Should you use Putting Training Aids?

Putting training aids can be both invaluable assets in improvement and very hurtful to a golfer’s putting performance.  This can be true for the same specific training aid.  How is that possible?

First, let’s discuss “how” putting training aids can be used, because there are a few different “objectives” they can serve, specifically three objectives I want to discuss: Conceptual, Feedback, and Movement Control.

Conceptual: You may recall from the blog on learning that “Concept” is one of the requirements for learning a motor skill.  It is the first thing required.  “What” are we trying to do?  The conceptual training aid is meant to provide the golfer with a specific “concept” or “belief” of what they should be trying to do with the putting stroke.  For instance, “The Putting Arc” pictured in the opening photo is trying to teach the golfer to move the putter in an arching motion (and an arc that is symmetric on either side of the ball).  This training aid also addresses the “Movement Control” objective by trying to physically force the golfer to move along the arc.  More on that later.  Back to the “concept”.  A problem I have with the Putting Arc is this: Not all golfers should have a symmetrical arc on both sides of the ball.  Some golfers, like Tiger Woods, have a non-symmetrical arc.  The “Inside Down the Line” putting track (below) is another training aid promoting a different concept of the putter path.  It trains a backstroke that travels inside the target line and a forward stroke that moves down the line after impact with the ball. 

A third type of training aide promoting a specific putter path is pictured below.  This one promotes a backstroke that is straight back from the ball and then moves inside the target line after impacting the ball (a pattern very prominent on the PGA Tour).

So, which one should you use?  They all can be very helpful to the golfer that they best fit.  They can be very hurtful to the golfers that they don’t fit. 

A good putting instructor can help you determine what “concept” is a fit for you and, therefore, which training aid(s) are good for you.

 A side note:  The training aid immediately above labeled “profile 6” is from Bruce Rearick.  Bruce is the only maker, that I know of, for this type of putter path training aid that offers “all kinds” of options on the path, as opposed to a single concept.

Feedback: Another requirement for learning a motor skill is feedback.  The feedback type of training aid provides the golfer direct feedback about the skill they are attempting.  One simple and inexpensive feedback type of training aid is a metal yardstick (below).  The golfer must have skillful “face control” to successfully roll a ball down the length of the yardstick. If the ball falls off, then the golfer immediately knows that the face was open or closed, depending on which side of the yardstick the ball fell off.  Simple, inexpensive, immediate feedback.

Another inexpensive feedback training aid would be the chalk line which provides similar feedback but has the benefit of rolling on the actual putting green.

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Movement Control: This type of training aid is a device that in some way forces the golfer to move the putter a certain way.  The theory is that the golfer gains “the feel” of the movement pattern.  Examples of this type are below, where tracks of metal bars force the putter movement in a specific way. 

I am not a big fan of these devices.  They are typically expensive and, I believe, they can be easily misused.  Used properly they can be of benefit. For best results, it is very important to move “off” the training aid frequently with these devices, because, studies have shown that, “inside” the training aid the motor skill is not being learned.  The motion may be “felt” inside the aid, but to learn the motor skill requires the golfer to formulate the motor plan themselves and execute it successfully, without aid. So, use these devices properly and “take off the raining wheels” frequently.

I opened this blog by stating: Putting training aids can be both invaluable assets in improvement and very hurtful to a golfer putting performance.  This can be true for the same specific training aid.

Because you must use a training aid that conveys the concept appropriate to you, and provides the feedback for the skill being practiced, you can now see how a specific aid might be helpful to one golfer but hurtful to another.  It’s like medicine.  One person’s prescription for an anti-inflammatory will not be helpful to another person with an ear infection who needs an antibiotic.  And, just like with medical prescriptions, it is best to get help determining which training aid you need from a trained instructor who knows you, knows your stroke, knows your tendencies, and what to address when and how.

If you would like any help with your putting, I would welcome the chance to work with you. Please text, call, or email me and we can set up a time to begin your improvement.

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