Downward putting stroke

Downward putting stroke


October 4th, 2007, 10:43 pm #1

Hi Geoff .. and when you get back from Europe .... while sitting in the dentist waiting room, I perused the January 2007 issue page 131 of Golf Digest and I spotted this putting gem to help "Breaking 90":

The downside of putting

The putter should be descending when it makes contact with the ball, and the shaft should be leaning forward. This will minimize the amount of ball hops and skids before it starts rolling. Skidding hampers distance control.


I am having difficulty justifying to myself if this advice is valid. Can you comment and help me ... thanks.



December 17th, 2007, 6:45 pm #2

Hi Geoff .. any thoughts on this topic ..??

Geoff Mangum
Geoff Mangum

December 18th, 2007, 2:52 am #3

Dear Sammy,

These "slice and dice" tips are always around. In truth, the lore is "all over the map" with inconsistent, vague reasoning -- some say hit up, some say hit down, some say hit level, some say it doesn't matter.

Andrisani, John, Putting: Superstroke: Jay Sigel's keys to his putting success, Golf Mag. 26(9), Sep 1984, 38: hits down slightly and contacts ball above the equator.

Archer, George, The putting stroke that won me the Masters, Golf Dig., 20(6), Jun 1969, 36-40: I locate my hands opposite the crease on my left trouser leg, which, related to the position of the ball [inside left toe], ensures that the putter shaft is vertical, and that I will contact the ball at the lowest point of the swing, rather than chopping down or hitting up at it." (40)

Barrier, Jerry, Overspin puts it in, Golf Mag., 15(7), Jul 1973, 75: shows trajectory of putter into ball; suggests that there is a time during ball-club contact where contact point rolls up ball as club trajectory naturally rises once it passes bottom; path of clubhead appears to pass through ball above center of gravity of ball from beginning -- needs sorting out based on time of impulse contact and distance bal moves laterally / transversely. "A putt hit with sidespin has only one way to go in -- dead center. A putt hit with overspin can be hit a little off-line or off-speed and still drop. It will also hold its line in those crucial moments as it slows down nearing the cup. [decay phase] To get that overspin, you to hit the ball much as you do a driver. Strike the ball just as you start the upswing and let the blade follow through toward the hole. This will send the ball rolling end-over-end, and if you've read it right, you'll make it."

Cook, Chuch & Schiffman, Roger, How to become a complete putter: How to perfect the five impact factors for a consistently sound stroke, Golf Dig., 40(9), Sep 1989, 52-55, 55: "The most consistent angle for the putter to strike the ball is at the bottom of the arc.

Crafter, Jane How to find your "holing" speed, Golf Dig., 44(11), Nov 1994, 54-59, 56: Impact: "This sounds obvious, but the most solid putts occur when the middle of the putterface contacts the middle of the ball. In other words, a level hit -- one that produces the minimum of backspin or overspin -- is best. I've never been a believer in trying to hit down or up on putts. That's way too difficult to reproduce on a consistent basis."

Golf Digest, Primer 1995: Putting, Golf Dig., 46(2), Feb 1995, 76-78, 76: feet, hips, shoulders parallel to target line to keep stroke on line; ball inside left heel to contact ball with horizontal blow, not upward or downward.

Golf Magazine , Golf Magazine's Handbook of Putting (New York: Harper & Row, 1973; London: Pelham, 1975), 57: "To get overspin on the ball, advance your hands just a bit ahead of the ball, so that the face of the putter is slightly hooded. Mind you, the face isn't toed in. Rather, it leans just a shade forward, a few degrees off the perpendicular. From this position, most golfers find, a normal stroke will automatically impart that overspin which is so essential to accurate putting under some conditions."

Golf Magazine , Golf Magazine's Handbook of Putting (New York: Harper & Row, 1973; London: Pelham, 1975), 72: "Get the ball rolling with good overspin, which will help it hold the line. To get this overspin, try to hit up a little bit more than normal on the ball."

Golf Magazine, Putting: There is only one way to putt: New research shows you must hit the ball at the exact bottom of your swing, if you're going to hit it with maximum smoothness, Golf Mag., 20(2), Feb 1978, 76.

Harmon, Dick, Beware of the pendulum, Golf Mag., 40(2), Feb 1988, 84-85: contact with a descending blow pops ball into turf and bounces it off line; ascending blow threatens sweet-spot contact and loss of power and distance.

Kite, Tom & Dennis, Larry, How to Play Consistent Golf (New York: Golf Digest/Tennis, 1990), 145: You have to hit the ball with a flat clubface. Negative loft can drive the ball into the ground, and that will make it bounce. If you're on a firm, fast green, you may be able to hit the putt with a slight negative loft and actually get the ball rolling well. (You don't want to hit down on it, a point I'll discuss further when we get into the stroke itself.) But if you're on a thatchy green, like thick Bermuda, and you drive the ball the slightest bit into the ground, it will bounce, so you don't want negative loft there. In this case you actually need a slight bit of loft to help get the ball up on top of the thick grass so it can roll."

Low, George & Barkow, Al, The Master of Putting: Classic Secrets of a Putting Legend (New York: Lyons & Burford, 1983), 27: "The ball must be played somewhere between your heels. You can have it off the left heel, or farther back toward the middle of your feet if that suits you. Never should the ball be forward of your left foot. Many golfers play the ball forward of their left heel -- usually off the left toe -- under the mistaken notion that they want to contact it on the upstroke, with the blade on the rise. Positioning the ball forward promotes this all right, but consistently solid ball contact is far less likely, first, because you are subject to having the putter face open or shut at impact and, second, because you encourage body movement during the stroke." 28: on long putts of 30 feet or longer, move ball back a bit for a more natural hit for the length; "When the ball's too far forward, instinct tells you to hit it harder, and this results in forced hand action, which usually causes putter-face misdirection, and body movement." 28: "With the ball set inside the left heel (or even farther back toward the middle of your feet), you can also easily set your hand slightly ahead of it at address, which is another fundamental of fine putting."

Mahoney, Tim & Schiffman, Roger, How to take the sidespin out of your putts, Golf Dig., 45(11), Nov 1994, 76-81, 78: "Average golfers often don't relate the club's angle of approach to the type of sidespin that results. But actually, it has everything to do with it. Generally, the more from the inside the club swings, the more upward it travels when it meets the ball. In contrast, a club moving downward at impact will likely swing across the target line from outside to in. ... To achieve no sidespin on your putts, the putter must be moving level to the ground with a square clubface when it meets the ball. That level approach to the ball is the first step toward achieving a truer roll."

McLean, Jim & Pirozzolo, Fran, The Putter's Pocket Companion (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1994), 4: slow surfaces, play ball back towards middle of stance to preset hands ahead of ball, deloft putter, and encourage downward impact for better roll on slow greens.

Merrins, Eddie, Four keys to a repeating stroke, Golf Mag., 21(12), Dec 1979, 54-57, [56] WEIGHT RIGHT: placing weight left causes lifting putter on backstroke and then hitting down on ball, and desireable overspin is not achieved -- "you want as much overspin as possible for a true roll." weight right keeps blade low going back and ascends going through; "As you make ball contact, you will strike it at or just above the equator, imparting the desired topspin. For this reason, you should put more weight on the right foot than on the left -- it makes for the right attack on the ball."

Merrins, Eddie, Keep your putting simple, Golf Dig. 24(6), Jun 1973, 63-65, 65: "I personally prefer to contact my putts with the putterhead moving upward on the forward stroke.

Middlecoff, Cary & Michael, Tom, Master Guide to Golf (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1960), 118: "On straight and level putts, always position the ball the same way. Then from this key positioning, you can make slight alterations for downhill, uphill, right and left-breaking putts. An your putting pattern won't change. With very few exceptions, the better putters position the ball for a straight and level putt just inside the left toe or close to it. Some fine putters position the ball exactly opposite the center of the left toe. [119:] Others line up the ball off the left heel. The degrees of variation are insignificant. When you line up the ball well forward, you can sight along the intended line of flight much more easily. Moreover, you'll contact the ball at the end of the arc instead of hitting down on it for an underspin. The ball that rolls straight with no spin will hew to the line and plop into the cup more readily. And forward positioning makes for a steady roll with no "English."

Palmer, Arnold & Dobereiner, Peter, Arnold Palmer's Complete Book of Putting (New York: Atheneum, 1986), 68; course of putt, not a roll but "For about 20 percent of its travel the ball will actually be airborne, skidding above the grass with some backspin before skipping two or three times and then settling into an unbroken roll. During the roll phase, the ball rides on top of the blades of grass, and as it loses its forward momentum, it settles down onto the solid surface of the green, all of which will be clearly discernable in the dusty turf (you can observe the same pattern when putting on greens from which the early morning dew has not been swept). it makes no difference to this pattern whether you strike the ball on the upswing or the downswing, or even if you deliberately make contact high on the ball with a half-topping stroke in an attempt to get the ball rolling smoothly [69] right from the start."

Roberts, Loren, Take the "hit" out of your stroke, Golf Dig., 48(12), Dec 1997, 36: allow putterhead to lag behind hands in downstroke for better tempo, solid contact, a descending blow, and a better, truer roll; "Many amateurs flip their wrists through impact when putting, which ruins their tempo and results in poor contact. For better tempo and solid contact, try to create a "lag" in your putting stroke. Start the forward stroke with your shoulders and left arm; you want to feel as though you're having the putterhead behind your hands for as long as you can. Maintain the hinge in the right wrist as you pull the putterhead through the ball. Having a lag in your stroke allows you to make contact with a descending blow, with the putterface sweeping down and through the ball, instead of up and over it. Take the "hit" out of your stroke, and you'll put a better roll on the ball."

Smith, Horton & Taylor, Dawson, The Secret of Holing Putts (New York: Barnes; London: Yoseloff, 1961), 142: "Improper or inconsistent placement of the ball is another common fault that I see in many golfers, especially those with high handicaps. Placing the ball too far back toward the center of the stance will result in a downward stroke at the ball which will give it backspin instead of overspin. On the other hand, placement of the ball too far forward in the putting stance leads to a tendency for the left wrist to "collapse."

Sones, Todd, Academy live: Arm your stroke, sink more putts, Golf Mag., 39(8), Aug 1997, 80-81, 81: for reliable and consistent distance, strike the ball on the center with the center of the face every time, not upward or downward.

Stobbs, John, The Anatomy of Golf: Techniques and Tactics (New York: Emerson, 1962), 80: A refinement of this method, used reputedly among others by the great Australian professional Peter Thomson, is to strike the ball slightly downward as well. To put backspin on a ball is a physical impossibility. But it is a fact that in the hands of Thomson and others this method sometimes seemed to enable them to hit the ball a little harder, and thus make it run more certainly over the ground, while at the same time making it draw up relatively quickly for the speed it began at.

Swash, Harold & Yun, Hunki, Three basics for pure putts: England's guru of the greens tells you how to knock 'em in, Golf Dig. 46(12), Dec 1995, 87-88, 90, 87: "The key to good putting is the area one inch either side of the ball. Nothing else matters. Through impact, the putterhead must be: (1) looking squarely at the target, (2) traveling on a slightly upward path and (3) accelerating smoothly." 88: "Well struck putts don't skid or bounce much; they roll. For the best roll, the putterhead must be moving upward and strike the ball with a glancing blow." Position ball in front of bottom of arc and place hands ahead of the ball. "The bottom of the stroke is determined by the relationship between your sternum and the ball." Always position sternum (and chin) directly in line with putterhead and behind ball, even if ball is being played back or forward in relation to feet. This way, the bottom of the arc is always kept just behind the ball.

Yocom, Guy, Golf Digest school: Toski's $250,000 favor to Chi Chi, Golf Dig., 38(10), Oct 1987, 90: hit slightly downward for over spin and to avoid the side spin that often accompanies hitting up.

Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist

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