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The Perfect Putt (video)
June 14, 2002

Interviewee: George Shoane, Rutgers University.

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Produced by Brad Kloza

Copyright Center for Science and the Media, with additional footage from ABC and C-Groove Putters.

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Putting Under Stress - Article on why people choke.

"Science on the Green" program at Mississippi State

Golf Ball Science and History

With millions of dollars at stake each week, professional golfers know being a few inches off could cost them plenty.

But as this ScienCentral News video reports, one engineering professor has invented a device that could help golfers find their perfect putt.

"Feel" still rules

George Shoane’s study recorded novice golfers putting with the three grips at two different distances: three and nine feet. Results showed that head and eye movements were significantly greater with the conventional grip than they were for the cross-handed and one-handed grips. Shoane also measured the duration of the putting stroke, and found that one-handed putts had a longer duration, which may improve the putter’s tempo.

New long-handled putters that mimic a one-handed putting stroke have become increasingly popular in recent years, among both amateurs and professionals. Shoane thinks he may now know why.

"They empirically found what we found scientifically," he says.

Putting it to the test

Shoane’s study may have found that one-handed putting produced the least amount of head and eye movements, but that doesn’t mean everyone should start putting one-handed.

"Our study can serve as a guide," says Shoane, professor of biomedical engineering at Rutger’s University. "But individuals should experiment with all the grips at different distances and see what’s most comfortable for them, and what works for them."

In other words, one-handed putting might reduce eye and head movements, but putting that way feels unnatural to a lot of people. And as any golfer will tell you, science might help your putting, but at a certain point natural ability and an instinctive "feel" for the game is what really matters. Shoane himself (an avid golfer) has switched back and forth among the different grips over the years. In general, however, he recommends trying one-handed or cross-handed grip for shorter putts.

That approach was put to the test by pro golfer Bob Estes (unaware of Shoane’s study), who was having trouble with his putting. He said that it made a huge difference for him, and Estes recently won the Kemper Open tournament.

by Brad Kloza

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