By Jason Edmiston, PGA Director of Instruction, The Las Vegas Country Club, firstname.lastname@example.org
Do a quick Google search of “acceleration in putting” and you’ll find a wide array of opinions on the subject. Thanks to modern technology systems, such as the SAM PuttLab, much of the guesswork and conjecture on this topic has now been replaced by data and scientific analysis.
Some of what follows will come as a surprise to many golfers. Long-promoted theories regarding acceleration during the putting stroke have been contradicted when examining results from the world’s best players.
To help clarify the analysis, I’m going to categorize five different “acceleration profiles”. These profiles describe the forward swing of the putter through impact.
Profile 1 – Aggressive acceleration – this golfer typically has a short backstroke and then rapidly accelerates the putter through impact and into a significantly longer follow through position.
Profile 2 – Acceleration through impact – this golfer purposely creates a feeling of gradual, moderate acceleration through the impact zone.
Profile 3 – Constant speed through impact – this golfer creates consistent putter speed through impact without any significant feelings of acceleration or deceleration
Profile 4 – Deceleration through impact – this golfer tends to have a longer backstroke and reaches maximum putter speed just prior to impact – the putter then decelerates gradually through the impact zone and beyond.
Profile 5 – Significant deceleration – this golfer typically has a long backstroke and purposely slows the putter prior to impact to avoid hitting the ball too far.
I think we can all agree that Profiles 1 and 5 lie on the outer extremes and do not represent what we see from the world’s best putters. I would note, however, that I sometimes see beginners exhibiting Profile 5 characteristics, so beware of this type of stroke if you’re new to the game. I also see a fair number of experienced golfers in Profile 1. I imagine this is due to some of the advice out there which promotes acceleration in putting, and these golfers have simply taken that bit of advice to the extreme.
My main goal here today is to shine light on what the data tells us about Profiles 2, 3 and 4, since this is where most golfers reside. When examining the best putters in the world, almost all of them fall in Profiles 3 and 4.
Profile 2 – Acceleration through impact – is NOT an effective model to emulate according to the SAM data. This may contradict what you have read or heard in the past, but this is what the science shows us. Accelerating through impact would cause the putter head to reach its maximum velocity AFTER IMPACT. Top players reach maximum velocity PRIOR TO IMPACT.
If you feel that your putter reaches top speed after impact, I would advise re-evaluating your technique. This is particularly true if you struggle with distance control. Experiment with the feelings described in Profiles 3 and 4 and see how that affects your consistency.