The Physics of Plumb Putting
Have trouble reading putts that appear flat? Do a lot of subtle putts break the opposite direction that you thought? Plumb putting will eliminate “wrong side” putting everytime, if you understand the physics.
The massive Fred Enke practice green (above) has only one 5’ x 5’ flat area patch, the remaining area has some grade. Painful if you don’t have laser vision and perfect balance->inner-ear->spatial interpretation abilities. There is no substitute for long putting practice sessions to get those strokes down – but my problem is the inability of reading very subtle breaks.
#1 – the simple weight on a string is a perfect measuring sister to the bubble level.
#2 – a putter has a center of gravity that is NOT aligned with the center of the shaft.
#3 – 2 of 360 rotational positions will orient the putter shaft visually vertical.
That's everything we need to know to have gravity reveal the nasty breaker that we thought was dead straight. So #1 is an obvious one so let's move on to:
As in the picture illustrate below, you know that your putter wobbles wildly as you roll the shaft between your finger. That shows the obvious affect that the putter's hang angle is unpredictable. Well not really.
The putter's shaft will appear to be perfectly vertical in exactly 20 positions of rotation... we just to determine one of those two and use that as our future reference point and use it consistently. Heres how.
Find a reference, a utility pole or the edge of a building, that you feel is a perfect representation of true. Grip your club just below the grip (you will use this exactly "pivot point" going forward ) and slowly rotate between your fingers until the shaft is parallel to your chosen reference. Close one eye to make the process easier. Once your shaft is aligned as shown, look down at the putter head and look for a characteristic mark or shape to use as a reference. For my Ping, its where that top curve ends(denoted by the red X). For the rest of the illustration I'll put a small dot with a Sharpie.
Doing so may not be legal so you may be able to pick out an inscribed letter or other natural feature on the putter head to use.
Ready to try it out? Look at this baffling putt, it could be straight... who knows.
Hold your grips between your fingers and bring it up to eye-level about 2 feet from your face. Gentley roll the putter until the dot, or mark you selected, meets the hosel. Now slowely rotate your shoulders to bring the shaft close to the edge of the hole in the distance. Again, with one eye closed, look carefully at the oval shape of the hole and imagine a line cutting through its center. As illustrated below, the green is ever so slightly sloped to require a left-to-right putt.
Distance and speed are all up to you now... at least now you know which direction the putt will break. This was a 10 footer which I happily made.
Practice practice practice!