To Accelerate or Not To Accelerate? That is the question.

Accelerate, push the ball to the hole, or not?  That has been a question in golf for quite some time.  There are even steel training golf balls which requite a lot of force to move the ball.  Let’s take a look at this concept closer.

Acceleration example: Now let’s say your goal was to hit 7.5mph (Green Circle) but your concept is to accelerate through the ball. Your putter would be speeding up to and through impact to an unknown speed.  You could catch the ball anywhere around that speed that the blue arrows point to.  This makes it more difficult to have the same speed at impact.

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Using Capto to measure a stroke that is speeding up through impact looks like the below graph.  The right side of the graph where the orange line is impact.  In this example the putter was accelerating 8.3 ft/s^2 on the way to the top of the curve where it is accelerating 0.  The orange line to the right side of the Capto graph is impact.

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As the putter collides with the ball it takes energy and speed away form the putter.  I went ahead and drew the top of the curve in the below graph.  You can see the putter ran into the ball on the way up the curve as it was still gathering speed like the illustration 2 images above.  On the bottom of the image it also shows you the length of the backstroke vs follow through.  This one was short to long due to needing more speed to get the ball to the hole.

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Now a 0 Acceleration Example:  Let’s say your goal was to create 10 mph of speed with the putter at impact (Green Circle).  If your stroke is setup to catch the ball around the 0 acceleration point your chances will be closer to that mark.  You can catch it at any of the blue arrows and it will be between 9 and 10 mph.

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In this example below using Capto the acceleration was near 0 (actually slowing down slightly).  That means the speed was just after max speed for the given stroke.  You would have 1 time the putter hit 10mph, 2 chances to hit 9.9mph, 2 chances to hit 9.8, etc..

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In the below speed graph from Capto you can see the putter was not accelerating but starting to slow down slightly at -0.1mph.  The result the putter collided with the ball at the top of the curve when the putter was traveling 3.7mph.

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I will leave you with this last through.  If you were asked to run your car into a wall at exactly 10 miles per hour would you get close to the wall and smash the gas or would you start further back, speed up to 5mph just before the wall, then coast into the wall?  Your call.

Putting Stats

Let’s take a look at putting starting from the hole and going backwards.   What is the average distance on the PGA tour for them to have a 50/50 chance to 1 putt?  If you said 8′ you are correct. We will use Mark Broadie’s stats for a lot of this from his book Every Shot Counts.  Take a look at the below insert I pulled from online.  There are 3 keys to putting: Green Reading, Speed Control, and Start Line.

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Short Putts: These are more on picking the right read and start line.  A tour pro has a 50% chance from 8′ but that same percentage is found at 5′ for 90’s golfer.  From those distances and moving out the percentages drop dramatically. Inside 20′ for the season a tour player must average a conversion rate of about 60% to keep their card.  That means for every putt from 1″-20′ for the season they holed out 6 of 10.  The average golfer expects to make a lot more than that and set their expectations too high and try to force the makes.  Keep track of how many putts you miss inside 6′.  When you work on the putting green work on making these putts.

Mid Range Putts: Will make some and miss some so expect to 2 putt often.  Goal is to not 3 putt from 6′-20′.  I do not recommend working on this area for the average golfer.  For competitive golfers they need to work on their conversion rates from in side 20′.

Long Putts:  The main key for these are picking the right read and then getting the speed to match.  For the average golfer this is outside 20′ and for the pro’s 40′.  The goal from 20′ and out is to stop the ball at the hole.  Other than green reading and short putting practice I recommend players to spend most of their time in this zone from 20-50′.  A good putt is 10% of the distance so for a 50′ putt within 5′ is good.  Now when you are training, train harder so you can play easier.  A great game/challenge is to set up 2 tees or coins 3′ apart as the goal and drop a ball starting at 20′ and another one ever 5′ going out to 40″+.  Start at 20′ and if you roll it in the 3′ zone move back 5′ and putt from there until you stop it in and repeat the process out to your stopping distance or for 5 minutes of game time.  Do this up and down hill where down hill will be harder to control the speed.  Lastly play 9 holes from 30′-50′ with different starting spots to different holes with the goal to finish with 18 strokes.  Not trying to make them from that distance but stop it at the hole and knock in the next putt.

For green reading I would recommend seeing your nearest AimPoint Certified coach and go through an Express Level 1&2 class.  If you are picking the wrong spots then speed control gets difficult.  Under reading the putt tends to get a ball traveling too fast towards the hole to keep the ball from dropping below the hole which results in a ball that finishes well past the hole.

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The 3rd area of putting is start line.  Best practice here is to putt down a 1″ wide yard stick.  Set the yard stick so the end is going right into the middle of a hole on a straight uphill putt.  Roll in 5-10 balls in a row depending on your skill level then move on.  If you are a competitive golfer you will have more time to spend in all areas of putting.  Most golfers need to use their time wisely and spending 15-20 minutes during each practice session on their putting.  This is an area they can improve quickly and anyone can do it.