|Rick Wright's Putting T-Bar grooves a consistent stroke. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)|
HOUSTON -- When it comes to better putting, what's more important: the arrow or the Indian? In other words, is it better to have the right and correctly fitted putter in your hands or the right stroke?
Both would be ideal, of course, but putting expert Rick Wright will tell you that developing a good stroke and routine is the most important thing you can do if you want to take strokes off your game on the greens.
Wright, who works and lives in the Houston area, knows a lot about both. He and Kirk Currie (formerly of Kirk Currie Putters) co-developed the first sophisticated putting fitting system in the golf industry, which was licensed to Slazenger Golf in 1997. But Wright's latest innovation is an aid that trains the muscles and the golfer to develop a consistent stroke for better putting.
"You must address the stroke," Wright said. "The statement that if you 'get somebody to aim better and they can control their speed, their stroke will take care of itself' is pure myth. I know because we used to make the same claim.
"This claim has never been supported with facts. Putting performance is improved through instruction and proper practice methods. Custom fitting can certainly contribute to improved performance, but it is not the Holy Grail."
Wright's training aid is called the Putting T-Bar. The adjustable metal rod device fits on the putter and extends to the golfer's shoulders, encouraging a repeatable stroke that is driven by the shoulders, not the hands, to produce an on-plane putting motion. After 10 or 15 attempts with the T-Bar, Wright said, students suddenly start to get the feel of what a good putting stroke is. Working with it over time makes the move more automatic.
Wright says there are four main benefits of using the T-Bar: It sets the putter face perpendicular to the shoulders; provides a guide to the shoulder line to set up parallel to the start line, ensuring accurate alignment; provides the feedback of a synchronized motion of the shoulders, arms, hands and putter; and provides a visual guide for moving the shoulders on plane. (To check out a YouTube video of the Putting T-Bar in action, click here.)
Rory McIlroy's putting performance at the 2011 U.S. Open was the perfect example of how important these fundamentals are, Wright said.
"Rory McIlroy had all five elements of putting working at peak performance," Wright said. "A proper and consistent setup (for alignment), a simple, synchronized motion (mechanics), consistent tempo (speed control), perception/prediction of putt path, and mental focus.
"If you noticed, his eyes were quiet and did not follow the ball off of the putter face. This allowed his senses to 'feel' the putt and his nonconscious to execute the putt. His confidence in his motion and putt perception quieted his conscious thoughts and allowed his instincts to take over."
You might not be able to get as good as McIlroy after working with the Putting T-Bar, but you'd be surprised how good you can get, especially if you work on your greens reading skills. But that's another topic.
Wright is correct in that in a very short amount of time, the Putting T-Bar will help you groove a more consistent and fundamentally sound stroke. Amazingly, after just a few minutes with the Putting T-Bar, I found myself repeating that very same stroke, and not only did I start consistently holing putts, but my distance control was dead-on as well.
But as Wright correctly points out, one or two sessions aren't a long-term cure. Using a training aid such as this requires repeated practice to ingrain the motion. Therefore, anyone who hopes to make dramatic improvements would be best advised to have a Putting T-Bar of their own to practice with regularly. (Several good teachers use the Putting T-Bar in their instruction with students, including Wright, of course, who also teaches putting.)
The Putting T-Bar runs $99, plus shipping.
For more information, visit www.wrightputtingdynamics.com.
August 10, 2011
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 15 years in the golf industry. Before joining the WorldGolf.com team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Read Mike's golf blog here and follow him on Twitter here.