By Alex Yeazel, Midwest Regional TrackMan Sales Manager, Columbus, OH
What separates the best in the world from the weekend warrior can commonly be found in the player’s understanding of their own game. More specifically, what happens when a golfer is presented with a situation. Take a back left pin, for example with bunkers front left. Some players may relish the moment because they can hit their perfect draw. Others may be kicking themselves as they are not comfortable due to their own specific shot pattern. The same scenario can be said on the putting surface when dealing with breaking putts.
This past week on the LPGA Tour, Pajaree Anannarukarn explored these different breaking putts while utilizing TrackMan Performance Putting. Pajaree currently sits at 113 in the Rolex Rankings but is looking to climb inside the Top 100 by making more breaking putts. She sits at 80th in Tour average in putting and after watching her hit straight putts, it is quite easy to understand why. We gathered data on 5 straight putts (less than .5% slope) in which she holed 4 of 5 from 11 feet. This is what is commonly expected out of a Tour Player, so we dove into how she does it to create a baseline.
For a baseline, we must understand Pajaree’s specific club delivery pattern and the resulted impacts on the golf ball. This is important information to know as these specific details directly influence her strategy. When we look at putting, we must remember that there are three main components here; Green Reading, Distance, and Direction. These components all play off of each other, therefore, saying there is 1 way or 1 right answer to each situation is not correct.
For Pajaree, she puts an emphasis on her distance strategy and determines the other 2 components based on this. She has set a distance of 20” behind the hole for her target if the ball was to roll directly over the hole. There is a consistency there of 6”, so she knows she will leave 95% of all her putts within 8” – 32”. Inside that range, the Tour average for make percentage is 96%.
Given her desired distance, she then has to make a read to determine her line. As we mentioned prior, the line is a bi-product of combining three components. For the straight putt, it is quite easy. For the breaking putt, this becomes more difficult. This is not due to her inability to read greens or hit her intended line; rather we see situational tendencies pop up. What is meant by situational tendencies is that when a player faces a certain situation, they tend to exhibit a certain pattern.
One thing we must point out is that Pajaree reads greens given her roughly 90% roll percentage (stimp dependent). If she were to let’s say drop this percentage by 10%, therefore increasing skid, but keep her given direction, Pajaree’s ball would not achieve her desired distance and the point at which the ball would start breaking would be influenced. Because of this type of scenario, Pajaree must keep her Roll Percentage tolerance quite tight on all putts so she can adequately utilize her green reading skills.
For club delivery, she is very consistent with her tempo. On any Tour (Men’s or Women’s) this is the most common item we are asked for insight on. Players want to validate the consistency of their tempo. Many of these players come to us and say that there is a specific tempo number they are most comfortable with. This number varies from player to player and I have seen it range from 1.5 to 2.7. What isn’t important here is not the specific tempo, but the consistency.
For Pajaree the story was the same. She was most successful when the 2.25 tempo number appeared on straight putts, but breaking putts was a different story. When that same tempo was applied on her breaking putts, she had erratic results.
The first breaking putt scenario we tested was Left to Right putts. Again we found an 11’ putt, but this putt had roughly 1% of slope. We set up and hit 5 putts. The results are below. Let it be noted she made 0 putts.
Overall her numbers are all rather close to what we saw on the straight putts, but she was missing these putts. Why? Situational Tendencies.
As you can see in the launch direction column in the chart above, she was consistently pulling putts left. As she pulled putts, her distance control then went away. Mid-stroke, she was reacting and making adjustments for what her senses were telling her. After these putts, we talked about what she thought was off. She quickly identified her line, so we set up a drill. We placed a very narrow gate in front of here (12 inches) to ensure she hit her line. Once the situation became about hitting her line versus making the putt, things started to change.
The image above is the very next putt. At this distance (11’) she has a launch direction window much smaller than 2.7 degrees to make the putt. With the simple addition of a gate, she was able to get into her window and start making a few putts. She was still not as successful as she was with straight putts due to her distance control varying so much. We now turned to Right to Left putts to dive in further.
We found an 11’ putt with 1% of slope. She hit her 5 putts and this time made 3 of 5. Self-admittedly, she told us that she prefers this angle over the previous setup. She feels more comfortable with the ball breaking towards her versus away from here. The image below shows a comparison between the two types of putts. If we start with distance, they have virtually the same average. Her consistency, however, was much tighter on the Right to Left putts. Now that she was able to control her distance, we saw more putts made.
As we talked through the 15-putt test, we found tempo to be quite interesting. As we started to see breaking putts, a longer backstroke time helped Pajaree. With the increased backstroke time, she felt she could control her speed and direction better. Her main take away from the session was to trust her line and control her tempo. Pajaree went back to those two same putts and worked on what we had discussed. The simplicity of trusting one’s line and controlling tempo is much easier said rather than done. Pajaree will have the ability to track her progress with sessions like this via the feedback of the TrackMan 4. This will take time and repetitions.
This session was a great example of refining a player’s area of weakness and uncovering what was holding them back. The TrackMan data gave Pajaree the facts she was looking for, and now she plans to apply the learnings on-course.
Follow Pajaree and the many #TeamTrackMan athletes the rest of the season on Instagram at @trackmangolf.
One additional study I believe would interesting is the correlation between preferred shot shape on full swing and putting. My hypothesis is people start the ball to the right and hit draws (assuming RH player) will have a better launch direction on right to left putts. The prevailing though is almost all right handed players are better at hitting this putt, but I believe it is more tied to shot shape. Therefore, a person that starts the ball left and hits a cut will perform better on putts they have to start left as well.
Once we find this out, then I believe we are closer to WHY certain putts are easier and then can find a solution!