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See the Line Every Time! The EOB Putting System

Putting Tempo

Dear Dr. Putt:
Please settle an argument for me. My playing partners say that you should control distance by how hard you hit the ball and I say that the best way to do it is to swing faster through the ball, not harder. Who is right?
John J.

My Dear John:

Technically speaking you are much closer to the preferred way of thinking about controlling distance than your playing partners. However, if you mean swinging faster with the same length stroke, you are both wrong. Your question raises the critical issue of putting tempo.

Ideally, all putts, ranging from one footers to fifty footers, are struck with the same putting tempo. One merely takes a longer backswing for longer putts. Consequently, in order to complete the swing in the same tempo, the putter blade is necessarily moving faster when it strikes the ball. But that is a result of taking a longer backswing and maintaining the same tempo, not the result of consciously putting faster.

Dave Pelz, in his Putting Bible, advocates saying "tick tock" to oneself as one putts so that one thinks of the putter as a clock pendulum. This is excellent advice, as it encourages a constant tempo for all putts. The pendulum is an excellent mental construct, as the pendulum takes the same time for short strokes as it does for long strokes. That is why a grandfather clock works as it does to keep constant time.

The danger with thinking "harder," as your playing partners do, is that one will get the hands and wrists involved, and that is a sure way to destroy ones putting, especially under pressure. What Dr. Putt would advocate is to establish a tempo on what he calls a "reference putt," and then keep that tempo on all other putts. The reference putt is whatever distance one strikes the ball when one swings effortlessly with a backswing of about 12 inches. Note this distance on the putting green (by hitting several balls on a level area without looking up), and then simply putt with the same tempo and add distance to the backswing for longer putts.

The key is not to think harder or faster, but rather to think a little longer at the same tempo. Put another way, all putts should have a swing that takes the same amount of time. Think constant tempo and you will putt better -- guaranteed!

Dr. Putt

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