This article is a result of a Fellow PGA Professional asking me a Question I couldn’t give a solid Answer to (something I really dislike 😉), so, I did some research. What I found was fascinating - so much so I thought it was necessary to share.
His question was:
To clarify, Face Angle is defined as the Direction the Club Face is pointing at the moment of Impact in relation to the Target. Face Angle is 90% responsible for the Balls Launch Direction (Launch Direction: Horizontal Direction the Ball Launches in relation to the Target). If the terms I’ve just used are totally Alien, have no fear, I’ve included a ‘Jargon Buster’ at the end to help 👍🏻.
So, we know a Golf Hole is wider than a Golf Ball (4.25in / 10.795cm vs 1.68in / 4.267cm) meaning we have a certain “Window” (aka Margin for Error) we can Roll the Ball through in order for it to go in the Hole. But how big is that Window? Well, as with most things in Golf; it depends!
I alluded to some research earlier and fortunately I didn’t have to look far from Home.
As some of you may know, I’m based at the wonderful Archerfield Performance Centre and fortunately so is Gary Nicol. Gary is a veteran European Tour Coach and a fellow TrackMan Master (making Archerfield the only Facility in Europe that has 2 TrackMan Masters, just sayin’ 😉).
He frequently collaborates with one of Europe’s finest Performance Coaches, Karl Morris, famed in the Golf World for his work with Louis Oosthuizen (Google “St Andrews, Red Dot”). Together they have written a best selling Book “The Lost Art of Putting” (it’s technically a Putting Book but I feel it’s benefits stretch far beyond a persons ability to use the ‘Short Stick’). So all I really had to do was knock on Gary’s door and ask a few questions (as I often do). His response: “Read the Book Oli.”
So, I did (and I highly recommend you do too. Pick up a copy HERE), and I didn’t have to read for long (26 pages to be exact) to get my Answer.
After leafing those initial pages I came across Niklas Bergdahl’s piece On “TrackMan Performance Putting”. Those 8 pages have completely changed the way I Coach Putting (and left me feeling mildly frustrated that I’ve been focussing on the least important aspects of Putting Performance for the last 10 years 🤦🏼♂️). It also answered my Associates Question.
Here’s what I discovered (please note that much of the below is pulled straight from Niklas’ piece in The Lost Art Of Putting, with a little of my interpretation - don’t want to be getting any undue credit 😉):
It’s pretty common knowledge in the Golf World that there’s 3 Key Skills to being a Technically Proficient Putter (there’s obviously other Major Factors at play such as Mental and Emotional Skills + Tactical Awareness in order for someone to be a ‘World Class’ Putter), they are:
Start Direction/Line: Being able to start the Ball on your intended line
Pace: Hitting the Ball the appropriate Distance
Green Reading: The ability to predict how the Ball will roll on the Green aka Situational Awareness
It’s also common for people to believe the most important aspect to get right, and spend most of your Practice time improving is Start Direction/Line. What follows might change that.
Assuming someone’s ability to Read the Green is sufficient (big assumption I know 😉) , their ability falls to getting the Pace/Distance & Line right. This leads us to 3 Key Putting Technical Parameters a Player has to Optimise in order to Hole a Putt:
Launch Direction: Horizontal Direction the Ball sets off on in relation to the Target/Start Line
Initial Ball Speed: Speed of the Ball off the Club Face just after Impact
Launch: Distance to the Balls first touch to the ground and how much Skid (rapid deceleration of Ball Speed, which increases Distance variability - influenced by Launch Conditions & Surface Type) and Roll (where the Balls rotation (peripheral speed) matches the velocity of the Ball, causing steady deceleration). We need some Launch as the Ball sits in a small impression when static on the Green.
But what to focus on first? What to spend most of your Practice time on? The below info from TrackMan will help to Answer that (the info on the left side in particular). It’s important to state the below table relates to the angular error on a Straight Putt (no Break). The variables that have the greatest influence on Putter Face Margin of Error are Green Gradient and Angle:
In short: the firmer you hit the Putt (higher Entry Speed) the smaller the effective Hole size, thus the lower tolerance on Launch Direction – which is 90% determined by Face Angle.
So, every Putt has a Window of Ball Speeds (or a Margin of Error - see what I did there 😉), this creates a ‘Cone’ of possible Lines that enable the Ball to be holed. The longer Distance to the Hole, the smaller the Launch Direction Window/Cone and vice versa, see below:
More Pace results in less Break, so the Launch Direction will be closer to the Hole compared to the lower Ball Speeds. This also makes the effective Hole size smaller, plus leaves a longer Distance for the next Putt should it not go in. On the other hand, the lowest Speed possible requires a Launch Direction further away from the Hole compared to faster Speeds.
The slower Speed strategy will result in the largest effective Hole size as the Ball would reach the Hole with as low a Speed as possible, making it more likely to drop in the Hole (as long as it reaches the hole 😉). An important consideration is that even though this ‘Dead Weight’ Pace could be argued as the ideal Speed, as it creates the largest effective Hole size, the Ball is more susceptible to Green inconsistencies as it reaches the Hole, plus the risk of leaving it short is higher.
Focus on an Entry Speed of 1.68 mph / 0.7 ms. This would still be considered on the ‘low side’ of the Launch Window, results in an effective Hole size of 74% and creates a Roll out of 1.5 feet past the hole (Stimp being 10) - matching Direction with this Speed is obviously required. This approach is less aggressive and lowers the possibility of a long return Putt if missed - meaning you’re less likely to ‘3 Putt’.
Ultimately there are combinations of Launch Directions and Speeds that can make the Ball go in the Hole. Even with unintentional error in Direction and Speed, the Ball can still go in the hole using a different Line than was intended (think of those Putts you thought were crap but still went in 👍🏻).
Question = Answered 😉
How to Use this Info?
Golf is what the Ball does: Prioritise Ball Control over Stroke (and Swing) perfection.
If you truly don’t know how the Green will influence the Direction and Distance of the Putt, you should never allow yourself to question your club delivery. Add uncertainty and lack of commitment and any proper Technique will breakdown.
The first considerations should be Green Reading; being able to determine situational tendencies, as well as Green inconsistencies (understanding of situation and its influence) i.e Effective Situational Interpretation / Prediction.
Crucial elements of Putting Performance come down to the Players ability to predict:
The Effective Stimp
The Speed needed to reach the Hole with the desired Entry Speed
The amount of Break their chosen Speed will lead to, thus determining the required Launch Direction
These elements need to be Practiced in order to reduce Club delivery variability and skilful understanding of how to effectively predict the Balls interaction with the ground. This leads to a Player obtaining a high capacity of predictability and adaptability to a given situation. The skill of adaptability is fundamental to Performance; Golf is played with a big factor of randomness (I discussed this in my previous Blog on Failure).
Players need to practice Start Direction/Line at different Putt lengths and Paces, not to see how good their Stroke is, but to asses their ability to determine Situational Influence.
Ball Speed at the Hole is more important than the exact roll-out, as the latter is determined by the effective Stimp of the Green - GOLF IS WHAT THE BALL DOES!
Beware artificial Greens as they are different to the real thing. Most don’t effectively simulate real grass, so the Ball will behave differently. Even on real grass the conditions vary, so a Player & Coach must process good knowledge of how certain Green conditions influence outcome.
With this in mind, compare Speed, Skid, Roll, Break and Distance outdoors vs indoors. This gives a good indication of how well you can adapt to different surface conditions (especially the Skid & Roll differences). Practicing in different conditions gives you a great perspective on the true quality of your Performance.
Stop focusing excessively on wether you hole the Putt or not. Effective coordination between Speed and Direction can still make the Ball go in, even if it wasn’t executed according to the your Intention. That’s not to say you should never Practice to a Hole, the point is that you need accurate feedback on Direction, Speed, Skid, Roll and Break before you can truly assess if the Putt was executed according to the Intention - get yourself booked in for a Putting Session with your local TrackMan Certified Professional!
Golf is what the Ball does! Prioritise Ball Control over Stroke (and Swing) perfection.
Pace is King. It determines your Line/Launch Window/Margin of Error/Club Face Angle Tolerance.
The variables that have the greatest influence on Putter Face Margin of Error are Green Gradient and Angle.
Slower Pace = Increased Chance of the Ball going in. Focus on an Entry Speed of between 0.01mph and 1.68mph. Use what works best for you though!
Practice with Variability (hit lots of different Putts from lots of different places vs hitting the same Putt over and over). Adaptability will forge your Putting. If you want help with this check out my Connected Coaching Programme.
I hope you’ve found the above information useful and insightful?
p.s. Please find my Jargon Buster below.
Thanks for reading!
Oliver C. Morton
The Leading Edge Golf Company
Face Angle: The Horizontal Direction the Club Face is pointing at the moment of impact in relation to the Target
Launch Direction: Horizontal Direction the Ball Launches in relation to the Target
Distance: The total Distance the Ball travels in a straight line from the starting point
Initial Ball Speed: Speed of Ball off the Putter Face (consistent = good launch Control)
Ball Speed is determined by:
Club Speed (primarily determined by forward swing time and stroke length)
Club Head Weight + COR (Coefficient of Restitution)
Stimp: Amount of friction the surface will impart on the Ball (High = Less, Low = More)
Skid: Rapid deceleration of Ball Speed & Increased Distance variability (influenced by Launch Conditions & Surface Type)
Skid Distance is determined by the Ball Speed, Launch Angle, Launch Spin, Green Conditions and effective Stimp. This is determined by Club Speed, Dynamic Loft and Impact Location
Roll: Where the Balls rotation (peripheral speed) matches the velocity of the Ball. Roll Speed is a consequence of the Ball Speed and Skid Distance
Roll %: The amount of Roll on the Total Putt Distance
Roll Out: Total Distance the Ball would travel (if not holed)
Speed Drop: amount of Ball Speed lost due to Skid Phase
Break: the amount of side movement (Left or Right) in relation to the Launch Direction (More Ball Speed = Less Break, Less Ball Speed = More Break)
Entry Speed: pace the Ball enters the Hole (Slower = Larger Target, Faster = Smaller Target)
Entry Point: The part of the Hole the Ball enters