A Lesson Learned: Better putting through a better rhythm

Nick Watney
Getty Images
Nick Watney's strong putting stroke led him to the top of the leaderboard at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Sara Dickson, PGA

Problem Area: Putting
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011 | 10:11 p.m.

I am sure the the World Golf Championships - Cadillac Championship must have made for great t.v. viewing. But I can tell you, as someone that was there at Doral Resort all week, the excitement there at the course was incredible. Congratulations to Nick Watney for his big win. It was a week I'm sure he'll never forget.

And though he came up short, I want to give a nod to Dustin Johnson. His talent and drive assures that he will be in the mix in many more tournaments to come - and I know he'll end up on top of his fair share too.  Just a few more of his very makeable putts drop, by his own admission he couldn't make too many putts on Sunday, and we may be talking a whole different story. 
And there's a vital lesson to be learned in that.  What a great lead-in for this week's "A Lesson Learned."  
Golf instructors know that people love to hit the ball and watch it fly. It's basically like watching the beautiful combination of art and science. And hitting it far, well, that's a great feeling, isn't it? But golf instructors also know that the last shot you hit in a round, or in a professional championship, takes place on the 18th green, not the 18th tee box. And those putts, whether 40 feet or four inches, those are critical to determining your success.
On Sunday, Dustin Johnson had 29 putts and shot 71. Nick Watney had 22 putts en route to a 5-under 67. And Nick Watney drove away with the trophy and a two-shot win over Johnson. Getting the picture?
It just so happened I was at Doral all week running a ZENIO putting lab. For those that may not know, ZENIO is a putting system that measures golfers' consistency within certain categories of their putting stroke. I was fortunate enough to work with Joe Bosco of The Glen Club in Glenview, IL, also the U.S. Director of ZENIO Instruction and Certification, who has worked closely with such standout PGA Professionals as Hank Haney and Stan Utley among others.  Cadillac stands for world leading edge Innovation and performance -- they chose to have Joe Bosco bring ZENIO for their Cadillac Performance Center this week because it is the the leading edge instructional performance technology -- from the PGA Tour to the average golfer.
So with Joe Bosco, I tested the fans at Doral for consistency within three putting stroke categories:
1.) Impact Location
2.) Face Angle
3.) Rhythm
In our "lab" at Doral this week, we had over 750 putters come in and test their stroke. What I found was truly amazing and enlightening. Golfers, from amateurs to Tour pros, tend to do pretty well regarding consistency of impact locaiton and face angle - as long as Rhythm was consistent. For Tour pros, rhythm tends to be much more consistent. For amateur players, the numbers are all over the board.  And this is why you aren't a better putter.
By rhythm, I'm talking about the duration of time it takes from when a golfer takes the putter back until the moment he or she makes contact with the golf ball. This number should remain consistent, regardless of the distance of the putt.  Let me say that one more time: the duration of time from the moment you begin your stroke until the moment you make contact with the ball should be the same whether you have a 3 foot putt or a 30 foot putt. The speed of and the distance the putter travels will change, but the time it takes for it to do so will not.  Hence, rhythm stays the same.  
Altering this rhythm can also effect the consistency of impact location and face angle at impact of your putter. Correcting this will conversely have a tendency to improve location and face angle consistency. 
Try this drill for better rhythm with your putter.  Think of a metronome and the steady "tick, tock" beat it creates. Put a name or phrase with it as you practice putting. "Sa-ra" would be mine. And no matter what length putt you attempt, repeat that cadence. Soon, you'll find that not only are you making better rolls, you'll be making more putts. And that's going to help you shoot better scores.
Ask Nick Watney, nothing beats that feeling when leaving a golf course.
Sara Dickson is a PGA Certified Instructor & Assistant Golf Professional at North Shore Country Club (Glenview, IL) and Stonebridge Country Club (Naples, FL).  Sara studied Business Administration with a concentration in PGA Golf Management and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Methodist University (Fayetteville, NC) in 2009.  Originally from Rhode Island, Sara completed four internships at locations including Newport Country Club (RI) and the Pinehurst Resort Golf Academy (NC).  While at Methodist, Sara was a CoSIDA ESPN Magazine All-Academic American member of the NCAA National Championship Women’s Golf Team.

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Total time is described in many other articles as TEMPO. RHYTHM would be the ratio between backstroke and forward stroke (to impact). Please clarify. A metronome is used to help tempo and is expressed in beats per minute.

I believe iPing expresses TEMPO as a ratio and that appears wrong if you read articles by many of yhe well recognized names..

Lots of talk now about the 2/1 ratio that nearly all pros have on their putting stroke. They would be talking about the RHYTHM. Sams putt lab calls it backstroke rhythm.

I believe rhythm is more difficult to establish consistently and it makes sense that pros do a very good job of this over most amateurs.

Im curious what others might think...