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Long's Putting Strokes

A Putting Stroke with the Torso and Shoulders turning in the parallel planes.

How to use the Torso as a Hinge

A Stroke with the Torso as the only Hinge

 

by Steve Long

 

Note:  This web page is at present a living document--it receives updates

and contains original research. 

 

Address and impact position

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Geometry of the Old and the New

Learning the Shoulder Movement

The Quick Setup

The Routine

One More Piece of Geometry-- The Elbows

Hands, Wrists, and the One-piece system

Torso and Shoulders

Additional Tips

 

Introduction

This offers improvements for any putting style that has shoulder  movement, which includes almost every style except wrist bending strokes with no little or no shoulder movement. 

It is addressed mainly to styles with one-piece arms, hands, and shoulders, but it can also work with wrist bending and elbow bending when there is some shoulder movement. 

The main feature and improvement is that the shoulders and torso move in parallel planes.  In most putting strokes shoulder movement is on different plane than the torso movement and requires an exceedingly, and as it turns out, unnecessarily precise physical coordination to make the two systems, shoulders and torso, work correctly together.

In most one-piece putting strokes the shoulders, arms, hands and club  move approximately in planes that are parallel.  Let's call this the swing plane.  Most golfers lean over while putting but not far enough to put the axis of this swing plane on the axis of the torso rotation.  The body compensates for this difference by its ability to coordinate the two movements as a rocking of the shoulders.

The shoulders are capable of moving in many directions.  These directions can be considered a combination of up or down, forward or backward, as seen on an upright torso.  Up and down movement involves different muscles than forward and backward movement.  Let's call the up and down movement the "shrug" movement, and the forward-backward movement the "slide" movement.  In ordinary putting setups, the shoulders must combine a shrug movement with a slide movement so as to create a diagonal or rocking movement.  This must be done precisely or the putter face will change direction.

In other words, in most putting setups, the shoulders must go through a complicated rocking motion on top of the torso, because the muscles of the shrug movement and the muscles of the slide movement have to be executed at the same time and in just the right amounts in order to create a movement of the shoulders that is neither pure shrug nor pure slide, but in between on just the right line, the latter being the swing plane.  This is difficult to do reliably.

Such a complicated movement is eliminated when the torso is leaned far enough over, because all shrug movement is eliminated, leaving pure slide movement, or even no shoulder movement at all.  Using a pure slide movement of the shoulders is a powerful simplification of the stroke.  Directional accuracy and ball contact is much improved.  Read below to learn how to achieve this.

 

 

The Geometry of the Old and the New

In the picture above, you can see the address position for Long's Putting Stroke. 

Notice how far the torso leans forward.  It is uncommonly far over. 

When the upper torso is at the correct angle or lean, the directional accuracy is increased by the elimination of lifting and lowering of the shoulders from the ribcage during the stroke.  

Standing relatively upright, as is done in most putting strokes, and using shoulder movement to control the arms, dictates that one or both shoulders must lift off and set back down in relation to the ribcage in a very exact way during the stroke, and also that the turning of the ribcage be closely coordinated to the shoulder movement.  This makes it very easy to open or close the clubface, and to lose the intended club head path. 

The torso angles and ball positions referred to hereafter are to be visualized as seen by an observer looking down the aim line.  For example the torso angle refers to how far the torso leans "forward" toward the aim line.  And the ball position refers to how far the golfer stands from the aim line.  The aim line runs through the ball and is the intended path of the ball at impact. 

I call the amount of torso lean the "torso angle."  It has to be fairly exact to achieve a parallel torso and shoulder movement.  I will explain how to determine this angle and how to quickly find it thereafter.

There is one more thing that must accompany the increased torso angle, and that is a more certain ball position.  The ball should always be in same relationship to the torso, which is the same thing as having the swingplane in the same relationship to the torso.  In practice this amounts to keeping the ball directly under the eyes or the same distance from the feet.  The best way I have found to do this is to use the putter as a plumb bob under the eyes.  This places the ball directly under the eyes.  After learning the technique, you can find the ball position easily at the same time as you find the torso angle.

In the usual putting setup, the shoulders move "diagonally."  This means that they move up and down in relation to the ribcage as well as forward and backward on the ribcage.  To see this for yourself, take your putting stance in front of a mirror or window so you can see your shoulders as if you were looking down the aim line.  Now do your putting stroke and watch your shoulders move.   On the backswing, the trailing shoulder goes up and back while the leading shoulder goes down and forward.  On the downswing they reverse direction.  So what is wrong with that?

You should try this for yourself to see how it works.  Move only the leading shoulder up and watch the clubface open.  Move the leading shoulder down and watch the clubface close.  Do the same with the other shoulder.  Now try the forward-backward movement of the shoulders.  Moving the leading shoulder forward opens the face as well as moving the arms.  Back does the opposite.  On the follow through the leading shoulder goes up and back.  While the up movement opens the face, the back movement closes it, so that if both movements are done together in exactly the right amounts, they cancel out and keep the face square.  The same correctness is required in both shoulders.  At impact the positions of the shoulders have to match exactly the positions they had at address, in order to return the club face to address position. 

Long's putting stroke eliminates the up-down shoulder movement and uses only the forward-backward shoulder movement, or allows the complete elimination of shoulder movement, insofar as the shoulders only move in a fixed relation to the ribcage.  If you accidentally do the up-down shoulder movement, you have a good chance of feeling it.  Therefore you can learn to not do it, and the clubface stays square.

Another control problem is that diagonal shoulder movement rides on the torso.  For most golfers, the torso turns a little during the stroke, contributing additional movement to the shoulders.  So the forward-backward movement of the shoulders is actually made of shoulder movement and torso turning.  Any one or a combination of all three elements, the torso, the left shoulder, and the right shoulder, can be moved off their respective intended paths or gotten out of sync with each other, and bam, you have an opened or closed clubface, if you are using a typical putting setup.  And there is another problem, last but not least, the arms rotation, explained later, that also opens and closes the club face.

No wonder it is so difficult to hit straight putts with a typical putting stroke!

That's why I was happy to discover this new stroke. 

To get an idea how it works, do the following:  Stand in front of a mirror or window so you can see your profile.  Stand upright, straight up.  Grip the putter and raise the club and forearms until they are horizontal.  Then swing the shoulders, arms, and club back and forth horizontally. 

The club face should be vertical, as the golfer sees it, and stay that way throughout the stroke.  In order to keep the face vertical, you will have to abandon any diagonal shoulder movement.  This means you must keep the shoulders at the same level.  If you see the putter face close on the backswing, you are still using the diagonal shoulder movement.  The muscles that move the shoulders up and down on the rib cage must become static.   This eliminates the complexity of shoulder movement.  If you now move either shoulder forward or backward, the clubface does not open or close, it just moves left or right.   Lifting or lowering of a shoulder of course still opens or closes the clubface, but this movement is no longer used, except by mistake, and the mistake is relatively easy to avoid. 

If you have trouble executing the new shoulder movement, read this paragraph and try the exercise.   Stand upright and let the arms hang with no club. Move one shoulder forward and the other backward, without raising or lowering. Then reverse the direction. Then try purposely lowering or raising the shoulders. Keep comparing the raising and lowering vs. the level motion until you have it down pat.  Next make the same level shoulder motion with your hands clasped together in front of you, as in a putting stroke. Now bend slowly over while continuing this motion.

If you now have the correct shoulder movement, you can almost do Long's Putting Stroke.  You still need the setup position with the proper torso angle and ball position.  There is a quick way to approximate it.

The Quick SetupThe quick way to approximate the proper setup is to put yourself into the position shown in the following picture:  with hand on knee and putter hanging as a plumb below an eye.  This gives both torso lean and ball position.

 

Quick Setup: finding ball position and torso lean at the same time. 

 

The sweet spot of the putter will hover approximately over the aim line on which the ball should be located.  Your back should be as straight as possible.   Retain the torso lean and lower the putter until it touches the ground.  Retouch the ground with the putter until it doesn't swing when you lift it.  Then tilt the putter shaft into address position.  Put your hands into address position on the grip.  Now you are in a setup that is close to the correct setup. 

To check if lean is correct, slowly straighten up without changing the relation of the arms and club to the torso, as in the double picture below.  Run your cursor over the picture to see the second picture.  The club will be horizontal if the address position was correct.  

             

Run your cursor over the above picture to see the alternate position.

If you have it correct, skip down the page to here.

If the club was not horizontal, you make slight adjustments to the Quick Setup until it is. 

If the club is below horizontal, you need to lower the torso at address.  Take the Quick Setup position using a lower position of the hand on the leg.  Try lowering the hand to the kneecap from the original position just above the knee.  Then proceed into the setup position and test it by standing up straight again.  If the club shaft is horizontal you have got it.  If not, try again with a different hand position on the leg. 

If the putter shaft is above horizontal when you are standing up straight, use the Quick Setup with your hand higher on the leg.

When you finally get the correct setup, remember the hand position and use it from then on.

The best way to find the correct setup is to stand straight up and look in the mirror or window to set the putter horizontal.  Now the putter is 90 degrees to the torso.  Bend over at the hips keeping the upper body rigid until the putter touches the ground or floor.  Now check the position of the club head to make sure it is directly under the eyes, by using the club as a plumb bob.  If the club head is too far out, then choke down on the club and bend over more, until the club is directly under the eyes.  If the club head is too close in, do the opposite.   Start from the upright position to check the new position.  This procedure is especially good for trying to keep the back straight, as one can practice swiveling at the hips while the back is kept straight.  A straight back makes it much easier to turn the torso.

Now take a few strokes.  Can you stroke it without any shoulder movement errors?  If so, hit some balls.   Can you hit straight each time?

On numerous occasions, especially at first, you will need to use the Quick Setup to check your torso angle to make sure it has not changed.  Maybe you will remember the position easily; maybe not.  This can become a smooth and quick motion so that you could do it on each putt if necessary. 

Even the amount you bend your knees makes a difference in the torso angle, so bend them the same amount each time.

And distribute the weight of your body on your feet in the same way each time, especially in regard to heel and toes.

When the ball is played forward of center in the stance, then the club path will be a bit of a slice at impact unless you orient the torso slightly away from the target, meaning slightly to the right of perpendicular to the aim line.  This is probably not a big deal but if you want to get it absolutely right then check the club path and adjust the torso direction accordingly.

I have two routines I choose between when I prepare for a putt.  Method 1:  Read the green.  Use the Quick Setup (as often as you feel it is necessary, especially on the first green) slightly away from the ball but parallel to the aim line.  Make some practice swings, attempting the correct speed.  Choose, practice, and remember the swing to use.  Step into hitting position without losing posture or position.  Aim the clubface first, then make stance adjustments, if required.  Make any micro-adjustments to clubface direction by rotating the wrists.  Raise the putter into hitting position and wait until the arms and clubhead are stable.  Copy the stroke practiced in the set-up. 

Method 2: Read the green and determine the speed and break.  If I feel like I already know long and fast I want my stroke to be, I can skip the practice strokes and go directly to setting up and hitting the ball.  Or if I do any practice strokes it is not to get the stroke I want to use but to get the kinks out and the feel of the putter or the whole body or to give myself some more time to imagine the line and speed.  If I am worried about getting the right torso lean or ball position I do the quick set-up in relation to the ball, and then take the grip and adjust my positions until everything is right, then raise the club and stroke. 

 

One More Piece of Geometry-- The Elbows

In the control of direction, there is another failure mode and a way to counteract it.  For most putting styles where the arms are bent at the elbows, it is easy to rotate one or both elbows which causes the clubface to open or close. 

If you straighten the arms completely, this problem might be eliminated. I saw Phil Michelson doing this with a very short putter. If you use Long's torso angle and straight arms, then the putter must be very short indeed. There is a minimum putter length of 18 inches in the rules though.  Straight arms feels awkward to me so I haven't really tried it.  I did, however, try different positions up and down the grip.  I like a lower position on the grip to get the best control over the clubhead, and finally ended up cutting a few inches off the shaft.

  Another thing to set and keep the same is the firmness of the grip and the rigidity in the arms.  Use enough force to keep the arms and club in close relationship to each other.

 

Internal Dynamics 

Hands, Wrists, and the One-piece system

Many great putters have used a wrist bending stroke, but wrist bending is out of fashion today.  It relies on the hands for direction.  It can still have all the faults of the fixed-wrist swing, but in lesser amounts, as all the movements except the wrist movements are smaller, and it also has the advantage of allowing close-in elbows.  The fixed-wrist stroke, on the other hand, helps to keep the wrists from changing the alignment of the club, reducing by one, but only one, the causes of misalignment, while it increases the amount of arms, shoulders, and torso movement, and normally it must use elbows away from the torso, which is another source of misalignment during the stroke. 

If we want to use the fixed-wrist or "one-piece" stroke, in which arms, shoulders, and club are intended to move as one or approximately one solid unit, then we have to exert at least enough force with the wrists and hands to move the club backward and forward and keep it aligned with the arms.   The wrists can be held stiffer than necessary to allow for mistakes and this is not a bad option.

As the shoulders transmit force to the arms, the hands must adapt to this force to keep the putter aligned with the arms.  The hands have to adjust to the different force levels so as to preserve the "one-piece" nature of the fixed-wrist style.  Thus, although the fixed-wrist style appears to offer some advantages over the wrist bending style, the former is not easy to perform and has its own complexities.

The one-piece stroke is difficult to perform perfectly.   It has been problematic for demanding players, leading many to adopt unusual techniques, including longer putters and unusual ways of holding the club.  Apparently it is the difficulty of keeping the correct amount of force on the forward movement of the club that has been the problem, or maybe it is the yips, which is a separate problem having to do with involuntary and unexpected twitches of the muscles.

All this complication, and a frequent lack of success, results partly from trying to achieve a perfect one-piece swing.  But what if perfection is not required?  My solution to the problem is to allow the club to lag a "small" amount without causing any ill effects, such as opening of the face.

I tried a modified Varden grip instead of the double-overlapping Arnold Palmer grip, so as to reduce the amount of lag, but have rejected it for the Palmer grip.  The problem with the Varden grip was that, among other things, I could not feel the acceleration as well. 

I tried to produce distance adjustment by estimating the speed of the clubhead on a practice stroke and then copy that for the actual strike, but it just didn't work as well compared to the normal method.  The "normal method" is the backswing length-downswing force method, which requires choosing a backswing length, either consciously or unconsciously, and choosing or having a downswing force or acceleration.  Although the "normal method" sounds more complicated, it works better for me, perhaps because my brain cannot accurately measure or choose the speed of the putter.  On the other hand, the backswing length-downswing force method uses the body position to measure the backswing length and the feeling of pressure in the hands, arms, shoulders, and belly, to measure force on the downswing.  These latter factors remain fairly accurate over time.  I think everyone uses different backswing lengths for different putt lengths, but the downswing force can be fixed or varying for different golfers.  Some try to use the same downswing force for most or all putts, while other golfers vary the force depending on the length of the putt.

The double-overlapping grip is inherently looser than the Varden, but that works to the advantage of measuring force, and also helps regulate lag better than the Vardon grip.  Lag is the angling of the club from the address position.  Because it is inherently looser, it requires more exertion to limit club lag, thus creating more feeling in the skin and muscles. 

When the club lags a little, no harm is done, as long as the hands don't rotate, opening or closing the clubface.  If the lag is minimal, the misalignment, if there is any, is minimal.  There are much bigger sources of misalignment to worry about in a putting stroke.  If you try to get too fancy and eliminate lag entirely, your hands or something else could twitch and cause  misalignment and/or bad distance.  You can test the accuracy of the lagged position by "locking it in" and then returning the clubface to address position.  Even though the hands are now forward of the address position, the clubface can still be square to the line.

If you know the acceleration forces of the forward stroke ahead of time, it is easier to control club lag.  If you swing without a pre-ordained acceleration rate, the wrist correction, if done, is created in real time, making it more difficult. 

Another problem with a light grip is that it may promote a predominately arms stroke in which the elbows bend, whereas a firm grip keeps the arms more rigid.  This problem went away when I adopted the torso hinge without any shoulder sliding.  A very light grip worked better. 

When and how much the wrists need extra force depends on the way the stroke is done.  It will happen either at the end of the backswing or the beginning of the downswing.  Some golfers will use a slow backswing with low wrist-bending forces.  This delays the application of wrist-steadying force to the beginning of the downswing.  If the backswing is fast enough and decelerated quickly enough, the wrist force can happen during the transition to the downswing.

It is possible to use gravity as the only accelerator of the club and arms during the downswing.  It can be done in such a way as to eliminate the hand and wrist pivot--the hands and wrists therefore experience no propelling forces during the downswing.  This is possible but the maximum club speed is slow.  To do this with Long's putting stroke, the torso must still be active, however.  Assuming that the backstroke includes some torso twisting, then the downstroke is begun by releasing the muscles that wound up the torso on the backswing.  This allows the torso to move back toward the neutral address position, but it is a decelerating movement.  In order to keep the torso moving steadily or accelerating during the downstroke, and to stay out of the way of the shoulders, the torso must be purposely twisted in the forward direction.   This torso twist can be performed so that the shoulders move without restriction or propulsion from the torso as gravity works on the arms and club.  For most putts however, gravity power is not forceful enough.

I propose that in theory the best way to vary the stroke for distance control would be to attempt as a rule to use one acceleration rate and then vary the length of the backswing.  The purpose and value of this is that only one wrist correction force is then required, which should eliminate any gross errors in the wrist correction.  Unfortunately I have not worked out a way to objectively yet easily measure the acceleration rate so as practice getting one only.  You could use a ticking clock or metronome and set two objects at the swing endpoints, but I haven't tried that yet.  In everyday putting you have to use feel to set the acceleration.  Another problem with using the backswing length as the distance controller is that the brain may not be able to do this very well, or that most golfers are far more used to varying the acceleration rate.  Nevertheless, getting the backswing length wrong is usually quite noticeable, as least for me.  One can imagine that when the backswing is unexpectedly long that the acceleration rate has to be reduced.  What this suggests is that the brain is creating a backswing length and an acceleration rate to go with each other.  How this happens seems mysterious to me...and easy to mess up by trying to control it consciously.

There may be times when such a rule would have to be abandoned.  For extra long putts or long putts on slow greens, higher acceleration may be more accurate than a longer swing.  Then there is the condition where the swing cannot be lengthened.  You could attempt two acceleration rates: one for short and medium length putts and a faster one for long putts. 

Or you might find it too tedious or too difficult to adjust the backswing length exactly while using one acceleration.  Instead you could try to produce the required velocity of the clubhead as a custom creation for each putt, using a customized backswing length and a customized acceleration rate just for that putt.  This can be done with and without using a practice stroke.  A variation of this  is to finish your setup and aiming, then practice backstrokes until you like one, then hit the ball with this backstroke and an improvised acceleration rate on the downswing.  The most common situation is probably the one where the golfer just makes a backswing by instinct without a practice swing and then improvises an acceleration rate on the fly.  If that works well enough, then further considerations are unnecessary.

 

Torso and Shoulders

A torso twist starts the backswing of the putting stroke more accurately than shoulder sliding.  At least it does for me.  And why shouldn't it for everyone.  It is quite amazing how well it starts the stroke, in that the club always starts in the same direction.   In addition, the two shoulders no longer have to be coordinated to each other if the torso does all the turning.  In a sliding shoulder motion, when one shoulder slides down, the other slides up, and vice-versa; the degree each moves has to be precisely controlled in relation to the other, or the putter head will get above or below the correct path.  This error can be eliminated to the extent that the torso twist causes the shoulder motion.

To learn a smooth takeaway, hang the club in the air in address position for a few seconds until all movement is reduced to a minimum, then carefully make only a torso twist and watch the clubhead's path. The shoulders travel with the rib cage and without independent movement.  You can do this in the backswing direction and/or the forward direction.  Relax the torso muscles, mainly the belly muscles, and return to address.  Repeat.  In this way you learn a quiet stroke and what a torso twist feels like.

To make a torso twist easier, tilt the pelvis forward so the lower spine is at least straight if not reverse bent, so the buttocks stick out.  This helps a lot to ease and smooth the turn.

To learn to use a torso twist without shoulder sliding, do the following:  practice the stroke with your head fixed in place on your turning torso while your eyes watch the clubhead.  When you do this right, your eyes will be steady in their sockets throughout the stroke and your head and arms and shoulders will feel and be a one-piece system.  When you have had enough of this exercise, suddenly fix your head and eyes on the ball position while continuing to stroke, so as to become accustomed to the feeling of the movement.

If you play the ball ahead of mid-stance, as most do, and you want to hit the ball with the club path tangent to the aim line at impact, i.e. not cut or hook the ball, then your torso must be oriented slightly from perpendicular to the aim line at address, in the direction toward the trailing side.  This is a minor adjustment from perpendicular.  There is greater risk of being aligned open.  If your torso has been square or open to the aim line, you might have noticed that the club liked to start back outside the line.  Adjust the torso direction until torso hinging or twisting moves the club perfectly tangent to the aim line, not going over the aim line before or after the impact position.

Another important adjustment of the torso and shoulders at address is to make sure that they are all in a neutral position with regard to muscle tension.  Most importantly, the torso should be neither twisted to the left or the right.   The shoulders should hang the same, unless you decide to raise the trailing shoulder to allow your elbow or forearm to clear your belt or hip bone (it's better if you don't have to--just keep the elbow out from the body more).  With the torso and shoulders in a neutral position, you then adjust the arm positions to set your hands. 

Because the shoulders hang somewhat forward naturally, the leading shoulder might reach the endpoint of its movement before the other shoulder, on a very long backswing.  If this happens the trailing shoulder might continue onward without the leading shoulder, causing a breakdown of the one-piece arrangement.  To handle this event, or to see if it happens to you, you should practice it. 

The clubhead is moving on a circle with the axis somewhere in the spine.  If your eyes were in or on the swingplane, the club would seem to move on a line, but your eyes are located above the swingplane, so you see the arc or curve of the clubhead path. 

A torso turn or twist carries the shoulders, arms, and club along.  It is possible to start the backswing with a shoulder slide, but I would argue against it.  It is more accurate to start the stroke with the torso twist.  The shoulder slide is better utilized later, if at all, when the torso twist decelerates in the second phase of the backswing, and then, at that phase, the shoulder slide is better kept to a minimum, although you may need it  for longer shots (or go to wrist bending style for longer putts).  To repeat, the shoulders and arms should be first moved by the torso, with the torso therefore controlling the speed.  When the torso slows, the shoulders and arms can easily continue on or not, as you choose.  The torso movement is more accurate so it is preferred over the shoulder slide.  Use the shoulder slide to a comfortable minimum.  Or don't use it at all.  Or use only for very short putts.

Now there are at least two ways to make the transition from backswing to downswing.  To perform these two transitions, you either apply the downswing forces slightly before the club has come to a stop on the backswing, or, secondly, just at the moment the club comes to a stop.  The first way seems smoother than the second, but I don't know if it is more accurate.  Try both ways.  The nice thing about the first way is that the club lag occurs during the transition and is somewhat hidden from our awareness.  It also is a faster transition.

For me, the way I do the stroke now, the torso and the shoulders at impact are both returned to address position.  But you could lead the forward stroke with either the torso or the shoulder-arms-club system.  It is possible.  I found the torso leading slightly is best for me.

Luckily, with Long's Stroke, the torso and the shoulders are traveling in parallel planes, so unlike other putting styles, they do not have to be exactly synchronized.  If the shoulders get a tiny bit ahead of the torso turning, or vice versa, it doesn't matter for the directional accuracy, and it may not affect distance either.  This freedom allows you to ignore things which before you could not and thereby have more concentration available for other things.

If you putt more upright than in Long's stroke, turning the torso out of sync with the shoulders is a frightening mistake.  I leave you to try it.  To see how it is not a problem when the torso turns in the swingplane, as in Long's stroke, and turns ahead of or behind sync, you may have to try it quite a few times until you believe it doesn't ruin your stroke.

To repeat, one good thing about turning the torso in the swing plane  is that the torso turning does not have to be perfectly synchronized with the arms-shoulders movement.   This freedom, I think, allows you to slightly adjust the acceleration of the clubhead on the downswing more easily than would be the case for other strokes.  If you absolutely must adjust the speed a little for any reason, do it without any hand activation.  The club will pivot (lag or precede) in the hands a little, but that should not affect direction.  Hand activation is dangerous.  In addition, it is probably a good idea to make a slight speed adjustment during the stroke by quickening or slowing the torso during the downswing without adjusting the shoulder slide.  It is safer and easier to adjust than the shoulder-arms system, I think. 

If you are ready to make your hit but want a little more or less distance without starting your routine over, you could try making the backswing respectively a little faster or slower than you had planned, faster for  more distance and slower for less distance.  I have not experimented with this much and don't know why it happens, but it seems to happen.  I notice it especially when I accidentally take a slow backswing and the ball runs short.

For distance control, I would experiment with awareness of the rate of turning of the torso or the shoulders, rather than or in combination with the appearance of the clubhead speed.  The reason is, when you make your practice strokes, you can sort of watch the clubhead speed, but during the ball-hitting stroke you are most likely going to be looking at the ball and unable to monitor the club.  In addition, it is probably a bad idea to try to adjust or change the plan during the stroke.  During the stroke in which you hit the ball, it will be something in your body that you must focus on, if you must focus.  For distance, I think that focus should be on the torso or shoulders.  Therefore, if during the practice strokes you use the clubhead speed as a gauge, once you have accepted a particular speed, practice it again so as to make a mental impression of the torso or shoulder speed that produced it, so that you can copy that in your actual hit.  It might be even better to keep ones focus entirely on the torso and/or shoulders during the practice swings, if it were not for the need to sometimes monitor the clubhead path.

I have seen golfers who make a practice stroke that bears no relation to the speed or length of the ball-hitting stroke. 

Some golfers advise the procedure of not even taking a practice stroke.  If you can produce quite accurately whatever stroke your brain imagines, then there might be no good reason to make such a practice stroke, or even good reason, apparently, to not make one.

With this torso hinging stroke, the torso muscles, and noticeably the belly muscles, are more active than in other putting strokes.  This is no surprise, because the torso is turning a lot more.  But the intensity of it may surprise.  It takes quite a force to twist the torso away from the center or address position, and some folks are more inflexible than others.  You will feel it on the backswing, the downswing, and the followthrough.  Just because it is big does not mean you cannot control it accurately.  On the contrary, I would suppose that control is enhanced, especially under performance pressure.

There is extra muscle work going on during the beginning of the downswing.  The muscles that turn the torso on the backswing are relaxing while the muscles that turn the torso on the downswing are taking over. 

In addition, I sometimes notice that air transfers from one lung to the other as the torso twists.  I don't usually notice this, but it must be adding to the feeling of movement.

What are the disadvantages of Long's Putting Stroke?  The only problem is that it taxes the back, because of the extreme lean of the torso.  It takes getting used to, a little more time each day.  You have to do it on a regular basis in order to stay in shape.   But you can ameliorate the problem somewhat by standing up after each stroke during practice, just as you do during play. 

 

This concludes the basic elements of Long's Putting Stroke.  Below are some additional recommendations for putting and the putting stroke.

 

Additional Tips

You may need to warm-up for this putting stroke so as to get the muscles of the torso ready to be used.  The torso seems to require some stretching before it's able to move properly.  I suggest making a careful setup and then slowly doing a very long slow backswing.  Hold the end position for a few seconds and then return slowly to address position.  Repeat this motion in the follow-through direction.  Then slowly make a few complete strokes.  That should be enough for the stretching.  When you start this exercise you could keep yours eyes on the club head, then later on the ball position.  If you wish to turn this exercise into a practice exercise for long putts, do the stretching exercise and then add a gradual speeding up of the full stroke.  Then hit some putts with this full stroke to see how far they go.

To groove your stroke quickly, use a routine similar to the Special Swing Exercises.  Swing back and forth continuously with growing length while working on the proper line and getting everything right.  Then do the backswing continuously, then with separate moves.  The four-step is especially good.  Just like the Special Exercises.

A new exercise I like is to warm up and practice with a combination of the fixed-wrist and wrist bending movements.  First start with fixed-wrist movement and then gradually allow the stroke to become a wrist bending movement.  When I do the wrist bending stroke I allow the wrists to keep bending after impact.  By being able to do both type of strokes successfully with the same setup, you can improve both strokes.  You can get the club face to stay square on "quit" shots when doing the fixed-wrist stroke, and you can induce a straight club head path for the wrist-bending stroke.

I highly advise the use of locked wrists and elbows with this stroke, and especially with this stroke, because the shoulder movement is so accurate.   In fact, the entire write-up above assumes locked elbows and wrists.   Most professionals use locked wrists and elbows, which is a good recommendation, but the strange thing about pros is that they often can make anything work.  Tiger stands upright and has to have supreme control to get it to work, as does everyone else using that type of stroke.   The greater the talent, the more difficult a move that can be performed.  On the other hand, the easier a move is to make, the better the result, even for a pro.

If you find it difficult to keep the wrists unbending, try increasing the firmness of the grip. 

Some golfers find that wrist bending gives greater control over speed than unbending wrists.  Probably this happens because their putting was learned with wrist bending, and that is what they know best.  You could test which way works best by hitting the same putt over and over, using wrist bending and locked wrist in equal numbers, switching numerous times between the two.  You need plenty of repetitions to make sure that your body has learned the swing speed that is required.  This is a test of your body's ability to produce a certain swing speed.  If you find no difference in the two methods, definitely go with the locked wrist.  With both methods your brain still has to learn to estimate what will produce the desired distance for a given putt, so if you change from your traditional method, there will be a learning curve as you learn to use the new stroke.  Hopefully it will not be more difficult than adapting to fast or slow greens.

If you use the wrist bending style, start the stroke with a momentary torso twist, in order to produce a reliable take away.  It is as short as possible, but it sets everything in motion in a reliable and smooth way.

The biggest factor in distance control is judgment.  You brain has to somehow figure how long to make the backswing and how much force to apply on the downswing.  I have found a large difference in my mind's ability to judge the required speed depending on how well I slept the night before.

A factor involved in distance control that is probably not understood well, because it's pure physics, is the effect of dead face inserts.  Use the deadest face insert you can find.  This means using a plastic or rubber insert instead of metal, and one that acts as a damper.   This would have a low coefficient of restitution (COR).  The ball jumps off the insert more slowly than would be the case with a higher COR.  By using a lower COR insert, you gain the advantage of using a greater force increment applied by your muscles to get a given increment in putter speed.  This means that it will be easier for you to produce the ball speed you want because your muscles are using bigger differences in force for given increases in clubhead speed.  The mistakes you make in muscle force become less noticeable, because the same mistake produces less difference in distance.  Your distance control improves.  This is especially noticeable on short putts but it works throughout the spectrum.

In case it is not mentioned above, I want to say that it is more reliable to decide upon your stroke before making it.  This means choosing its speed beforehand.  If your mind knows exactly what the stroke will be then perhaps a practice swing is not necessary, but usually I would make a practice stroke, for a number of reasons.  One, to see if I could do it right, according to plan.  Second, to improve the odds of doing it right in the actual putt, and third, to provide the opportunity to notice if the speed is wrong.  If I was not sure of what speed to use, I would make a practice swing without thinking too much about speed and then see if that speed seems right.  If it seems right I would use that one.  This probably means that the stroke doesn't stand out particularly as too fast or too slow.  If it seems too fast or too slow, make new strokes until it does not seem so.  If this procedure doesn't work well enough for you, or if you like to experiment, and you have lots of time, try this: after finding a practice stroke that seems right, make a practice stroke that is faster and then one that is slower, just to see if they seem worse or better.  This should verify or disqualify the choice you had made before.  When you finally decide upon one, don't forget to register it in your memory, however you do that, so you can perform it again in the hitting stroke. 

You might at first find yourself changing your mind during the actual hitting stroke, but eventually discover that it is best to stick with the practice stroke. 

If you do adjust your speed during the stroke, I think you will find that it is easier to do so with this Long's Putting Stroke than with others.  If you must increase (or decrease) speed midstroke, try turning the ribcage faster (or slower) without changing anything else. 

I don't know why, but for me a faster backswing hits the ball further, and a slower backswing hits the ball shorter.  This would advise us to use one backswing speed for all strokes.  It also allows us to change the speed, for better or worse, right before starting the hitting stroke, instead of adhering to the better practice of starting the whole procedure over.  Sometimes we just don't have time to do that.

When the ball is higher or lower than your feet, the setup is almost the same except for one thing: the arms are extended less or more so the clubface reaches the required height.  Theoretically the torso angle should change slightly to get it perfect, but the adjustment is very small and probably not worth worrying about.

When putting uphill or downhill, you can lean right or left so as to keep the clubhead arc in the same tangency relationship to the ground.

When address is incorrect, you will notice the "groove" is gone or changed. The body movement feels different.  The putter may want to go a different way. That is why it is important to set up accurately-- so you're ready to make the move you have learned, learn it better each time you use it, and not start learning a new stroke in a new position.  So when in doubt, do the quick setup.

An important part of the stroke is control over the eye movement during the stroke.  I see at least three ways to do it.  I don't know which is the best yet.  The common one is to watch the ball until it is hit and then keep looking at the spot where it was.  The problem with this is that the eye tends to follow movement, in this case the ball and clubhead, and perhaps to move the whole body toward the hole too soon, causing a pull, especially under pressure.  Another method might be to look at a spot near the ball, to try to avoid catching the eye.  Another would be to follow the clubhead during its entire movement.  This latter I have found  makes a smooth but less accurate stroke. 

To aim better, I think it is legal to hold your putter's shaft under your eyes so the shaft points at the target and the edge of the shaft covers half the ball.  You look down past the shaft so you can line up your shoes parallel to the shaft and you can pick a point on the grass in front of the ball as well.  You still have to align the club face but it should be easier with this aid.  I personally don't have the patience to do this for putting, but I use it always for any shot over about 25 meters.

Regarding putters, heavier can give more control over putt speed.  Heavy putters have a bigger sweet spot as well.  As described above, dead inserts can reduce ball speed for given clubhead speed, thus increasing control of distance.  Another advantage of soft inserts is that they take out of play the variation in golf balls that would otherwise produce distance variation.  I am referring to ball variation which is evident by various rebound heights of balls dropped on hard surfaces.

For extreme accuracy of direction, the elbows can be pressed against the ribs and made to move with the ribcage. Then the arms, shoulders and ribcage become one unit, turning together about the lower spine. It is almost impossible to lose the line with this setup, but the backswing length is very restricted, thus limiting the length of the putt. It makes an interesting exercise and could even be used for short putts. It might appeal especially to those individuals with the short putt yips.

I wish you increasing success on the greens. 

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please email me at the address on the home page.

Copyright 2006,7,8,9,10,11 Steve Long, All rights reserved. Copy it for personal use.