PUPIL: MAGNUS EILERTSEN
COACH: MIKE KANSKI
LOCATION: FORMBY HALL
This is my first personal blog post. It feels strange to have the guts of my performance analysed by more than one instructor – but I hope thousands see this article. So what is the purpose in ‘baring all’? It isn’t attention and it isn’t for a competitive edge, it is to help you on your journey to better golf.
WHY DID I VISIT MIKE KANSKI?
I have played full time pro tournament golf for two seasons now and my putting has never been a strength. I am capable of some great ‘streaky’ putting and I look like a very competent putter. I thought that consistency would show itself along with an increase in confidence in my overall game. In the last two season’s I have worked hard on the often discussed fundamental aspects of putting. I visited an EDEL custom fitter to get the best putter for me.
Until recently I have dedicated more time to my long game as I tried to get rid of my big miss that rendered a good putting round worthless in a competitive sense. But my game has turned a corner – I feel better about my improvements, I can consistently replicate my swing and most importantly this feeling is backed up by evidence in the form of my statistics. But they also showed how my putting was now my biggest weakness. Why was I shooting 78 after hitting 12 greens in regulation when a tour player is capable of breaking par! Obviously that could raise other questions of the quality of good shots ie how many birdie chances inside ten feet did you have versus the tour player but I decided my putting needed to change.
I had been skeptical of the SAM putting lab equipment which is basically a version of Trackman for putting. A scientific exact analysis of all the measurable variables of your performance. We all know how feel based putting is, how visual it is and how much belief and confidence is required to perform under pressure. But I needed help. This wasn’t a case of not exploring other aspects of putting – popular drills, mental tricks and a custom fit putter hadn’t yielded improvement. So I searched out a guy with the best track record I could: Mike Kanski . I enjoyed my visit, he is easy to communicate with and deals in facts. The facility is fantastic Let’s discover what changes I made.
ANALYSIS OF CURRENT PERFORMANCE
The SAM PUTT LAB provides a serious level of information. Rather than listing the results I will summarise the most relevant points and provide some context to the information, some performance implications.
AIMING – On average I aimed the putter 2.4 degrees open (right) to the target. On it’s own aiming incorrectly is not a fault. You may be surprised to hear that, surely it’s the most basic fundamental?! You can aim off target by a little provided you demonstrate two crucial elements. You aim consistently and you compensate consistently. Some of the best putters do not aim straight, but at impact there face is pointed straight at the target. If they do this to a high level of consistency, why change? For me, I was too inconsistent with my aim, so my compensation would have to be different each time.
IMPACT – At impact the face was aimed on average one degree to the right whilst my path was 4.7 degrees to the right on average. This path result is a big fault. The implication is that I create a much smaller margin of error for myself. I have a much smaller window of timing in which I will square the putter up and hit an acceptable putt. Even on a putt that I compensate fairly well on I affect the quality of the roll of the ball. In essence I have created hook spin – if you imagine a line on the ball – it would not roll on its axis, end over end. Image three provides a nice visual overview of my stroke. It also shows that despite my faults I was hitting the putts right out of the sweet spot, so it did feel good!
LAUNCH ANGLE – Launch angle is a phrase not often associated with putting but it is very relevant to the quality of your putt. As with with full shot ball flight, a high or low launch angle can be desirable at certain times. The consistency and speed of greens on tour in the modern era has resulted in gravitating to an optimum launch angle of roughly three degrees. It is common for players to add loft to their putters when playing on slower greens or to change their ball position. Launch angle is a combination of your putter loft, your stroke attack angle, your shaft lean and impact location on the face. For example if you thin your putts you will launch the ball lower (ie it will have different roll characteristics) than someone with very similar stroke tendencies that hits out of the sweet spot.
I hit up on the ball 3.2 degrees on average, with a lean of one degree in shaft angle towards the target. This combined with my putter loft of three degrees and contact out of the sweet spot results in a respectable launch of 2.1 degrees. Let’s see how this data changes as my technique changes. On this aspect alone I have learnt the importance of launch angle for a consistent roll. If i’m playing slower greens, more loft on the putter would be ideal. As an example Phil Mickelson uses a very high lofted putter to achieve optimum roll on the fast greens of the PGA Tour. He leans his putter towards the target an extreme amount so without the loft he would have to manipulate his stroke to prevent a negative launch angle. What happens when you have a negative launch angle? Essentially the ball bounces or bobbles after impact and takes longer to begin rolling smoothly which makes speed very difficult to reproduce consistently.
FACE ROTATION – This aspect of the analysis reports on the degree of face rotation in the stroke and at what speed. Again contrary to popular belief a straight back and through technique is not desirable. You would need a vertical shaft at address to make a ‘straight back – straight through’ stroke without manipulation. The typical lie angle for putters is around seventy degrees. To make a pendulum or ‘shoulder only’ style of stroke from this angle will always create an opening and closing of the putter face relative to the target. The misconception for most golfers is the interpretation that this ‘curved’ or ‘arc’ style requires manipulation from the hands, it is in fact vice-versa.
In my analysis I scored an almost perfect 97%, the face closing 1.4 degrees in the ten centimetres before impact. This means that the stroke as a whole is very stable around impact, my hands remain quiet with little face manipulation. A benefit in my control of speed is also seen as the acceleration of the putter head will be smoother. The measure of my face angle at the start of the forward stroke isnt very relevant as this will change based on the distance of the putt, different greens and so forth.
MOVEMENT DYNAMICS – A complex part of the data here, this is quite difficult to make sense of but is relevant. An ability to summarise this will help you as a player create a better understanding of the feel versus real relationship in your performance. The numbers on their own do not make much sense. Again the peak speeds and acceleration of the putter will change significantly depending on the situation but we can look for patterns. It is fair to say that a smoother acceleration of the putter head creates a bigger margin of error but it would be incorrect to say there is only one way. For example Brandt Snedeker has a very quick stroke but he is classed as a great putter. If you are struggling to control the speed of your stroke, a slower tempo should make it easier to control and perhaps remove some manipulation or ‘hit’. It is interesting to note that this data again destroys another myth or cliche in putting. The putterhead always decelerates into impact. Peak speed is achieved before impact, roughly 20 milliseconds before, from which point it begins slowing down. The popular advice to accelerate through impact is then misguided. We can briefly recommend as a general rule that someone leaving putts short regularly should try creating more speed earlier in the down stroke or to decelerate less abruptly. Experiment with this feeling next time you are on the greens.
WHAT WE CHANGED
AIMING – We tried to correct my aim so that I aimed straight at the target. My current habit was to be aiming right so initially when we changed I felt I was pointing the putter very ‘left’. A change in technique is uncomfortable for any performer of any level as habits have to be changed. Your perception of what you can feel and what is actually happening has to be re-learnt. Pat O’Brien of SEEMORE putters, an acclaimed coach has found that right-eye dominant putters tend to aim right and vice-versa. If you’re inconsistent with your aim, changing to a neutral aim is desirable. A nice visualisation is that of aiming a gun, it would be more difficult to aim if you were not looking down the barrel.
IMPACT- With Mike’s coaching and my improved awareness of my habits and feel whilst putting I was able to change my path radically and go from 4.7 degrees right to 0.7 degrees left, almost perfect. In combination with this my face at impact was 0.8 degree left, a movement of only 0.3 degrees from aim at address. This is sure to create more consistency. The image above shows the visual change in path and a slightly different impact location, not quite central. I’m sure as I grow more comfortable with the changes this again becomes very central. It is not the most important aspect to discuss for the session.
LAUNCH ANGLE – With the changes my launch angle lowered by 0.8 of a degree down to 1.3 degrees whilst the overall characteristics remained as before. As I am not playing on the PGA Tour (yet!) I will keep a close eye on this part of my putting. Perhaps adding loft or using a different putter when suitable.I cannot afford to be idealistic, I must remain adaptable and a solid putter on slower or poorer surfaces.
FACE ROTATION- This nice part of my technique has improved further through the face aim and path changes we made. A lower rate of closure keeps me free of manipulation and in control of speed. It allows me to use my core and upper body, rather than my hands to control the stroke.
MOVEMENT DYNAMICS – A brief glance at the graphs before and after show a slightly more consistent application of speed and acceleration as highlighted in the discussion of face rotation. This is very much where the feel and perceptive ability of the player shows itself. In an indoor stable environment we can only look for before and after patterns. Its less of a priority than the face and path relationship.
POST CHANGE ANALYSIS
The SAMM PUTT LAB has a way of rating your overall performance. My rating before was 70.9% and 75% after the changes, a nice improvement. It will be a great measure of my improvement in the future
HOW DID WE CREATE CHANGE?
Mike is an expert coach with a great track record but this was the first time I had met him. Obviously I was very open to advice and guidance but having the SAM PUTT LAB there prevented any guessing and increased the speed at which we gained trust in each other. Some changes were needed in my setup to allow to regularly aim the putter square.
I changed my grip, putting the club more in the palm of my hands as you can see in the image above. This put my arms and putter in line, again removing another compensation. The major change was adjusting my head position to vertical rather than tilted away from the target. This enabled me to change the ball position which by default affected my shoulder alignment. Wow, the club hadn’t even moved yet!! It was golden advice though and gives me a much better chance of an on-line face and path relationship. I can confirm that the changes have become repeatable fairly quickly. It is a guide or definition of where I need to be but unlike a magazine article that may recommend a neutral head position, I am aware of how to get there, how to make that change. The icing on the cake is to feel like I am playing a bit of fade during the stroke. This is of real short term value as to make any change you have to exaggerate the new feeling. My old feeling created a path far to the right. A fade feeling, to the left, with my path is a nice image to practice with. It helps me stay loose and natural when putting. It would be a mistake to be consumed with forcing the putter into positions.
Mike recommended heavy use of a putting mirror as I get used to the technique changes. It is important to have what’s known as a ‘feedback loop’ when making a change. We cannot rely on ourselves to judge our change by feel or perception only.
The mirror is ideal as I can hit putts monitoring my head and shoulder alignment. A secondary drill would be use of a line as I putt to create awareness of my path. Now I know what I am looking for it would become obvious if I was to start employing a path to the right again.
Hopefully I have provided a useful insight into the detailed analysis that is available with the experts. It is certainly a tool many great players have been tested on, but I feel the key is to analyse the information correctly with a focus on ultimate performance in a tournament rather than gaining full marks in a laboratory.
Overall I was delighted I made the trip and can’t wait to see the difference this makes to my game. Those days that you putt well give you a certain confidence at the beginning of a hole, even if your swing is not firing on all cylinders. If I can putt well over a consistent period I know it will affect the confidence I have in my long game also. I will have a greater ability to make birdies and a greater ability to get up and down.
After reading this you will place yourself in one of three categories;
Let us know what category applies to you. Your feedback is invaluable so that we can continue to help you improve.