I was recently looking to buy a new putter and was asked a few questions by the sales guy I never really thought about before. What type of putting stroke do you have? Why is your right shoulder higher than your left when you set up for a put? This post will not touch on the type of stroke I have: square to square, small arched or large arched (maybe in some future post), it will focus on how our right arm (or left if you are left handed) position can effect our shoulder position and the consistency of our putting stroke.
Where Putting First Went Wrong – The Forward Press
About a year and a half ago I read an article about something called the forward press. I am sure many of you know what this is, but in case you don’t, it is simply a slight forward motion of your hands ahead of the ball at address (club head obviously doesn’t move) prior to your stroke. The idea here is to get a better angle of the putter face at impact to ensure the ball starts rolling smoothly right off the bat (or putter for that matter). It is also supposed to help ensure the clubhead does not move past your hands at impact. There also seems to be some controversy about whether the forward press is the best approach.
So why tell you all this? Because I have found that it can lead to some problems in the putting stroke if not done properly. I didn’t notice this issue until someone had a quick look at my stroke. I would set up perfectly with good posture and shoulder position, but right before I began my backstroke my right shoulder would move higher than my left shoulder and slightly in front of it (if viewing down the target line). This was caused by my forward press, and was leading to pulled putts more often than not. I had a difficult time trying to comfortably achieve a forward press without throwing off my shoulder position so I decided to stop the forward press completely.
So where does the right elbow come into play?
Putting and the Right Elbow
The position of the right elbow (or trailing elbow in other words) directly affects a few things, including your right shoulder position. Basically, there seems to be consensus that as your right arm gets further away from your right hip, the tendency is to pull your putts as the stroke begins to take an outside in path.
Some people say that having the right elbow in gentle contact with the right hip will stabilize your stroke similar to that effect of an anchored putter. Even Jack Nicklaus said that keeping his right elbow close to his hip helped him stabilize his stroke and keep the club face square when putting. Another right elbow thought for keeping our shoulders on plane is to soften the right elbow, as straightening your arm pushes it away from your body.
Right Elbow Position in Putting – Conclusion
The key point here is really keeping our shoulders level which the right elbow position directly impacts. After some experimentation what I found was that, for me, proper shoulder position seems to be less associated with keeping my elbow really tight to my right hip than it is with simply not doing a forward press. I already keep my arms fairly close to my body and have nice and relaxed elbows So far, without the forward press I seem to be putting better. Let’s see how the remainder of the year goes.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the right elbow position when putting and what works best for you.
The Barefoot Golfer