In a recent conversation with Tom Kite, he stressed the importance of alignment in putting. His contention was that many players, both amateurs and professionals, do not line up properly when putting and as a result the stroke itself is largely a compensation for that flaw.
I asked him what percentage of PGA Tour professionals use an alignment device for putting. He said almost all of them use some sort of aid in practicing putting, whether it be for alignment, putter path, speed of the putter, the amount of face rotation etc.
This week at the Dell Match Play I observed the practice rounds and spent time at the putting green. And, his observation proved accurate concerning the use of putting aids. Almost all the players used one device or another to assist their practice putting.
The variety of devices span the spectrum from simple tees to the use of high tech devices. Lets start with the use of tees.
One of the most common uses for tees in putting alignment is to use them as some sort of gate for either the putter or the ball. In this photo, the player is using the tees as a means of insuring the stroke is on path and swinging properly. Apparently this player uses a pendulum stroke and wants to be sure the putter is not going back low but swinging from a radial point. That means the putter should go up in the backswing. So the tee in the ground behind the ball provides feedback if the putter goes back too low. The two tees used as a gate provide feedback if the path of the putter is off.
I also saw a lot of tees used as aiming tools. Peter Uilhein was using a combination of tees and coins. He had both tees in the ground and coins on the ground. I did not ask him so I don’t know the exact purpose of the coins (hard to see here). Aparently they were used as a gate in the mid point or apex of a mid-range putt to assist with both line and speed of the putt.
Alignment boards were popular putting aids on the practice green Tuesday. These assist with both alignment and ball position. They have a variety of features. Some have lines the player can use to insure the putter is lined up properly and aimed at the hole. Some have mirrors so the player can see if his eyes are positioned over the ball or where ever he wants it. The have cross lines and a resting point on the board for the ball to sit so they can check ball position. Some of these boards have tees or other devices to check path as well. They are portable and easily fit into a golf bag.
In the photo above, note the smart phone on the ground next to the alignment board. Some players have sensors on the end of their putters that have a blue tooth connection to their phone and provide an array of data on each stroke. The data points include amount of face rotation on the backstroke vs the through stroke, length of the stroke on both sides of the ball, the pace of the stroke and much more.
There were more putting aids being used. The point is that the worlds best players use training devices to help with their putting. Maybe more of us amateurs should try this approach.