Notes from the PGA Summit in Orlando
Day 1 – Dave Stockton
This report comes from the 13th PGA teaching and coaching summit in Orlando. I will be publishing my notes and thoughts from most of the presentations I witnessed over the 2 days…
The first day opened with Dave Stockton sr. who was presenting on his putting theories. He was joined by one of his sons, but the presentation really fell on the shoulders of the eldest Stockton, of multiple majors and Ryder cup fame.
Dave Sr. describes his approach to putting as a “signature approach” – by this he means that your putting stroke is like your signature – let your mechanics just happen and move your focus to creating the proper rhythm for your stroke. Every putt you make is like when you sign your name on a document – it’s a natural motion that expresses your individual style. You don’t work to control your signature, you just let it flow through your hand.
The Stockton family have risen to great fame over the past five years through their work with countless tour professionals on Short Game and Putting. The list of players they work with is massive, on all of the major tours, and they have also had a strong influence on the world of teaching and coaching as they’ve published multiple books and created buzz with their approach and theories.
Through this presentation, the fundamentals of Stockton’s approach were clear:
- Your routine should be quick – likely quicker than it is now.
- Your lead hand is key – it moves along the path you choose and guides the stroke.
- Shift focus away from the urge to control your path – occupy your eyes and focus on rhythm and roll.
Routines: There is no need for practice strokes – the Stockton’s encourage everyone they work with to eliminate practice strokes. Dave sr cited numerous examples of high profile players that they have consulted with and where they’ve reduced the pre-shot routine significantly. He gave the analogy of how in pool you don’t take practice strokes…But he does admit that pool players use a bit of a waggle before they strike the ball. For this reason, he encourages players to stand behind the ball as they choose the ideal path, and as they walk up to their putt they should be feeling the rhythm of the stroke they are about to make. For instance, you might let your arm swing as it will in the coming stroke…
The Routine is for finding Rhythm: The goal of the routine is to eliminate any conscious thoughts – to “keep the player in the unconscious as they walk into the putt”. Stockton was adamant that a good routine lasts only a few seconds – “don’t dwell on the coming putt – just connect with the line, find a nice rhythm, and roll the ball”. He also uses his walk up to any putt as an opportunity to establish a rhythm for the roll – like he’s scanning his body to reach optimum tension levels for any putt. The purpose of your routine is to eliminate conscious thought, commit to a path to your target, and to establish a rhythm for your stroke. “Just see the line and roll the ball”. In putting you never hit the ball, you just roll it towards your target with a nice rhythm.
Left Hand: The Putting Stroke is simple: The left hand is key. When making a stroke, all you need to think about is how the left hand moves a few inches along the line of your path. Move the left hand parallel to the ground along your intended line.
His favorite drill is left hand only putting – just move the left(lead) hand back and through to the point a few inches through on your line. You should be able to control the face orientation and path of the stroke with the left(lead) hand alone.
He reminisced about a drill his father used with him – Imagine his father is holding a club parallel to the ground, and the grip would sit at hand height, just six inches in front of the set up position. The drill was to move the left hand back and then into the club held in front by his father. The stroke was nothing more than making the back of his left hand bump into the grip of his fathers club.
Focus: Focus on anything but the ball when you Putt: “All I think about is a spot in front of my ball (so that I don’t look at the ball at all) and then I move my left hand into that club 6 inches in front.” Just let the ball get in the way of this simple motion. Connect to your target and feel the rhythm of the stroke. “Putting is way easier than people think”. You shouldn’t need to focus on whether your club is square – good players know if the club is square even if their eyes are closed. Too many putts are ruined by players who are trying to control their club-face in the stroke or at impact. Dave described how he always looks at a spot just in front of his ball when he putts – this is not to ensure he rolls the ball over this spot, but rather to take his eyes away from seeing the putter move, and therefore free the mind from the urge to manipulate the stroke…
Speed is way more important than line: Putting is simply a game of speed – you should be focused much more on pace than on line. The ideal path is dictated by the speed you feel the putt needs to be.
His last words were – “stop trying so hard – just feel it”
Stockton was refreshingly simple in his approach to putting. Revered as a clutch putter throughout his career, Stockton’s approach is simple – see the ball going in, then imagine the rhythm you will use. Then just step up and don’t focus on the ball at all, just make a rhythmic stroke and roll the ball towards your target. All in all, a very impressive demonstration on the simplicity of putting. His method is one of eliminating extra thoughts and movements.
It was interesting at the end of his hour, as all of the questions from the audience kept asking him to describe his thoughts on various methodologies, and his answer was repeatedly “stop trying to make this complicated – it’s really simple”. You had to believe that for him, putting really is, and was, a simple process. It may be that he was simply born with a gift for putting that is somehow “unteachable”, but after spending time listening to his genuine approach to putting, you couldn’t help but see that his most profound insight may have come when he suggested that for him: “I just always believed that I was going to make it”. There’s no doubt that this kind of self-belief went along way to allowing a stroke that was free from control…
You can check out his website here.