss closer to the hole for a sure gimme. But if you were to miss low, the ball will continue to get battered farther and farther away from the hole on the path of aeration holes.


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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Don't look at the ball when you putt

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest


Dave Stockton's newest Book, Unsconscious Scoring, was just released, and you can find an excerpt in the upcoming October issue of Golf Digest. Written with Matthew Rudy, this book is a clear, succinct approach to simplifying your short game.

I will write a more lengthy review next week. But right now I want to give you a tip from Stockton that might really help your putting. I know it helped mine.

Dave says not to look at the ball when you putt, but rather to pick a spot a couple of inches in front of the ball, right on the putting line you have chosen. Then when you make your stroke, simply focus on rolling the ball right over that spot.

It's amazing how that simple tip helps you to not only roll the ball on your chosen line, but it gets you to accelerate the putter, hit the putt more solid and put a truer roll on it.

I was speaking to the Director of Golf at New Seabury on Cape Cod, Brendan Reilly, about this yesterday (Brendan is one of the best putters I've ever seen), and he said, "I do that on all my shots." That was a revelation for me. Suddenly, my iron shots were crisper (no more fat 7-irons), my chips started checking up next to the pin, my fairway bunker shots were nipped cleanly and my drives had some extra pop. Note: this is not a good thought in greenside bunkers, unless you've been taking too much sand.

Give this thought a try, and good luck this weekend with your game.

Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

How He Putted That: Pros and Cons of Keegan's belly method

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin discusses both sides of the belly putting controversy and analyzes why the method that World Series of Golf winner Keegan Bradley uses might work for you.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

By Kevin Hinton
Twitter: @KevinHintonGolf

To "belly" or not to "belly"....that is the question

First, the case for anchored putters:

We've heard the statistics. Rounds of golf are down in the U.S. One reason often cited is that golf is too hard and that golfers are not getting better, thus it isn't fun. So if one of the jobs of the USGA is to ensure the health of the game, why eliminate a tool that might keep people playing? On the professional front, non-traditional putters have extended the career of many well-known and popular players. Would it really be better for golf if the viewing audience didn't get to see players like Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, and Ernie Els keep playing?
     
No doubt the long putter has helped Ernie Els and Adam Scott, but both of their putting stats for the week were average at best. Their putting was definitely not the reason they finished first and second. Here is the thing....non-traditional putters help to improve bad putting and to extend careers, but the best putters use traditional putters. The statistics fully support that. Currently, there is no one on tour who ranks in the Top 10 who uses a belly or long putter. Until the statistics support it, you cannot make the argument that it is a superior way to putt. Thus, why the debate? And even then, who cares...let everyone use one. It's fun to make putts...or maybe we should go back to hickory shafts and feathery golf balls. That would really help golf's popularity.

Second, the case against anchored putters:

It's out of control. All the big tournaments are being won by non-traditional putters: three of the last four majors and two of the last three Players Championships. There have already been six wins on tour this year. The fundamental issue with these putters is that it guarantees a perfect pendulum putting stroke. Once attached to the body, it greatly reduces the effect that a player's nerves or yipping has on the stroke. Dealing with nerves and controlling the putterface is a huge part of the challenge of putting. These putters eliminate nearly all of the "human factor." It is unfair to the players who have learned to deal with these challenges without resorting to the belly or long putters.

Technique:
While the belly putter remains legal, here are some tips to help you use it properly. There is also a chance that it will be deemed illegal only for professional golfers. The amateur player might still be allowed to use them.

1. Get fit 
I see many golfers using belly putters that don't fit them properly. If the putter is too long, it becomes difficult to get your eyes over the line of your putt. If it's too short, it becomes difficult to keep it anchored in your stomach and your posture might suffer. Many of the manufacturers have adjustable-fitting putters that make it much easier to find the correct length for you. .

2. Use it properly
If you use the belly putter, you are essentially buying into the belief that it is a superior method. You are saying that the less influence you can have on where the ball rolls, the better. Because the putter is anchored, it's difficult to adjust the putter during the stroke. That is only a good thing if we have set up properly to begin with. You'll only make more putts if you have set up properly. Typically, you cannot play the ball as far forward in your stance as in normal putting. If you anchor the putter in your belly button, the ball needs to be placed in the middle of your stance. Otherwise, the shaft of the putter will be leaning back and adding loft to the putter. If you like to play the ball in front of middle, you must anchor the putter forward of your belly button.

3. Experiment
There is no one way to use the belly putter. Keegan Bradley and Ernie Els are great examples. Keegan stands much farther from the ball and bends over quite a bit, still allowing him to get his eyes over the line of the putt. Just prior to the British Open, Ernie began standing much closer to the ball and much taller. It certainly seemed to help him. As long as you pay attention to your ball position and the length of the putter, you have a lot of freedom to experiment with what feels most comfortable.
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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Only 5 minutes till tee time!

In the latest issue of Golf Digest (September, with Alvaro Quiros on the cover), Hank Haney offers some quick advice for players who don't leave themselves much time to warm up (sound familiar?). Here's what you should do if you have only five or 10 minutes before you have to tee off.

"You can still be productive," says Haney, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional. "Start by engaging your golf muscles and stretching. Hold a couple of irons together and swing, letting the extra weight help you turn. Then hit a few balls with a wedge, a few with your 7-iron and finish with your driver. You're looking for smooth swings and solid contact, not mechanical fixes.

"Your last stop should be the practice green. Take two balls and roll some 15- to 20-footers, focusing mainly on speed. When you get to the tee, remember to slow yourself down. A quick tempo on the first tee can produce a wild drive--and set a bad tone for the day."

Hank, of course, teaches Mark O'Meara and was Tiger Woods' coach for seven years. He runs the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy, in Hilton Head.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

Weekend Tip: How to putt like Stricker

In the August issue of Golf Digest, on newsstands this week (with Rickie Fowler on the cover), Steve Stricker reveals some of his putting secrets. He's considered one the best putters on the PGA Tour, and his putting stroke is one reason he's won the John Deere Classic the last three years. He's also in contention going into today's third round to win his fourth straight.

One of Stricker's keys to great putting is how he controls the stroke with his left hand. This is what he says:

stricker.gifAt address my left wrist is cupped, and my goal is to maintain that angle throughout the stroke. Most people have the shaft leaning toward the target, but the cupped wrist sets the shaft in a more vertical position. I believe this helps me strike the ball consistently in the same place on the putter's face as well as put the best possible roll on the ball. As I said earlier, I'm a left-hand dominant putter. I feel as if my pendulum stroke is moved by my left shoulder, arm and hand working together. Sometimes I practice rolling the ball with just my left arm. It's been my style from day one.

So give Stricker's advice a try and you just might start holing everything like he does.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


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Instruction

Weekend Tip: 3 Ways to Regain Your Feel--Fast

So the weather across most of the country is finally starting to act like spring, golf course superintendents are beginning to mow their greens down to mid-season levels, and golfers are starting to turn up at the first tee, ready to put their games on display. At my own club, New Seabury on Cape Cod, this weekend's tee sheet is jammed full, and our Saturday morning group has more players than ever.

But what if you're one of those golfers coming out for the first time this year, and you feel like, as Dan Jenkins once said, the golf club feels like a parking meter in your hands? That's where this column will help you. Here are three tips, from some of the game's top feel players and teachers, to get your touch back fast. The last thing you want to do is three-putt all day, or take extra shots from just off the green, or snap-hook your tee shots.

1. Feeling your hands. When you haven't played in a while, your hands feel weak. So it's only natural to grip the club tighter to compensate. Resist that and do the opposite. As Davis Love Jr. and Bob Toski wrote in How to Feel A Real Golf Swing, with Bob Carney, "Your hands generate clubhead speed. They control the face. They shape the path of your swing. But nothing can sabotage a good grip or good swing quicker than excessive or inconsistent grip pressure. Tension is the enemy of the swing, and it emanates from the grip. Pick up a pencil and write your name. How tightly did you hold the pencil? Just tightly enough to accomplish the task at hand. Which is how you hold your steering wheel, how you hold a book, how you hold your sweetheart's hand. For most golfers, holding a golf club only as tightly as enables the club to swing will seem much lighter than normal." So remember to hold the club lightly, and you'll regain your feel in no time.

2. Feeling the putter. Gain control by giving up control. Sport psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella once told Paul Azinger that he could see tension and artificiality in his stroke. In his book, Putting Out of Your Mind, Rotella recounts how he told Azinger to putt like he hit bunker shots. "I just look at where I want it to go," Azinger said, "splash the sand, and it goes there." Rotella told Paul he had to become relaxed, even nonchalant, at the moment of truth in putting as well. Try it and your stroke will free up and become more natural. You'll regain your stroke very quickly.

3. Feeling your feet. When you've had a long layoff, usually your feet and legs are a little slow; you've lost some agility. Get that footwork back by trying this piece of advice, from Tommy Armour's book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time. "In simplifying footwork, I'll give you one little tip that probably will greatly improve the hitting portion of your swing. Have the right knee come in fast at the right time. The knee action in a good golf swing is practically identical with knee action in throwing a baseball."

So give these thoughts a try and good luck with your game this weekend. I'll be pulling for you (unless I'm playing against you).

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman 


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Instruction

How He Made That: Ben Curtis' putts that mattered

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin looks at the two long putts Ben Curtis made to win the Valero Texas Open on Sunday, and gives you some tips to improve your long-putting. 

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

By Kevin Hinton

Ben Curtis' ability to make some important long putts down the stretch at the Texas Open was key to his victory yesterday. Curtis made a 25-footer on the 17th hole to save par, as well as 12-footer for birdie on the 18th hole to win by two strokes. Ben is currently ranked second on the PGA Tour in the statistical category of Strokes Gained, and he is yet to three-putt in a tour event this year. Here are three ideas that will help you make a few more long putts.

Ben-curtis.gif1. Practice your four-footers
If you want to make more long putts, get better at your short putts! One reason the average golfer makes so few longer putts is they are putting scared and often come up short. We've all heard the saying that "100 percent of putts left short don't go in," but it still rings true. (Hubert Green infamously said "97 percent...") But you'll never make it if the ball doesn't get to the hole. It's the fear of the come-back putt that can make us come up short on the first putt. If you spend a lot of time practicing your three- to five-footers, you'll feel much more confident in actually giving that first putt a chance to go in. The other advantage of hitting your first putt with enough pace is that if it doesn't go in, you'll see the break for your next putt. Knowing the break will definitely decrease your number of three-putts.

2. Make center contact
To make a putt of any significant length, you need to do a combination of things correctly. You must have the correct read, start the ball on your intended line, and hit the ball with the correct speed. If you don't do all of these things, consistently making a decent number of long putts is essentially impossible. None of this works without making center contact on the putterface at impact. Off-center hits cause the face to open or close, as well as affect the distance the ball travels. You can make a stroke of the perfect size and pace for a 20-footer, but the ball will only go 20 feet if you make center contact. A simple drill would be to use two tees to form a gate that is only slightly bigger than the head of your putter. Then hit putts from within the gate, being sure to miss the tees. Typically, the most common cause of off-center hits is excessive movement of your legs or head. The stiller you can stay in putting the better.

3.
Read the green smartly
Becoming a proficient green reader is definitely an acquired skill that takes time and experience. However, here are a few ideas that can help. When you walk onto a green, simply
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