The way we've all been taught to play breaking putts will never work for most of us. *Find the high point of the break, and then picture a straight putt to that spot. *That advice, according to my testing of 700 pros and amateurs, works for only 35 percent of golfers. The other 65 percent don't see in straight lines -- they literally can't -- so using a straight-line system only creates conflict in their minds.
Players who make up that 65 percent see in curved lines. When they're asked to aim at a spot that correlates to the amount of break they read, they usually aim twice as far off the hole than they intended. The reason is, curved-line putters picture the hole, and not a spot along the line, as their target. So when you have them aim at a spot -- say, a foot outside the hole -- they see that spot as their ultimate target, not as their starting line. Unless they make compensations, they'll aim two feet out, and miss a foot wide.
In the late '90s, I asked a group of clinical and sport psychologists to review my findings. They quickly pointed to parallels in other sports. Top-level pitchers, they said, tend to be straight-line thinkers: They see a stationary target -- the catcher's mitt -- and take aim at it. Quarterbacks throw to a moving target, so they tend to be curved-line thinkers. Golfers fall on both sides.
But curved-line players have had no system for handling breaking putts. So I developed one. It's based on picturing the hole as a clock face and focusing on where a putt should enter. If you have trouble rolling the ball on line, I'd bet you're a curved-line putter. My method is for you.
Mike Shannon, ranked among Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers in America, is based at Sea Island Golf Club, St. Simons Island, Ga.