DON’T LET YOUR EYES FOOL YOU
Your eye position is crucial to building a solid putting stroke, says PGA Professional Matt Ballard.
VISION is the first port of call in a putting lesson. Golf is played side on to the ball so our vision is always distorted as we stand over the ball. How many times have you stood over the golf ball and looked at the hole and thought this isn’t exactly where I am aiming or it doesn’t feel right?
To analyse someone’s vision, I put an alignment stick down six feet from the hole and line it up dead straight, standing directly behind it looking towards the hole we both agree that it is lined up straight (pic 1). Then we walk in over the putt and I ask them to simulate their golf posture and then run their eyes along the stick and tell me if the stick is pointing at the hole or not. Nine out of 10 people say no.
It’s either left edge, outside left or right, and this has everything to do with where your eyes are situated at address.
I will then ask the question, “Are you happy that you see left?” because if you see left there is every chance you are going to aim left (pic 2). And if you aim left a good athlete will have some stroke compensation for what their brain is telling them through their vision.
I have seen numerous players who are holding on and opening the putterface through impact but they don’t know why. It’s because going right back to the start, how
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU STOOD OVER THE GOLF BALL AND LOOKED AT THE HOLE AND THOUGHT THIS ISN’T EXACTLY WHERE I AM AIMING OR IT DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT?
they stand over the putt, they see left, aim left and have to hold onto the putterface.
To get the player into a position where they actually see straight (pic 3) will mean a change in posture, either getting further away or closer, standing taller or bending over more, or just a simple change in neck position. All of which will change their eye position and their perception of what they see as straight. Once we make that adjustment, I encourage players to find a position that is comfortable and helps them see straight, so they can then get into a habit of getting into that position at setup all the time.
Once you take the alignment stick away and you line a ball up to your hole, it is a matter of trusting your new vision and that the line is pointing straight to your target. It’s difficult to trust this smaller line, so getting into that position where you know you see straight helps a player develop trust that the line is towards their target.
Sometimes just fixing the vision of a good putter will make them even better without even touching their stroke.
Getting into a position – whether it is further or closer to the ball, putting your eyes inside, over or outside the target line (pics 4, 5 & 6) – to see straight can affect the stroke and might even require an equipment change.
Typically, if you have moved further away it is going to produce a more arcing stroke (pics 7 to 11) and it might require a bend in lie angle or a slightly longer putter. Move closer and the putter will go more straight back and straight through (pics 12 to 16).
Too many people try and fight the putter design, which will always win. I see a lot of golfers with manipulated strokes trying to fit a putter that doesn’t fit them.
As I deal with vision first and foremost, and then factor in the range variables in different golfers be they shorter, taller, left or right eye dominant, I don’t try and push anyone into any one particular stroke or putter type.