Whittaker's Weekend Takeaway: How Otaegui's grip could improve your putting

Golf Tips

Elite coach Dan Whittaker explains what we can learn from the world's best. He looks at Patrick Reed's rhythm, Rory McIlroy's escape and breaking convention on the greens

This week I’ve picked three tips from the end-of-season DP World Tour Championship in Dubai…

Otaegui’s pencil grip

When Adrian Otaegui won the Belgian Knockout in May he was putting with a conventional putting grip. Six months on he has moved to the pencil and it appears to be working a treat. Over the course of the season the Spaniard ranked 67th for Strokes Gained on the greens. Last week, with the pencil, he was third in Putts Per GIR and second for Putts Per Round.

By changing your grip it is not only a quick way to get some confidence but, through getting some analysis of your stroke through, for example, a SAM PuttLab, you can get some trust that the change is really working. If you’re a bit twitchy or handsy then the pencil or claw or cross-handed might work for you and give you a more stable clubface through impact.

We might not all be great putters but we all know what a good putt feels like and it doesn’t matter what you think you look like. Both Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood have changed to more ‘unconventional grips’ based on getting much better numbers and then trusting it.

What to practise: This winter is a good time to work on your stroke and mix things up a bit if you’ve not been putting well. Ideally you could get some data back from your pro on how certain grips work for you and then that should give you a bit of trust that it does produce a better stroke.

There is no perfect putting grip so do what feels comfortable and, if you start rolling it better, then that’s all we care about.

Rory’s incredible escape

Rory McIlroy has a ridiculous amount of knee flex to play this shot as he is so far above the ball. He does a great job of getting his angles to a level lie but the way he plays it shows how phenomenal the best players are at adapting to a certain situation.

They will all have messed around with awkward stances, the technique isn’t actually too different for this shot, so then they can be committed to pulling it off.

A lot of us will back up and out of this shot and thin it, Rory does a great job of setting his weight really evenly which helps him to control the bottom of the arc and hit an amazing shot.

Another thing that I like about this is the normal grip, I’m not a big fan of gripping down the club in a bunker as it reduces the wrist hinge.

What to practise: How many club golfers give themselves something out of the ordinary when practising from the sand? Come to think of it how many of you practise at all from sand? There’s little use in throwing your arms up in the air if you get a stinky lie in a bunker. What you want is the knowledge that at least you’ve practised the shot.

Reed’s rhythm

Patrick Reed’s swing is more of a throwback to a different era as he has more hand action through the ball than a lot of his peers. He generally has quite an idiosyncratic move with his feet with the driver but that is less apparent here with the iron and he is quite stable with his leg action.

What is noticeable is that he has his hands high in the backswing and he creates a lot of down cock so he gets a lot of angle between his left arm and the shaft, this is a great way to change the trajectory around. The body might not be working as actively as he uses the hands more to square the club up and that can cause more misses with the long game.

Reed is quite rhythm based work but he can shape the ball and very his trajectory with ease and, when he’s on, he’s spectacularly good. When he won The Masters he looked most impressive when he played the three-quarter hold-off shot and his control of the flight and distance was incredible.

What to practise: Reed was 163rd for Greens In Regulation last year on the PGA Tour and he’s never actually finished inside the top 100 for this category. But we haven’t seen him change his swing too much and there’s a great lesson to be had here – he does what works for him. He’s not a bomber or a great iron player but he has a great short game and he putts great. So swing changes aren’t always the way forward, playing to your strengths can be a fantastic asset.

Dan Whittaker is an elite golf swing and performance coach based at High Legh. For more information, visit his website.


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