Wrist Putting

by David Lake

All of us golfers who refer to 30 and 40 year olds as kids, can remember when the dominant putting technique on tour was the wrist putt. Arnold Palmer was probably the most famous wrist putter, although virtually all the pros used it. Well, Jack Nicklaus came along and the wrist putt disappeared overnight. As Jack began winning more and more tournaments the other players on tour started copying his putting style and the pendulum putting style soon became the norm. It might be noted that Arnold Palmer was considered to be one of the best putters on tour before switching to the pendulum style, and from that point on putting was the bane of his game.

Dave Pelz, who wrote “Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible”, is another advocate of the pendulum putting style. He decries the wrist putt in favor of using the large muscles of the shoulders and back to deliver a pendulum putting stroke. Pelz states that using the larger muscles helps to eliminate any jerky movements produced by the smaller muscles of the forearms and wrists under stressful conditions (like making that 3-footer for a $2 bet). Personally, I have found that the opposite is true, that making a pendulum swing incorporates so many more muscle groups that they tend to get in each other’s way under normal conditions let alone stressful ones. Using a pendulum swing not only involves the use of all three deltoid heads on each shoulder, but involves the back (lats, and traps) as well as the muscles of the forearms and wrist. The wrist putt, on the other hand, involves only the muscles of the forearms and wrist. It just makes sense that the fewer muscle groups involved, the more consistent the stroke. If a brain surgeon can perform an extremely delicate operation under stressful conditions relying only upon the precision of the hands and wrists, then I believe that the same precision can be relied upon for a putting stroke.

I personally feel that the wrist putt is much more conducive to good distance control and accuracy than a pendulum swing and has been my putting style of choice for quite a few years. The wrist putt is performed by placing the right wrist close to the right thigh and then making a simple wrist stroke. Basically you are putting with only your right hand (right-handed golfer). It does requires a putter that is the correct length for the golfer. Virtually all putters are built too long regardless of the putting technique used, which forces the golfer to hold the club at the bottom of the grip with the fingers actually running alongside of the shaft itself. The typical grip installed on a putter has a flat surface on the front which aids tremendously in hand and subsequent clubface alignment. In order to take advantage of this built-in alignment aid the putter should be gripped just like any other iron in your bag with the wrist crease of your left hand being even with the butt end of the grip. If the putter is gripped low due to excessive length, the advantage of this grip is lost and your putting suffers.

I do not suggest that you try switching putting styles on the first green of your next round, but would encourage you to give it a shot on the practice green and see if it helps your game.

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