We've all done it. We hit a bad putt and look at our putter head as if it's to blame. In a lot of cases, you're right to do so. Let our equipment expert explain
One of the most common golfing complaints you hear is about bad putting and how many three putts golfers are taking in a round. Generally this is down to poor pace control.
What you might be surprised to hear is most golfers actually do a good job of swinging the putter at their desired speed. So why do we still have so many problems controlling the speed of our putts?
It’s all down to how the ball is actually rolling.
When you hit a putt correctly you are causing the ball to create forward roll. However many golfers are actually generating backspin with their putters instead. A ball with backspin will lose speed and is more likely to travel offline.
So what causes a putt to generate backspin?
It turns out the loft, or lack of loft, on your putter can actually cause you to generate backspin.
Getting the correct launch angle is key to getting a true roll on the golf ball. You must be able to strike the ball with a slight upstroke or positive attack angle. The correct attack angle combined with the loft on your putter will provide an optimal launch angle.
Having the correct launch angle allows the ball to lift up out of the depression of grass it is sat in, just high enough so it rolls smoothly on top of it.
If you launch the ball too high it will bounce when it lands and backspin will be created. If you hit down on the ball and don’t launch it high enough the grass will pop the ball up, creating high spin values, causing a loss in speed and preventing a smooth roll.
In the example above the putter has three degrees of loft. Then additional 0.9 degrees of loft is being added by pulling the putter handle back. With an angle of attack, or rise angle, of 0.7 up this is causing the ball to launch too high and generate backspin.
How does backspin affect the putt?
During a putt the ball goes through three stages – launch, sliding and rolling.
A ball with true roll is much more consistent at holding its intended line so you want the ball to reach true roll as soon as possible. The quality of roll determines the ball speed and therefore determines the pace of the putt and how much break the ball is going to take.
A golf ball can only spin on one axis. The spin axis imparted on the ball is a combination of the forward- or backward-spin, side-spin and rifle-spin created at impact. So any side-spin or backspin will be causing the ball to slide/skid rather than create true roll. Some people generate that much backspin that the ball rotates backwards for the first few inches.
If a ball is sliding or skidding across the green it is more likely to be sent off line due to imperfections in the green such a spike marks or footprints. This deflection will cause a putt that started on line to miss as well as losing speed too quickly as a result of sliding into a slope or green imperfections.
Depending on the green speed and friction, true roll should be achieved after the ball has travelled 10% of the total putt distance. So on a fast, true green true roll should be achieved after a foot of a 10-foot putt.
So any side-spin or backspin will reduce the amount of time the ball is generating a true roll. This leaves you guessing how far your ball will roll and what direction the ball will set off in, ultimately leading to those dreaded three putts.