In a recent column, Dr. Putt noted that Tiger Woods was marking his ball in such a manner so as to improve his aim and alignment. Several of you have asked about this, and Dr. Putt must certainly must respond to your requests.
Putting involves three basic steps, planning, aiming, and executing. Assuming that one has planned a putt with respect to direction and speed, the next step is aim. Aiming where one intends to aim is no easy task. The instruments that are legally available are not well suited to the task. One must stand beside the ball and over it rather than lying on the ground behind it, which would be the most efficacious position from which to accomplish the task of aiming. One of Dr. Putt's dearest friends, who is something of a pool shark, once quipped that if he were allowed to use a pool cue to putt, he would make nearly all of them inside 10 feet. Unable to do this, we are left with the more difficult task of creating an imaginary line and then positioning the putterface perpendicular to that line so that the ball is bisected by that imaginary line. What we see is shown in the photo below. It does not provide us with much in the way of a visual cue or reference as to whether we are correctly aimed or aligned.
One may improve the visual cues by taking the advice offered by Ernie Els in a recent major golf monthly magazine article. Place the ball so that the name of the ball or other printed information on the ball coincides with the intended line of the putt. This view is significantly better, as can be seen in the picture below. One should note that having a line on the putter aids in making sure that the putter is properly aligned in relation to the intended line of the putt. The putter shown in the photo is equipped with the EOB putting device in tournament mode. Of course, any putter with a line on the top of its face or on its body behind the face could produce a similar effect. However, the white ball-like representation on the Eob device enhances the visual effect. One sees two "balls" on the intended putting line.
We may improve the visual cue even more by creating a line on the ball and then using that line to properly aim the ball along the intended line of the putt. In looking at the picture below, one can have little doubt about where the putt is aimed and about the alignment of the putter blade. Again, the EOB device in tournament play-mode enhances the visual effect.
If one carefully studies the putting of Tiger Woods, one will note that he uses this aiming and alignment technique (without the EOB device). He draws the line on his ball using something like the "Sharpie" all-surface permanent marking pen, which can be purchased at any office supply store. After viewing his putt from all directions, Mr. Woods carefully adjusts the ball placement so the the line on the ball coincides with the intended putting line. He now has a reference line which he uses for aiming and alignment. Then he removes the ball marker before he takes his practice strokes and addresses the ball. Dr. Putt would modestly add that Mr. Woods would have an even better visual cue were he using the EOB device on his putter. But with his skill he does not need it. And perhaps he needs to give the rest of us one way to gain a tiny advantage. Nevertheless, if we want to be like Tiger--at least on the green--we should draw a short line on our ball and then use it to help with aim and alignment.
One last piece of advice. Drawing this line requires a steady hand. One may use the information about the ball type that is printed on the ball between the ball names that are on either side of the ball. Simply draw the line over the lettering and extend it a little. This is what was done on the ball in the pictures shown above.
One more last piece of advice -- taking the final logical step. On some balls the dimple pattern creates difficulty in drawing a straight line through the bottoms and sides of dimples. On many some balls the dimple pattern creates a flat ridge that bisects the ball. In this case the line may be drawn along this ridge on a part of the ball so that logos and other names are not visible when viewed from above. Better yet, EXTEND THE LINE ENTIRELY AROUND THE BALL. This maximizes the visual effect of aiming the ball at the target and of using the line to properly align oneself and the putter blade with the ball. It also allows one to determine if one is striking the ball squarely -- any side-spin will cause the ball to quickly wobble off the drawn line. You may have done this with range balls on the putting green -- now you can check your stroke in actual play. The only drawback is that the longer the line, the more it may distract you on shots other than putting.
However long a line you decide to use, step up to the first tee prepared. Draw the lines on several balls before a competitive round begins.
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