OK, as we were saying last time: Although winter has set in, die-hard golfers never stop thinking about their games. In fact, the off-season is often the ideal time for many to set new goals and to even start some practice drills ahead of the 2012 golf season. That’s why the headliners for the 24th West Michigan Golf Show are offering some helpful tips now ahead of their appearance on Feb. 10-12 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. Today’s tips are courtesy of headliner Mike Shannon, renowned putting guru and PGA teaching pro at the Sea Island Golf Learning Center, recently ranked by Golf Digest as #40 in its listing of “America’s 50 Best Teachers.”
With PGA Tour star Matt Kuchar as one of his many students, Shannon offers four key putting fundamentals to start the new season:
# 1: Take your address
For a proper setup which leads to perfect aim, start this way: holding your putter, stand up straight and extend your arms. Then, draw your elbows in snug to your rib cage; this keeps your arms and torso "connected" and promotes a consistent, one-piece, pendulum-type motion. Then, tilt your upper body forward until the putter head rests behind the ball. And put a little flex in your knees. You don't want to putt with stiff legs.
# 2: Find your ball position
How close you stand to the ball is key — it frees you to make a relaxed, pendulum-like stroke. Stand too close and the putter will work out-to-in, which will result in a pulled putt. Stand too far away and you'll push putts to the right. How far away should you stand? On average, Tour pros have 2.5 putter head lengths from their toe line to the near side of the ball. Use trial-and-error to find your ideal distance.
Next, you have to find where to play the ball in your stance — center, forward or back. It's different for everyone. To find out, ask a buddy for help. After finding a straight putt, take your address and aim, with your friend standing a few paces behind the ball. Have him or her tell you if your putter head is aimed right, left or dead straight. If you're aimed left, you're playing the ball too far forward and need to move it back a bit. Aimed right? Move the ball forward until your friend tells you that your putter head is dead square.
# 3: Aim your putter
You may be aiming wrong on the greens and not even know it. Correct aim is the foundation of good putting. In my research, I’ve found aim is influenced by your vision and your dominant eye. Depending on ball position, when many players look down at address they see a perceived line that's actually right or left of the true line. This misperception costs them strokes. I've found that every player has a unique front-to-back ball position.
# 4: Make the stroke
With all the hard work done, don't think too much. You're aimed perfectly. Simply make a smooth, unhurried stroke. You now have the technique of a Tour pro. Soon, you'll have the confidence of one, too.
Based at Sea Island Resort in Georgia, Shannon will be traveling to Grand Rapids and provide free clinics on the Fidelity Seminar Stage at the Golf Show. He’ll be joined by John Novosel Jr. of Tour Tempo, the innovative teaching and technology company that stresses the scientifically proven importance of a consistent swing tempo.
Held continuously since 1989, the West Michigan Golf Show will attract thousands of Michigan golfers to hundreds of exhibits and will feature clinics, putting contests, junior golf instruction, swing analyzers and a “one stop” golf shopping opportunity with countless “golf show specials.” Sponsors include Treetops Resort, Fidelity Investments, Golf Association of Michigan, Boyne Resorts, Michigan PGA, Swan Lake Resort and Srixon. Several charities will benefit from their involvement with the show including Patriot Golf Day.
Produced by ShowSpan Inc., the West Michigan Golf Show’s hours are 4:00 pm-9:00 pm, Friday; 10:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturday; and 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Sunday. Tickets are $9 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-14, and children 5 and under are free. Tickets will be available at the door as well as online at www.westmichigangolfshow.com