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I mentioned in my Bandon summaries that the most startling realization I had during the trip was that my normal putting stroke, a long, languid thing, was going to be inadequate.  After switching over to a “pop” type stroke, I putted very well for the final three rounds.  These included some long putts from well off the green, some severe slopes and mounds, and also some slippery 4 footers.  So what is this “pop” stroke and how is it different from the modern stroke?  I would define the traditional “pop” stroke as follows:

  • Relatively large amount of wrist bend in the backstroke
  • Relatively little amount of shoulder rock throughout the swing
  • Relatively little follow through distance
  • Relatively descending blow through the strike
  • Relatively “crouched” body position
  • Relatively accelerating blow

Exhibit 1:

I believe there are a few benefits to this type of stroke.  First, you can get the ball rolling with energy immediately off the face.  The combination of a descending blow with acceleration tends to get the ball up on top of the turf quickly. This is particularly advantageous when you are putting on thick or non-uniform greens such as those that were standard before modern agronomy advances.  Another advantage, in my opinion, is the ability to stay stable in strong winds (which was my goal on the Oregon coast).  The disadvantages are that distance control is not as consistent and the increased “energy” of the stoke is unnecessary on that fast, grainy greens that are common on tour these days.

So what does the pop stroke look like in action?  Here are three classic examples who also happen to be three of the best putters of all time.  First up, Billy Casper.

But you don’t need a gut to make this stroke – here’s Isao Aoki:

But the study wouldn’t be complete without the best putter of the 50′s, Bobby Locke:

It’s interesting to compare these strokes to the modern “pendulum” stroke employed by Woods or Leadbetter:

With the traditional stroke, you rarely see the left shoulder get below “level” as in the pendulum stoke (note: Locke’s shoulder does dip below but his put was exceptionally long here in this sequence).  Also note the restricted follow through.  In these next images I’ve isolated just he triangle.

The differences are pretty clear to see.  I’m not saying that the pendulum method won’t work.  The guys today on tour are INCREDIBLE putters.  The have optimized their strokes to the conditions they play in – fast, smooth, bent grass greens.  In the same way, the great putters throughout the history of golf optimized their strokes for the conditions they played in, and by understanding the differences and motivations, we give ourselves options for fine tuning our own games.


One Response to “A Tribute to the “Pop” Putting Stroke”

  1. Avatar of Alec Alec says:

    Good stuff!!! I love the triangle descriptors, its all about the triangles.. there’s a little somethin somethin that sticks out like a sore thumb to me at least, look at the post impact lines, one of the five is TOTALLY different than the rest, that’s kind of a big deal especially in the timeframe.. Love them triangles!!!

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