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Senior Golfer - On The Green

What's new in the world of putting-Part I

The Putting Green

The world of putting is changing from the equipment to the instructors and none is hotter these days than Dave Stockton, who has been given much of the credit for changing Phil Mickelson's putting stroke, and Mickelson won the Masters. He changed Michelle Wie's putting, and she won most of her matches at the Solheim Cup. Just recently, he gave Adam Scott, who was in a terrible putting slump, a 30-minute lesson, and Scott went on to win the Texas Valero Open.

And, the changes are not with just putting wizards. There are tremendous changes in equipment. Just visit a golf store or pro shop and see the myriad putters that dot the racks. There are light putters, long putters, belly putters and heavy putters. There are the simple blades, the two-ball putters, the mallets and everything in between.

To find out what is new in the world of putting, I interviewed Kevin Weeks, whose credentials speak for themselves. The 2005, 2007 and 2009 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year has built a putting lab in the back of the practice range at Cog Hill. In his lab, he uses a patented device that he invented, called the Dynamic Impact Indicator, and 11 high-speed cameras and Science and Motions Sam Putt Lab to measure all of the different parameters in a putting stroke.

Q: What the latest technology to help golfers with their putting?
Weeks: There are many new pieces of equipment to help putters, but perhaps the one I like best is the new golf grip, the Super Stroke, an oversized grip that Robin Freeman put on his putter to help him lead the first round of the Senior PGA Championship and K.J. Choi used to win golf tournaments. I like this oversized grip because it takes the hands out of the putting stroke so that the golfer uses his shoulders to swing the putter. It is especially useful for seniors who have various physical ailments and develop nervous twitches in their strokes.

I have been fortunate to do a lot of research on putting and the short game, and the Super Stroke grip is just another tool to help the senior golfer become a better putter.

Q: Should seniors look to customize their putting equipment?
Weeks: Yes, I am a firm believer in getting fit for your putter. Go to someone who can fit you. When I fit golfers for putters, I begin by asking them a lot of questions. With seniors, I find out if they have any physical ailments. How often do they play? What type of clubs do they use now? What are their goals? A lot of times, golfers will have bad backs, sore shoulders or neck issues that prohibit them from spending long times on the green practicing their putting. With these players, I recommend a balanced stance and a longer putter, not necessarily a belly putter or broom type, so that they stand up straighter in their strokes.

Q: What does it mean to get fit for a putter?
Weeks: When you customize a putter to a player, you are looking at what they need. The shape of the head, the hosel, the shaft, the different balance points and the lines of the putter all go into the fitting, along with the length, loft of the putter and the lie angle. The shape of the stroke dictates whether the putter needs to be face balanced or what degree of toe hang is needed. So, there are a number of factors that need to be addressed.

Q: So, getting equipment fit for you is important, but let's get to the real crux of the matter: Is it possible to become a good putter or are good putters just born that way?
Weeks: I believe that it is possible for everyone to become a good putter, but you cannot do it unless you are committed to change. You must want to become better and be willing to put in the time and effort to be a good putter.

Q: How much time and effort are you talking about?
Weeks: Iam looking for a person to put in a minimum of 30 minutes a day, three or four days a week and practice the drills needed to help them become good putters.

Q: Can a person do this indoors?
Weeks: Sure, and let's face it, we live in northern climes, and in Chicago, we only have five months of good green time. You can practice indoors, and that is fine in terms of commitment. We have to be realistic in whatever we do to improve the putting stroke.

Q: What do the golfers do in these practice times?
Weeks: I recommend a set of drills and exercises all designed to produce a more repeatable and smoother putting stroke. Everyone is different with their strokes and there is no ONE way of becoming a good putter.

Next month, we will continue our interview with Kevin Weeks to learn about different putting strokes, the best advice to help seniors become better putters and how to cure the YIPS.

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