By Alex Yeazel, PGA
The release of Performance Putting has come with excitement around the industry as now TrackMan finally is telling the WHOLE story of a putt.
Historically technology has only been able to provide the first feet or two of ball data OR club data only via a marked club. Much more information is being provided & uncovered now that the total putt is being tracked AND club data is tracked without any adjustment to the club.
Why does this matter? Coaches, Players, and Equipment Manufacturers can now get all this data in the comfort of their own studio, at home, or even on an actual outdoor putting green.
With all this information now available at the fingertips of TrackMan Users everywhere, the question I most commonly hear is “How do I use it?” Traveling around the United States and seeing the best players & coaches, I posed this question many times. What one unnamed golf professional said stuck with me. “TrackMan is not changing how I teach & coach putting. TrackMan is helping me pinpoint weaknesses and develop my plan of attack. Truly, Performance Putting is The Evaluator.”
The next three segments we will outline 3 great evaluations for launch direction skill, speed control, and the whole putt.
Launch Direction Skill
To make a putt, the ball must start on line. This is most commonly practiced with gates and other training aids but how does one evaluate a player’s ability to get the ball to start on line? The evaluation needs to be a mix of geometry and technique.
When it comes to geometry, simple math identifies allowable tolerances based on length of putt, hole size, and speed. A great viewpoint of this can be seen in the following chart.
The chart provides a look based on distance and speed strategy. For example, if you plan to take the firm line (entry speed of 3.15mph) on a 10’ foot putt then a Launch Direction (LD) tolerance of +/- 0.37 degrees is allowed. Or if you plan to die the putt (entry speed of 0.01mph) into the hole from 5’ feet then a LD tolerance of +/- 2.00 is allowed.
For most players, the middle strategy should be preferred, as this allows for a speed that reaches the hole more often, and the next putt won’t be too long. In addition to that, the break will be played more predictable as the ball has enough speed to hold the line when reaching the hole and be more similar from one putt to the next.
This is because there can be an excessive break on the last foot of roll due to gravity and green inconsistency.
Now that we have this chart describing the allowable tolerances, we must understand what creates that LD. Just like we see with full swing, there is a combination of Club Path & Face Angle.
What TrackMan has found is that LD is influenced by 13% Club Path & 87% Face Angle. The main point we should take away here is that LD is heavily weighted by the Face Angle. Consistency with Face & Path is key to LD skill.
Distance: 10’ Feet
Putts: 6 Balls
TM4 Alignment: Pointed at the target
Goal: LD group consistency of +/- 0.5 (pro level) or +/- 0.8 (amateur level)
Set up the TM4 with your student on a flat 10’ foot putt. Align the unit with the target (the hole) and place a coin or tee as a marker for the hitting area roughly 7’ feet away.
This is for the student to use as a reference for when they strike their six putts. After they hit their putts, focus on these three parameters; LD, Face Angle, & Club Path. Below is an example from a recent session.
As we begin to review the results, we must understand the student’s strategy. They planned to get all balls to enter the hole with enough speed to stop 1.5 feet past the hole.
Given that strategy, he had a LD Tolerance of +/- 0.74 degrees. The results show that the average LD was 0.17 and consistency being 1.12. The average LD is well within the tolerance to make many putts, but the student only holed out 2 (#3 & #5).
The PGA Tour make percentage from 10 feet is 40%. Given the number of putts, the player hit they were quite close to that number but in this exercise that is not the goal.
A make percentage on a flat putt at 10’ feet of 40% is not that great. The PGA Tour make percentage number is quite misleading because that includes breaking putts, elevation change, and pressure situations.
A better stat to look at is that the average PGA Tour player should make 95% of putts at 12 feet given how strong their LD Consistency is on a flat putt. For this exercise, we want to meet in the middle which is why that goal of 4/6 is set.
Now we must understand why the ball launched where it did from an input’s perspective. As we dive into the data it is quite clear that the player had a Club Path that was consistently left of the face.
For a RH golfer, one might say that they cut their putts. From an instructor’s point of view, the question was posed of whether that is good or not. From a data perspective, it doesn’t matter whether you Cut or Draw putts as long as the ball starts within your tolerance for most cases. The Face-to-Path difference won’t create a curve on the ball since it’s on the ground when rolling.
I would even go as far as to point towards PGA Tour Winner, Michael Thompson, and his data. This was captured the week he won the 3M at TPC Twin Cities. He consistently has a path that is more left that his face on all putts but the ball always started where he wanted.
This specific week he led the field with over 7 Strokes Gained Putting. Cutting putts worked for him but it may not be what’s best for the student in front of me.
Now as we go back to the core issue that the student was not making putts, it was clear to see that their F2P was consistently Positive.
The problem our students faced was not their F2P rather the varying LD from the varying Face Angle. We see consistency with the F2P but not with the LD. Now, where do we go from here?
There are many things we could have tackled to solve the issue, but I will leave it up to your preferences to pick from the strategies below for possible improvement. Note, one was selected, and we came back to this drill location later and holed 5 of 6 putts 😉
Technique Change: One could argue the large F2P difference is not helping them so we should tackle that large gap. From there we would focus on getting the putter to release more so that it became closer to square with the path. However, then the baseline (aim) might need to change as well.
Technique Change: The student is consistently hitting putts with an open face. Why not just refine that orientation? One solution is to help the player consistently get their Club Path between -1.0 and -2.0. Assuming all else stays the same a significant number of putts will start to drop.
Equipment Change: Some may think we need to get the toe to swing more freely. A possible switch to a putter with more toe hang or different weight could help get that putter to square up easier.
Speed control is a crucial component of all putts. We have already seen how it influences effective hole size when it comes to making putts but for many golfers, it is the difference between a 2-putt or 3-putt. Most average golfers need to 3-putt less. This is almost always a bi-product of better speed control, as well as predicting the actual speed of the putt (Effective Stimp) is also important, but in this exercise, we will focus on the speed control from club delivery.
For all players, the goal is to get all putts as close to the hole as possible to avoid 3-putts. A PGA Tour Player make percentage at 3 feet is 96% and for a bogey-golfer the make percentage for the same distance is 84%. It can be argued that the goal should be inside 2 feet from the hole (Make % 99 for Tour Player vs 95% for amateurs) and our exercise below will focus on the +/- 2 feet target.
Inside 2 feet is to be within a circle with a radius of 2 feet around the hole, however, the biggest error will be seen in distance rather than direction. If we try to get all our putts to end up within a 2 feet circles around the hole, then a target of +/- 1 foot allows the player to have a margin of error that is challenging but hopefully helping the player to focus on the speed that allows for the putts to end up inside 2 feet when playing on the course.
Surface: Anywhere with 35+ feet
Distance: 10’ Feet, 20’ Feet, & 30’ Feet
Putts: 4-6 Balls at each distance
TM4 Alignment: Pointed at the target
Goal: Inside +/- 2 Feet at 10’ Feet, 20’ Feet, and 30’ Feet.
This is a Standard Error of 20% at 10’, 10% at 20’ and 7% at 30’
Set up the TM4 with your student on a flat area of the green with at least 35’ feet to putt. Align the unit with a target set at 35’ feet away and place a coin or tee to mark the hitting area roughly 7’ feet away.
This is for the student to use as a reference for when they strike their putts. The student will then hit 4 putts to a tee you place at 10’ Feet, 20’ Feet, and 30’ Feet. After the student hits their putts to the target, move on to the next distance, and move the tee. Below is an example from a recent session where we dive into Tempo information and Stroke Length.
As we begin to review the data it is best to start with diagram 1. This dispersion view is extremely helpful in understanding how the golfer performed at each segment.
With the 10’ foot putts, we see a 15% error. They did great here as the goal was 20%. Now as we look towards the 20’ foot putts, the percent of error was 12%.
That was a miss on our goal of 10%. Lastly, with the 30 footers, we saw a percent error of 13%. Overall, we hit 1 of our 3 goals. Now we will dive into why we missed on the others.
A good place to start is with the 10’ Footers. These were hit well, and our goal was achieved. As we look at the data set, we see a Tempo number of 2.33 and a Stroke Length of 8” inches. Knowing this, I would look for a good player to keep a relatively similar Tempo and just increase the Stroke Length for longer putts.
That was not the case here on the 20’ footers. The Tempo moved lower. The student did lengthen the stroke but the timing piece in the backswing was changed. What we see with the best players is the Tempo stays the same AND the Backswing / Forward swing Time stays the same.
A similar story can be told for the 30’ foot putts. The tempo was even lower and now the stroke is taking more time. The student did take it back longer, but the Tempo piece was still off.
For this student, working to match his 10’ Tempo and stroke profile to his true lag putts was our goal. This was done yes because the data showed that he was best here but also because these were the putts where the student was most comfortable. Trying to match that comfort level can help all golfers when taking this out on the course.
Technique Change: One could think of possibly introducing a ruler so that the student develops more awareness around the Stroke Length. This is similar to what is commonly taught when it comes to a Clock System with wedges. “This far back means this much distance”. Another reference could be the right foot (for a right-handed player), where the player knows that inside, mid and outside of the trailing foot gives a certain speed.
Equipment Change: Weight within the putter is a common way to address Tempo inconsistencies with a golfer. This may be an option here as a push to streamline the Tempo across all distances.
The Total Putt Evaluation
The three items that a golfer must typically get right to make a putt is Line, Speed, and Green Reading. They are all intertwined as the Line never truly exists until a Speed and Strategy are chosen.
The same can be said that a player must match their speed to the read they make. You can make putts accidentally but this not a good thing from a player development perspective. That will almost always lead to bad habits and a false sense of confidence that can fail you on the course.
Surface: Putting Green
Slope: Varying slopes of (1%-3% R2L & L2R)
Distance: 10’ – 25’ Feet
Putts: 2 Balls at each distance
TM4 Alignment: Pointed down the start line
Goal: Hit the line, leave the ball within 1’ +/- of stopping distance, & accurately predict break
Find a breaking putt that has a percent of slop falling within 1% – 3% at a distance of 10’ – 25’ Feet. From there ask the student to explain how they read greens and what their intended strategy is.
What you will find is that some putters are very linear, and some see curves. For the linear green reader, ask them to place a marker Left or Right of the hole that they plan to aim at (like below).
Then ask the student to place a ball behind the hole where they would ideally want the ball to stop if there was a cap over the hole. This will give you some good insight into their speed strategy and then their resulted launch direction tolerances. It is great to have the Performance Putting Cheat Sheet on hand for this exercise.
If the student is someone who sees an apex or curves, ask the student to identify that apex or fall line. Then ask the student to address where they will aim to get the ball to roll over that point.
Align the TM4 with that point and ask the student to place a ball behind the hole where they ideally want the ball to stop if there was a cap over the hole.
Once you have the TM4 aligned and had a chance to discuss the putt with the student, ask them to execute their stroke. Below is a screenshot from a session with a linear green reader.
They were RH so we choose a Left to Right Putt as this is what they commonly struggle with. The total distance of the putt was about 5 paces. The student made their read and picked a point that was one cup outside to the Left.
For strategy, they chose a spot that was about 16” behind the hole. The student hit the putt and barely missed on the low side.
As we start to evaluate the initial stroke, we look at the 3 areas of importance (Line, Speed, & Green Reading). For line, it is not about making or missing rather that they launched the ball within their allotted tolerance.
This putt was about 16’ and the student was aiming to hit it past the hole so a total LD tolerance of +/-0.5 degrees was allowed to be on the line. We failed this part as the LD was 1 degree outside of that.
Now for speed though, the ball stopped within a foot of the intended stopping point. We get a pass on Speed.
The last part we must evaluate is the Green Read. The student decided the ball would break a total of one cup. A cup is 4 ¼ ” inches and the TM4 tracked a break number of 8” inches. It is quite easy to see the student under-read the putt. We get a fail here.
The student here passed 1 of the 3 tests but missed on the rest. Why? As we talked about the putt it was clear that a bad read was made and then the student corrected mid-stroke.
They could feel that there was more break then what was originally decided so pulling it (launching more left) higher up the slope was the only way to give the ball a chance to go in. Interestingly, the student did not pull it high enough.
After that conclusion was drawn and we now knew how much break, a second putt was hit. The TM4 was aligned at the 8” mark with the same speed strategy intended. The student hit the putt and their data can be seen below. They made it!
Though the putt did not have the same Entry Speed distance, it snuck in on the lower front edge. This second putt built some confidence and allowed the player to know they had the right read when executing the stroke. A freer mind allowed for a free stroke.
We then moved on to a completely different putt. It is crucial not to let the golfer hit too many putts in one location as they can become too comfortable and stifle the learning process. Further, the green reading ability comes from prediction and evaluation, not dialing in on a known break.
Performance Putting is extremely versatile and allows students and coaches to analyze the areas of greatest improvement to them. Putting might be the next revolution once the potential of understanding speed and read is unleashed.
We hope that users can start validating their feel using Club, Ball, and Green data synched with video. Give performance putting a try and don’t hesitate to reach out to your local TrackMan Representative for a more detailed presentation.