Dear Friends,

Dr. Putt invites you to engage in some objective self-evaluation in this newsletter.

1) Putting tip for the winter greens

2) Keeping it on the line

3) Time for basic change?


1) Putting tip for winter greens

Winter grass is generally much slower than the running grasses on most courses in the summer. It grows straight up and is not cut as short. So it produces more friction on the ball. But if your area of the country has had some really cold temperatures, as have many areas, you could be in for a surprise when you hit some putts.

If you have had extreme cold temperatures, a good portion of the winter grass may have been killed. As a result there may be almost nothing to slow the ball on the greens.

You will notice this especially on downhill putts. Where a downhill putt may have only gone 25% further than a level putt during the summer, it may now be double the distance, or even more!

Take note of the difference by putting uphill and downhill using the same stroke on the practice green before playing.

When playing, look over the entire line and take careful note of areas where the grass may be really thinned out. If the greens are at all hard, you may be putting on asphalt!

Finally, in recent years many courses do not even overseed in the winter. When the bermuda goes dormant a green spray is applied to add a green tint to the surface. And with little to no water applied the surface becomes really really fast.

2) Keeping it on the line

Dr. Putt has received several letters in recent weeks concerning keeping putter head moving along a straight line. If you are using the EOB aiming alignment device, you will see the line and observe the path of the putter head more accurately. If it is not moving straight back and forth, you will certainly notice.

To keep it on line, three things need to happen. First, the hands must be directly under your shoulders. Set up beside a full length mirror and check yourself out.

Second, you must keep you hands and wrists quiet, maintaining the triangle formed by the shaft and forearms throughout the stroke. The "EOB grip," part of the EOB method that sponsors this newsletter, ensures that the hands are quiet. Many lead hand low grips can assist here as well.

Finally, you should execute the stroke by tilting or rocking the shoulders up and down. Do not by rotate them around the spine. That will cause the putter head to move in an arc. Then you must strike the ball precisely where the arc is tangent to the intended line of the putt. This only adds another variable to the stroke -- one more thing that can go wrong.

Check yourself out this winter by standing over a floor with straight lines on it. Place your toes parallel to a line and put your hands together, palm against palm. Assume a putting stance and practice executing the stroke. Try to move your hands by just rocking the shoulders up and down so that the hands move on a straight line. You can sight the line by lining your thumbs with a line in the floor. Again, keep your hands below your shoulders (step one). Adjust your stance so that you can sight a line below your thumbs. Don't just move your hands out or in.

Work on this until you are very comfortable with it. Then try it with a putter in your hands. With some practice and enough reps, swinging on a straight line by rocking your shoulders will feel completely natural and automatic. Then you can focus on distance--but periodically check that you have the straight line movement.

3) Time for basic change?

Ask yourself some questions about your game, and be brutally honest in your answers.

* Did you improve last year?

* Did you improve in the last several years?

* Are you reasonably confident that you know where the ball is going to go when you step up to a shot?

* When you play, do you pretty much keep the same swing throughout the round and not make changes every few swings to try and fix things that went wrong?

* Are you able to swing with no back pain?

* Are you happy with your distance?

* Do you hit the ball the same distance consistently?

* Are you able to practice at least three times a week for several hours?

If you said "no" to several of these questions, then you may want to consider some really basic changes. You may want to consider an alternative golf swing next season.

Why? Alternative swings are generally (though not always) more simple to execute. That leads to more consistency with less practice. Moreover, some of them place less strain on the back because they omit the "posting up" motion with the left leg that compresses the spine through the hitting area. Some have less club face rotation so that you are less likely to slice or hook--the face is square longer through the hitting area. Finally, consistency and a square face means more solid hits more often, and consequently, more average distance--emphasis on average because the clubface rotation from open to closed through the hitting area can produce great distance when timed perfectly. At the other extreme, some swings rely almost entirely on this kind of open to closed releasing motion.

Drawbacks? Depending on the swing you use, you may look quite unorthodox as you address the ball and as you swing. So if you want to emulate Ernie Els, alternative swings are not for you. You will also lose a little distance at first, and of course, you will feel funny. So you must be a little patient, as one should when learning any new motion. It takes about 3,000 correct repetitions to build the mental pathways necessary to ingrain a new movement.

So if alternative swings are better, then why aren't more players and professionals using them? Part of the answer may be that because they are unorthodox and because so many people have so much time and effort invested in the traditional swings. But as soon as someone comes along and wins a few tournaments with an alternative swing, then they will become more popular. We might add that a significant number of professionals employ elements of nontraditional swings.

Nevertheless, because mastering the more traditional swing is so hard, alternative golf swings are growing in popularity. The best known and marketed alternative swing is the "Single Plane Swing," pioneered by the legendary Moe Norman and marketed by the Graves Golf Academy, and found at http://moenormangolf.com. An earlier rendition of this approach was marketed by Natural Golf, since taken over by Graves. Interestingly, several pros use something close to this kind of swing, most notably Steve Stricker, who is one of the most consistent and long lived players on tour. You can easily see how much his swing is different than the traditional swing in online videos. Most notably, he is a little further from the ball with the shaft almost on a straight line with his trail arm. He keeps the backswing and downswing on that same plane. He does not shallow out on the downswing. And he does not post up as much with his left leg through the hitting area thereby creating less strain on his spinal disks. Fewer variables means more consistency and less strain on his back--both explain his longevity in competitive performance, even if he gives up a little distance in the bargain.

Who would benefit the most? Probably beginners, high handicappers, and people with bad backs (because as noted above, the method does not compress the spine on the downswing). If you are reading this newsletter you are probably not a beginner, but if Dr. Putt were teaching his children the golf swing all over again, he would employ an alternative swing, probably the single plane approach because of its simpicity.

Who will benefit the least? Single digit handicappers who play a lot. The greatest benefit for you is that you can maintain your current level of play with less practice time. You will probably not improve your average score dramatically bedcause so much of it rests on the short game. But you will find much less variation and better results in full shots.

If you have been trying to improve with the traditional swing for several years with no results, then perhaps it is time to change how you swing.

Incidentally, Dr. Putt has absolutely no financial ties to any golf products or methods.

Best regards,
Dr. Putt