Claw grips, three-ball putters, lines and arrows scrawled on balls, left hand low, clubheads possibly rejected as too freaky by Star Trek … the list goes on.
If you’ve played golf for years and your name isn’t Ben Crenshaw, you’ve probably tried more than one of these putting tools or, some might say, gimmicks.
I’ll put my hand up and confess to at least two of those above – and I’m certain I’m not alone.
Solutions for poor putting – real or perceived – are naturally VERY subjective and personal. If they weren’t, we’d all be single-figure handicappers.
But for the first time in decades of anguish with the “flat stick”, I have had the great fortune to be exposed to a technique that could cure – or at least offer medium-term relief to – what had previously been a painfully flawed stroke.
And the reason it works is simple – it’s science and it’s logical.
Almost all of us, from the elite down to twice-a-year hacker, suffer the effects of “parallax error”.
And while the principles of parallax are complex enough to be used in deep-space astronomy, they’re simple enough that it can be explained to improve putting to just about anyone.
Parallax error is the problem created by your eyes presenting different images to your brain simply because they view the supposedly in-focus object from two different angles.
In golfing terms, it manifests by creating doubt in the mind as to which is actually the correct line along which to putt.
It plays out with such things as fidgeting over the ball, continual adjustment of the putter face angle, watching the clubhead instead of the target and constant changes to the swing path and tempo of the putting stroke.
If this sounds like you – go on, be honest – you’re probably a victim.
And, wait for it, the solution is simple.
In fact, it’s as easy as shutting an eye.
Once you’re established which of your eyes is “dominant”, closing the other allows your brain to have one lone image of what it’s trying to achieve.
From there, if you’re aligned correctly, it’s only one small step to a far more relaxed and committed stroke.
And how many times have you heard on analysis of golf swings by expert commentators that good players “commit” to their shots and then pull the trigger? Yes, that’s right, plenty.
My brush with this technique came courtesy of exposure to world-renowned sports psychologist Dr Noel Blundell, the mental guru behind major champions Karrie Webb and Sandy Lyle, but also champions from other sports such as Mark Skaife (driving), Reggie White (NFL) and Olympic gold medallist Lauren Burns (taekwondo).
Dr Blundell is the sports psychologist to Golf Australia’s high performance athletes – among many national and international teams – and, with a handicap of three, is no mug on the golf course.
And while not everyone will be fortunate enough to have spent time soaking up his knowledge in person, his product “Sniper Vision Golf” is the best way to explain a phenomenon he claims will improve accuracy at set-up by up to 68 per cent within an hour.
“Sniper has found that if your eye-line is incorrect, everything that follows from your set-up to your stroke will likely be compromised. The reason is that your eye-line is the reference your brain uses to establish those things,” Dr Blundell said.
“Most coaches have a theory on what the correct eye-line should be in set up – some say directly over the ball, while others suggest they should be 25mm inside the ball, which I believed for 30 years.
“But Sniper has shown that it’s not one size fits all. Everyone’s eye-line is different and small differences can markedly affect your putting.
“A compromised eye-line will affect your stroke mechanics. The doubt, confusion and ultimately the frustration will translate into a flawed stroke.
“Sniper will diagnose and assist you to establish your correct eye-line in a matter of minutes. With a little disciplined practice, you can ingrain it quickly.
“Sniper is not the panacea for all putting woes, but it can make a massive difference and bring back the joy of the game.”
My experience with Dr Blundell came with a bonus piece of golden information.
Having watched me try to implement the techniques that are fundamental to minimising parallax error, Dr Blundell assured me my left-hand dominant alignment technique for my putter face was flawed.
By using my right hand in combination with the other tools, the subliminal mental picture was complete in my brain with putts feeling much more solid almost immediately.
“It’s the same for other golf swings, too, not just putting. If you’re aligned perfectly, your body relaxes and the path of the club and tempo are more uniform,” he said.
“And it’s much easier to hit solid, successful shots if you’re relaxed. And you’ll find you won’t miss as many at important times in your round, either.”
And as if to prove his technique after our session, Dr Blundell pointed to other “target sports” such as archery, shooting or biathlon where fractions of a millimetre can be critical with many using a form of eye patch during alignment – an aid not permitted by the rules of golf.
“Those athletes are doing what they can to eliminate parallax error – Sniper will help you find a solution to do the same thing,” he said.
“You will putt better if your brain, eye and hands are all working towards the same vision. By training with Sniper, you will achieve that more consistently.”
Sniper Vision Golf – and the science behind it – are available via www.snipervisiongolf.com, while Dr Blundell’s website – www.noelblundell.com– will provide you more information about his background and latest techniques to improve your game.