The putting stroke: Arc or SBST?

There has been conflicting and confusing information floating around about the movement of the putter face and its implications on impact and the starting line of the putt. Should I putt with an arc, or should I be trying to incorporate a Straight Back and Straight Through putting stroke? While in theory, a straight back and straight through sounds like the simplest solution, it is in fact the most difficult. 

Putters are built at an angle (approximately 70 degrees) and do not move in a vertical plane, but rather an inclined plane. It is because of this inclined plane, the putter head will move in a natural arc as it moves on the face of the inclinced plane. It then becomes necessary to differentiate the face motion of the putter to the target vs. the path (the arc inscribed by the clubhead of the putter). The first type of rotation occurs as the putter moves back on the inclined plane. The face will appear to rotate open and then rotate close on the downswing . This is known as Absolute rotation, or rotation of the face compared to the target. The second type of rotation is in relationship to the path of the clubhead which is known as relative rotation (being relative the path). How open or closed the face is to the path at any point in the stroke. Ideally, this motion should be limited to increase the consistency of sweet spot control and face angle. 

When golfers try to make a “straight back straight through” stroke, they are trying to keep the face square to the target at all times in the stroke. This would mean closing the face on the backstroke (to keep the face pointing at the target) and then opening it on the downstroke into the follow through. In order to accomplish this, one would have to constantly be changing the alignments in the wrists, elbows, and shoulders throughout the entire motion.  This stroke is a highly erratic stroke and  interrupts the all important face to path alignment as well as the dynamic loft of the putter.  

How do I putt on a natural arc and minimize the relative face rotation?  at setup, take note of the angles in all of the joints in the upper body including; head, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers. Try to minimize the rotation of the distal joints (the joints away from the center of the body) while allowing the shoulders to move without changing the head and neck!

2 Responses to “The putting stroke: Arc or SBST?”

  1. This is a very interesting piece. You do a great job of explaining what SBST really is, and why it is important to know that. That is the exact “Science” of the putting stroke. This is where I would ask, “do you have to putt on an arc to be a good putter?”. Or even “do have to TRY to putt on an arc to be a good putter?”. My point, after testing players of all calibers, beginner to PGA Professional, what people think they do and what they really do are two different things. No one makes a perfect SBST stroke, even when attempting to. The same, no one makes perfect arcs when trying to arc putt. Some players need to mentally believe they are going SBST to have confidence in their stroke and be repeatable, even if in reality they did not really go SBST. When these players attempt to Arc putt, they may be able to do randomly make good strokes but they can never make a repeating motion. The mental attempt to make an arc is something they can not handle and will never be able to handle. This gets down to the dirty topic of Golf Swing VS. Golf Game. TJ, you know I am all about scientific perfection in the golf stroke, but physics and geometry do not take into account the human brain. The human body is easy to change, how the brain works is not.

  2. TJ Yeaton says:

    Consistency is most important in putting! Many great putters putt different ways but trying to use the tool in a manner that it was not designed to use is something that I would not teach. In actuality, a true SBST stroke would be an inverted arc! Simply understanding basic concepts such as Absolute and Relative rotation opens eyes in putting. There are all sized and shaped arcs pn putting and face motions. It’s all about what the student needs. There have been times I’ve taught students components that were closer to what a SBST stroke would entail!

Leave a Reply