They are the putting aids that saw Paul Waring’s Strokes Gained putting numbers transformed in the space of a month.
Between missing the cut at the Scottish Open last summer and winning the Nordea Masters in his very next tournament, the 34-year-old managed to alter his performance on the greens by a dozen shots.
The difference between having an enforced weekend off and winning €250,000, a trophy and a two-year exemption, was encapsulated in a few pieces of plastic.
Because part of the reason for such a dramatic metamorphosis in Waring’s game was a collection of putting prototypes he was using on behalf of a new company – Spear.Ta
Esteemed Yorkshire golf coaches Graham Walker and Steve Robinson, who work with the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, had used mocked up versions of their ideas on putting arches, rails and mirrors in their teaching programmes for decades.
But with the help of York engineer Dave Russell, the duo found an outlet to transform the principles that had been in their heads for so long into marketable products.
So they have launched a collection of aids – including putting guide lines, a rail and mirror, along with an arch – and will bring out further short game products in the near future.
Waring’s use of Spear.Ta’s products have created something of a stir for the new firm – which is an acronym of Stroke, Practice, Evaluation, Aim, Research, Training Aids.
That buzz was only heightened when the Wirral player went on a tear with ready to market versions of the products at the start of this season.
He finished tied 6th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and followed up with tied 3rd in Dubai just a few days later – bagging around €320,000.
— Graham Walker (@GrahamWalker18) January 24, 2019
“They’re so easy to travel with and weren’t taking up any space in my golf bag,” Waring said of the equipment.
“It was about working in a consistent space. There was no change in my stroke from day to day. It always started in the same way and I could go about my business in the same way. It kept my putting stroke within its tolerances.
“I’ve been a streaky putter throughout the years and it’s something I’ve always tried to push forward.
“I want to be able to do what I do at home and in my training away at golf tournaments. I don’t want to change.
“If I can get my stroke in a good place at home and then I go away and I haven’t got all my aids and the technical things there then it is easy for it to wander out of its tolerances.”
But the products have a reach far beyond merely the professional level.
Walker and Robinson use them in their work with regional and national squads, and in their lessons with everyday golfers, and believe their simplicity of use can help players regardless of their ability.
“Take the arch, the beauty of it is there are gates of different sizes – two balls, a ball and a half and a ball and a quarter – and we’ve trained in those dimensions for years,” said Walker.
“So if you are training a young player and you need a bit more leeway, or someone is not as putting as well, you can give them more room or you can make it more difficult for the better player.
“It’s the same with the putting rail. You can make it as easy or as hard as you want – by putting in between the rails, or running it on top or underneath.
“With the putting mirror, you have the visual aid of the putter head as well as your head line. You can put your own specific stroke on it (by using tee pegs to fix the arc of your stroke).
“You can also use all the products together at the same time. As Steve and myself have been involved in golf development for years, we understand how to develop golfers.
“We’re trying to put products together that develop somebody rather than just fault fix. These are development aids.”
How did we do with Spear.Ta?
It’s not just the pros that can make use of Spear.Ta. Here’s how I, a 9-handicapper, got on with them…
This has been my go to product on the course. It easily fits in the bag and, rather than having to look for a straight putt and then putting a chalk line down or estimating the line, I can fix a club grip through the top of the arch and have an immediate path to guide the stroke.
“The great thing with the arch is that it gives you alignment of the putter head straight away – underneath the shaft – and the start direction as you’re trying to roll it through the gate,” said Waring.
“So you start off saying, ‘Can I aim it correctly and start it on that line?’ That gives you instant feedback.”
I started off putting through the highest gate available – two balls – and it was alarming, but instructive, to see just how difficult that was to begin with.
As that has improved, and I have become more consistent, naturally so has my putting stroke. As someone who considers himself a poor putter, the ability to refine my stroke with a visual aid is very appealing. I am definitely holing more putts on the course.
I have a tendency to get a bit out of sync on the takeaway, and there’s little consistency as to which way I’ll pull the putter back at the start of the stroke.
You place your putter on the rail, which you can adjust to cater for your natural arc, and simply slide the putter back and through as you complete your stroke.
It feels like it’s drilling muscle memory as much as anything else and it will be interesting to see as the season continues how much more consistency I’ll get out of my stroke as I train it in practice.
Given that part of the reason I use a mirror is to line up both putter and, importantly, eye position over the ball, I’ve always been surprised at how dull the image that reflects back can be with some products.
This, by contrast, is crystal clear. But what sets this particular product apart is the opportunity to insert a number of tee pegs to reflect your natural putting arc. You can alter that arc too, making it as wide or tight as you are comfortable with.
So combine this with the arch, as well as adding the rail if comfortable, and you’ve got a collection of training aids that can groove every part of the putting stroke.
For more information, visit Spear’s website.