# Optimal putter shaft lie ... ???!!!!!!

sammy
sammy
Geoff .... While perusing this website: http://www.puttingacademy.com/

... I came across a fascinating "Fact" by Jon Karlsen, with whom I assume you are familiar.

Under the website tab "Putting" and then "Equipment" ... I found this interesting claim on the left sidebar:

Facts:
"Most elite players have wrong lie on their putter. Standard lie on putters are 18-20°, while elite players on average should have 23.0° lie."

The basis of this "Fact"is not explained in the website, but they do use the SAM system for putting and putter testing.

Would you please hazard a guess as to why this "Fact" might be valid or not?

Here is the problem as I see it. The more you flatten the putter shaft lie, the greater the gating of the putter head ... based on simple geometry (or spherical trigonometry if you wish ). Also a flatter lie putter positions the putter head farther from the hands and body, thus increases the static cantilever in the sagittal (side) plane and increases the torque of the resting putter across the hands. Stroking the putter in the frontal plane can be compromised not only by the sagittal plane torque, but also by the gating of the putter head.

I have my putter bent to near maximum, 78º (12º per Karlsen) lie so that it is as near to pendular as possible. Also my putting stroke is very straight and consistent as well. My tall body anatomy and ability to apply and control the adduction flex in my wrists results in a "hanging" putter that can be stroked virtually like a straight-line pendulum and with reduced cantilever torque from the putter as well. I kinesthetically apply the necessary stroking torque in both directions. ( Trust me, I have exquisite touch, timing and tempo all due to my rigourous classical music training and athletic prowness .. plus a lot of indoor carpet and outdoor greens practice ... not to mention my quasi-physics knowledge .. plus PuttingZone enlightenment.)

I have some really flat lie putters and I can't putt worth a damn with them because they wobble all over the place as the putter head gates !!

I thought my putting form was scientifically "optimal" .... but now Karlsen claims that "elite" golfer should flatten their putter lies for some unknown reason. Do you know the reasoning behind Karlsen's sidebar "Facts" ..????

Jon K.
Jon K.
Sammy...The 23.0 degree lie is based on measurements of the shaft angle at impact of about 150 elite players (mean hcp=1.8). I just checked my database again and mean (+/- SD) shaft angle at impact for the group was 22.6 +/- 2.8 degrees. (or 67.4 degrees if you prefer). All results are for players with traditional technique (no belly or long putters). Bearing in mind that most putters have from 18-20 degrees lie, average elite players are about 3-4 degrees "toe up" at impact. If you watch carefully from the next PGA-Tour event on TV, you will see that this holds quite well for those players as well. You hardly never see a player that adresses his/her putter "toe-down". I have also experienced (even among tour-professionals) that most players misjudge the position of the putter sole when standing in their address position, meaning that the toe normally is up when they think the putter sole is flat on the ground.

So by stating that the elite players should have about 23 degree lie on their putter, I only mean that with their current technique/posture a flatter lie would have been beneficial. I do not necessarily mean that 23 degree lie are optimal. As you indicate a flatter lie implies a larger torque in the wrist (seen in the sagital plane), which itself probably not is beneficial.

The main negative effect of having the toe up in the air is that you can get som air under the middle of the putter, and therefore you easier make thin contact with the ball. Of all mishits, mishits low in the putter face are the most negative for precision.

But how bad is 4 degrees toe up? I am quite sure that it has a negliable effect on performance in putting, but on the other hand...why not have a correct lie??!!

sammy
sammy
Why in heaven's name would pro golfers allow their putter shaft lie to flatten at address and continue this way in the forward stroke? This would mean that the arms have descended and the hands moved closer to the body by about 2 inches for a 4 degree upright putter toe at impact, according to my geometry (33 tan4). It just doesn't compute well .... assuming the putter head at address and at impact are on the sweet spot.

If the putter heel inadvertantly drags in the forward stroke that would close the putter face. If the putter head elevation rises too much at impact, you will feel as if you struck the ball with the leading edge of the putter, which we have all felt. A more vertical putter shaft lie eliminates those possibilities compared to a flatter shaft lie.

Also the long-shafted and belly putters have a more vertical shaft lie angle thus making the setup and stroke perspectives very different from the traditional putting styles.

The only thing I can imagine is that the pros cervical head position is causing the eyes to view the putter top line in a skewed perspective. Keeping one's head almost horizontal over the putter head should eliminate the bias, but could make the putting stroke awkward.

Perhaps it's a "technique/postural" thing to which you allude. Or perhaps it's a symptom of putter designs with offset multi-bend hosels that confound the viewer of the putter head. Very puzzling to me .... and I keep visualizing that now-senior Japanese golfer who successfully used a Bullseye putter with a very upright toe position ... what am I missing here ???

Jon K.
Jon K.
Hi again Sammy......Maybe I expressed it a bit unclear but the shaft angle (sagittal plane) are the same at address and impact for the elite players (or 22.4 degree at adress and 22.6 degree at impact to be correct). One reason might be that the players perceive the putter heads position "good" when the top surface of the putters are perpendicular to their eyes - and since they on average have thier eyes "inside" the ball they end up "toe up" at adresss (and impact).

But in conclusion it seems that putter manufacturers are systematically a few degrees off, compared to their customers posture/technique. As you mentioned - scuffing the putter is off course a bit worse with a wrong lie as well!

Cheers!

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am
Dear sammy and Jon,

I would imagine that the data being examined is the SAM Puttlab data mostly collected by Christian Marquardt, which is mostly from European players. Jon notes that the measurements indicate that the "mean (+/- SD) shaft angle at impact for the group was 22.6 +/- 2.8 degrees". SD is "standard deviation" determined statistically.

The interpretation of the SD's significance is shown in this passage: "In practice, one often assumes that the data are from an approximately normally distributed population. This is frequently justified by the classical central limit theorem, which says that sums of many independent, identically-distributed random variables tend towards the normal distribution as a limit. If that assumption is justified, then about 68 % of the values are within 1 standard deviation of the mean, about 95 % of the values are within two standard deviations and about 99.7 % lie within 3 standard deviations. This is known as the 68-95-99.7 rule, or the empirical rule."

The "variance" is defined as: "The variance of a random variable (or somewhat more precisely, of a probability distribution) is a measure of its statistical dispersion, indicating how its possible values are spread around the expected value. While the expected value shows the location of the distribution, the variance indicates the variability of the values. A more understandable measure is the square root of the [average or mean] variance, called the standard deviation. As its name implies it gives in a standard form an indication of the usual deviations from the mean."

A "standard deviation" (SD) is the square root of the average variance, so the average variance is seen by squaring the SD. Hence, in this case, if the SD is +/- 2.8, the average variance is 2.8 x 2.8 or 7.84 degrees about a "mean". This indicates that in the SAM Puttlab sample of 150 players, the lie angle -- on average -- varies from about 56.4 degrees flat to 75.4 degrees upright, using 67.4 degrees as the mean from the data set. And even under the "empirical rule" (assuming a normal pattern of distribution of the data points), 95% of the lie angle measurements in this data set lie within the range of two SDs, or +/- 5.6 degrees of this "mean", which is from 28.2 (61.8) degrees up to 17.0 (73.0) degrees using 22.6 (67.4) degrees as the "mean". In other words: "all over the map"!

With this large of an SD, you are basically not learning anything about "usual" from the data sample. That is because: "The standard deviation of a random variable X is defined as:

SD sigma = SQR [E((X - E(x))^2)] = SQR [E(X^2) - E(X))^2]

where E(X) is the expected value of X. Not all random variables have a standard deviation, since these expected values need not exist." To the same effect: A Cauchy distribution pattern indicates that there is no "expected value" in the data set. "Various results in probability theory about expected values, such as the strong law of large numbers, will not work in such cases." In sum, the SD in this case is so large in relation to the "expected value" (if there is one) or to the "mean", that we are not getting a very clear picture of exactly what constitutes "elite" dynamics.

In addition, what cannot be determined from this data is a) the actual lie of the putters being used, and b) the lie that any one golfer in the sample should be using. Making guesses about this is a hazardous procedure for science.

Granted, most putters come with 71 degrees (19 degrees off vertical, or 90 degrees) of lie angle, but we know nothing of the sizes and setup postures of the sample golfers, nor do we know anything about the length and lie of the putters they were using when the data was collected.

Even so, I would assume that the so-called "elite" players usually putt with their toes stuck up in the air. Phil Mickelson certainly does! Scotty Cameron putters typically have what he terms "high toe": "High Toe  The toe flows upwards to give the appearance of a more upright lie cheating the eye. The studio series putters have a high flowing toe." This tricks the golfer into thinking the toe is "up" when in fact the sole is more closely flattened to the surface, so it's a bandaid approach that "corrects" what so-called "elite" players do "naturally."

There are a couple of speculative explanations for why lots of tour players have this weird dynamic in their putting, aside from the general observation that they are not aware of it (which is a fact that should by itself dissaude other golfers from basing their putting on what so-called "elite" players do!).

First, they may have their hands lower than "average" golfers using "off-the-rack" putters. When one player sets up with his hands lower than another player of equal stature, this flattens the lie angle. Standard putters are made for standard golfers -- the most numerous group -- and standard golfers set up with hands too high on the putter, and not with arms and hands hanging naturally. In my observation, although pros are not really hanging their arms fully and naturally as a group (a few do, but by far most have some crook and tension in their elbows held back inside the line from shoulder sockets to balls of feet), the pros are certainly setting up with hands lower than the amateurs. That's why Lee Janzen uses a 33-inch putter and Phil Mickelson uses a 34.5-inch putter, although both are well over 6 feet tall.

Second, the head-eye positioning of pros is not good, with the gaze that results from the head posture in relation to the ball position out from the stance (according to Scotty Cameron) typically positioning the eyes about 1.25 inches inside the ball. (The eyes are usually riding about 54 inches above the surface.) And the last 1 inch of the toe end of the putter is farther away than the center of the ball and sweetspot of the putter head by about 1.5 more inches. (most putters are about 4.5 inches from heel to toe, with this last 1 inch segment of the toe centered 1.5 inches out from the sweetspot and hence 2.75 inches out from the position of the eyes.) The very end of the toe of the putter is usually about 0.75 inches out farther than the center of this toe area. So the eyes are "inside" the last 1 inch of toe of the putter by about 2.75 or more inches for these same players and the very end of the toe is 3.5 out. This corresponds to an angle of the gaze outward at the last 1 inch of the toe out of vertically below the eyeballs of 2.9 degrees and to the very end of the toe of 3.7 degrees. Depending on where the golfer is looking at "the toe", the top surface of the toe is not flush to the line of sight unless the toe is tilted up by these degrees, roughly an average up-tilt of 3.3 degrees more or less.

Incidentally, a player who putts with the toe of his putter in the air has a mismatch between where the putter face aims and where the player rolls the ball, with the plane of the lofted and up-tilted putter face having a "normal" or aim direction out of the center of the face that is biased somewhat to the inside (left for a right hander), causing the player's stroke to be more in-to-out in a sort of a "push" action required to compensate for the face's odd attitude in space. In other words, toe-up corrupts the stroke.

All of which is to say that pros -- in general, by far most -- are not very aware of what they are doing in their setup and stroke and also that pros are using putters that are not well fitted to them in terms of their setup and stroke. That being the case, plus the problematic interpretation of a data set with a standard deviation this huge, tells me that we don't know much of value or precision from this particular collection of pro data, even if we wanted to model our putting after this group.

Cheers!

Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist
PuttingZone.com
Golf's most advanced and comprehensive putting instruction.

Visit the new PuttingZone Blog for podcasts of putting tips:
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sammy
sammy
Thank you Geoff and JonK:

JonK: It appears to me that Geoff has somewhat successfully challenged your "Fact" about "optimal" putter lies. Perhaps you could provide us with your rebuttal argument, in a congenial and professional manner befitting this fine forum. We are here to learn and avoid personal judgements.

Geoff: I asked you to hazard a guess and you responded: "Making guesses about this is a hazardous procedure for science." ... and you provide us with the detailed geometry to back up your conclusions. Thanks for that but it is not very satisfying for me or others who may be interested in this discussion of optimal putter lies.

I invite both of you to a "thought experiment" on putter shaft lies and the putting stroke. Let us assume we have a group of pro golfers and provide them with the same putter design ... such as the purple putter you Geoff use in your illustration but with a slightly rockered sole and a simple top line with no heel-toe sculpturing to detract the golfer's view. (In fact I own a putter like this: a Spalding T.P.M.6, which you may recognize as a T.P.Mills design).

These standardized putters are (a)center-shafted face-balanced, and (b)near heel-shafted as shown in Geoff's purple putter picture. Each of these putters come in pairs of 10 degrees and 20 degrees from the vertical shaft lies. What we have is the extremes of putter configuration for experimentation.

Let us also assume that the group of pro golfers are almost anatomically similar endomorphs and their normal putters are 72 degrees +/-2 degrees lies of various designs. Their eyesight is reasonably normal.

Given what you two gentlemen know about pro and rec golfers, how would these pro golfers set up these test putters at address? This may be an oversimplified and naive question, but I would appreciate your opinions.

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am
Dear sammy,

I'm not really "rebutting" anything -- just qualifying to what extent we can base conclusions on the data.

As to the 10-degree lie putter, you do not specify a length, so let's just set it flat to the surface and start there. This will poise the handle back to the golfer a certain position in space depending on how low his hands hang.

Let's just fit me to a good lie first and then progress to your extremes. I'm 6'1" and my wrist lines at military posture are 34" from the ground. When bent into the setup posture, my wrist lines hang at 30", and the center of my palms is 2" lower still. So in my case, the center of the palms would hang to 28" above the ground. The centers of the palms do not hang vertically beneath the shoulders -- the elbows do, in line with the shoulders and the balls of the feet -- and the palms are centered about over my toes. From the shoulders to my pupils is one putter grip, 10". So even if my head is perfectly flat to the surface, so that a straight-out gaze then requires the ball to be vertically beneath my eyeballs, the ball and sweetspot of the putter should not be any closer than 10" from the balls of my feet. It is another 3" from the balls of my feet to the toes, where the palms are centered. SO ... the centers of the palms hang 28" above the ground, 7" or more back from the ball. Let's say 8". The trigonometry for the putter is then:

Lie = (90 - arctan(8/28)),

Lie = (90 - 16)

Lie = 74 degrees, 3 upright, or 16 back off vertical.

If I extend the ball out from my feet another 1", this makes the lie angle 18 degrees off vertical. VERY ROUGHLY, every 1" extension of ball away from the feet adds about 2 degrees of "flatter" to the lie.

The length will then be cut to center the grip material inside my hands. using 8" out, this makes a 34" putter with the palms centered 4 inches below the top of the grip.

RESULT: 16 degrees back, 34".

If I setup to a flatly soled 10-degree putter, I would have to stand closer to the ball, and this in my case will bring me closer than the minimum closeness when my head is flat to the surface (10" from balls of feet and 7" from toes oriented more or less square to the target line). So I end up looking back in towards my feet at address. No thanks. This is a poor attitude in space for the inner ear balance-space-vestibular sensing organs. While the head position per se has nothing to do with the stroke itself, and one can make a perfectly acceptable stroke in this setup, and while one can also still see straight away sideways with this head and gaze setup, it is not advisadble due to the balance issues.

If I setup to the 20-degree putter when flatly soled, I can adjust the length so that my hands still hang naturally, and I am sufficiently back from the ball that my head and gaze can be arranged so I am looking straight out of my face at the ball in a good aiming setup. The axis of the hands will probably NOT allow aligning the shaft of the putter with the bones of the forearm, so there will by an additional joint (wrist) with tension involved in the canter-levering that holds the putter in a fixed relationship with the rest of the body once the grip is assumed. Other than this, the stroke is the same.

I don't think this gets to your basic point, however, which I understand to be that there is more canter-levering force required in the 20-degree setup than is required in the 10-degree setup. My observation is that the difference between these two is a minor matter of extra grip muscle tone in the hands and arms and a little postural difference in the hands-forearms angle. But other than that, both postures allow a perfectly serviceable shoulder stroke with dead hands, after the setup muscle tone is set.

Cheers!

Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist
PuttingZone.com
Golf's most advanced and comprehensive putting instruction.

Visit the new PuttingZone Blog for podcasts of putting tips:
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Last edited by aceputt on July 3rd, 2007, 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am
Sear sammy,

Based on your question, it seems to me you may not realize the "zig-zag-zig-zag-zig" feature in the human body holding a putter. Let me explain this, as apparently I am the first person to note it.

The "lines" of a good setup run thus:

1. shoulder to elbow -- upper arm vertical in gravity (ZIG).
2. elbow to wrist -- forearm bent slightly forward (ZAG)
3. wrist to fingertips -- hand again vertical in gravity (ZIG)
4a. lifeline in palm at base of thumb matches forearm (ZAG)
4b. putter handle aligned in lifeline matches forearm (ZAG)
5. toe or heel end of putter that is soled level is vertical (ZIG)

Here is a drawing:

Your suggestion of 10-degree and 20-degree setups would do violence to this "natural" setup scheme.

The "trick" to a REALLY good setup is to get the putter ahft to match the lifeline AND then get the putter head and sweetspot the correct distance out from the stance (not too close in, not necessarily with head flat and eyes directly above the ball, but with ball perhaps directly under eyeballs or slightly farther out as dictated by golfer's comfort with head bend and straight gaze). This combination won't necessarily occur in a specific golfer, so he has to fudge one or the other (or both), and my sense is that the golfer ought to keep the shaft-forearm alignment and work on the head-eye position and posture specifically during the aiming rountine, and perhaps relaxing about this during the stroke itself.

The interesting physiognomy is that gravity "forges" the lifeline while the hand hangs vertically in a relaxed posture (which is most of the time, really). Gravity pulls the "pad" of the thumb down over the central palm area in a specific way in this relaxed hanging, and that "folding" generates the lifeline. As forged by gravity, when the main axis of the hand hangs vertically, the lifeline matches the axis of the forearm. The precise angle that the forearm angles out of vertical due to muscle development either side of the elbow is EXACTLY the same angle by which the lifeline diverges from the main axis of the hand from base of hand at wrist to tip of middle finger. Consequently, the "best" lie angle to fit a specific golfer is probably this SAME angle, and an educated putting instructor is able to fit a golfer just looking at him standing up by the angle of his forearm. My forearm angle, for example, is 14 degrees tilted out of vertical, and that is also my optimal putter lie.

Cheers!

Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist
PuttingZone.com
Golf's most advanced and comprehensive putting instruction.

Visit the new PuttingZone Blog for podcasts of putting tips:
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Anonymous
Anonymous
Is this the definition of "too technical" for golf?

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am
yes, this is too technical for certain realms of "golf culture", but not for golf or serious golfers. It is actually just an explanation of HOW to get "natural" in terms that apply to great golfers who aren't really able to articulate these body relations:

Jim Furyk:

Cameron Beckman:

Stuart Appleby:

Luke Donald:

Ernie Els:

Greg Norman:

Jose Maria Olazabal:

Vijay Singh:

Payne Stweart:

Harold Swash:

VJ Trolio:

All of these golfers and many others share the upper-arm "natural vertical hang" and the forearm "natural angled-out hang" and have putters that fit the same angle as their forearm angle.

But too many golfers think this knowledge is not interesting or important to them, and even think it is "bad" to know this sort of knowledge. Personally, I find that sort of intentional ignorance curious. It's okay to think "to each his own" -- but only if those opting for deliberate ignorance will stop offering their opinion on how to putt (or other aspects of golf) since they admittedly don't know what they are talking about and don't want to know. This is the realm of "golf culture" that needs a good butt-kicking, intellectually speaking.

Actually, the only reason the drawing above looks "too technical" is because of the "information load" in the image from the detailed lines and body parts. If instead I had simply said "hang your arms naturally" and this is what results: elbows below shoulders, hands a little out -- I know from many years experience that not many golfers would really understand what I had said.

Cheers!

Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist
PuttingZone.com
Golf's most advanced and comprehensive putting instruction.

Visit the new PuttingZone Blog for podcasts of putting tips:
Site PuttingZone Blog