How is the putter swung? That was a lead-in question designed to get you to take the word swing' through the entire bag of clubs, including the putter.
The question's asked all the time, "Do you take the putter back straight and straight through?" My answer is always no. The golf swing is circular in shape whether it's produced with a driver or a putter. The only way a putter can be moved straight back and through is if the putter is held vertically like the pendulum of a clock. All putters must have at least 10 degrees inclination to be legal with the USGA.
With the shaft in this inclined position, when the putter's put in motion, it moves in a circular pattern. The greater the inclination (the flatter the putter is), the more pronounced the circular action will be.
If you held your hand out in front of you and slapped it with the other hand, the slapping hand wouldn't go straight back and forward, but would naturally fan out and move in a circular pattern, making it very easy to slap your stationary hand. This is also the normal motion the putter should make as well.
If a player attempts to keep the face square to the putting line with a putter shaft which isn't vertical, the face will close on the back stroke and open on the through stroke.
This is doing it the hard way and leads to inconsistency when the putter has to be manipulated constantly.
How big should the stroke be? The size of the stroke (according to physics) must be directly proportional to the distance the ball is to be sent. The longer the distance, the larger the stroke; the shorter the distance, the smaller the stroke.
I disagree with the concept of a short back-stroke and a long follow-through. To do that requires the use of a hitting action, which is exactly what you want to avoid.
Loren Roberts (the boss of the moss) is quite adamant about not hitting a putt, but rather, letting the swinging weight of the putter propel the ball.
The great Ben Crenshaw feels the same in this regard when he says he wants to "roll the ball," not hit it. Think of tossing a ball 6 feet, 12 feet and 24 feet. Would you give any thought to the size of the arm movement, or would you let your instinct take over?
Through practice, we learn how much force a swing produces, not as a back-swing or a follow-through, but as a whole. The size and force aren't controlled consciously, but by sensing the force generated by the swinging motion.
Therefore, in putting, and for that matter, in every shot we make, we have to see the target. The location of the target must be clearly seen in our mind while making the stroke, or we don't have a place to send the ball.
Now give these ideas a try and have fun getting the ball out of the hole.
Yours for better golf.
Del Starks is a PGA teaching professional at Abacoa Golf Club in Jupiter. Contact him at (561) 262-0708, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.delstarks.com.