New technique to read greens, improve putting catches on
If you've tuned into a PGA or LPGA tour event lately, you might have asked yourself what Adam Scott or Stacy Lewis are doing with their fingers while lining up putts.
The No. 1-ranked male and female golfers are using a new technique to read greens, and it is catching on.
“It's mind-blowing how viral it's gone,” said Mark Sweeney, creator of AimPoint Technologies. “I was asked to develop something simpler to teach kids. I'm surprised how accurate and simple it is to learn.”
Sweeney developed AimPoint Express, and many pro golfers, including Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan and Charles Howell III, are starting to learn it.
Sweeney got started in 2003 by developing the software used by the Golf Channel to track putts.
He took that technology and, in 2007, came up with AimPoint, which gives golfers precise green readings by using calculations and a chart. Golfers look at the slope, speed and angle of the green and, with the help of the chart, determine where to aim.
Korre Madden, a teaching pro at Pine Creek Golf Center in Hampton, said the AimPoint chart is popular in Florida.
“I had no clue what they were doing on the greens when I first saw it,” Madden said. “They brought out a book. They were twisting around and doing calculations.”
The AimPoint Express method eliminates the chart. Golfers are taught to feel the slope with their feet and use their fingers and speed calibration to find an aim point of a putt.
“When Adam Scott used it on the final two holes to win the Colonial last month, minutes after he sank the winning birdie putt, my phone blew up,” said David Kuhn, who said he is the only person in Western Pennsylvania certified to teach the method. “I have calls and people coming in from everywhere to learn it.”
Kuhn, a psychology and leadership instructor and golf coach at Peters Township, owns a golf academy in McMurray. He is one of 143 certified instructors worldwide to teach AimPoint. He teaches AimPoint Express at Frosty Valley Golf Links in Upper St. Clair.
One of Kuhn's former players at Peters Township, Tommy Nettles, called when he returned home after his freshman year at Campbell (N.C.) University and told Kuhn he wanted to study AimPoint Express.
“I used to just read putts the traditional way, walking around the green and looking for a spot,” Nettles said. “I heard about AimPoint, but I'd never used it. I was very interested in learning it.”
Nettles said no one has used the technique in competition during his first year at college, and he wanted to get a jump on the competition.
“I've seen a considerable difference in my putting since I started learning it,” Nettles said. “I've started putting a lot better the past month.”
Sweeney said a lot of high school, college and junior golfers have begun using the technique.
Nettles learned Level I, which he considers the basics, and he said he's ready to step up to Level 2, which teaches players how to read longer putts and double breaks.
During a recent Level 2 lesson, Kuhn gave Nettles a couple of severely breaking putts. Both read a particular putt, and then Kuhn asked Nettles what his aim point was.
Nettles' attempt missed below the hole and ended up within 2 feet of the cup. Kuhn then gave Nettles his read. Nettles' next attempt ended 2 inches from the cup.
“I never expected that,” Nettles said.
Tyler Pollock, who will be a freshman at Duquesne, said he used to go off his own reads.
“This works really well,” Pollock said. “I'm making a lot of 15- to 20-foot putts now and having fewer putts during my round.”
In Level 1, Kuhn starts his lesson by running his student through a drill. He puts two cards side by side on the ground below the student and asks which is larger, even though they are identical.
“I just proved you can never trust your eyes,” Kuhn said, putting the two identical-sized cards together.
Then he lays six discs in a row on the putting green at different slope degrees and asks his student to stand above them. With a digital level, he asks his student to determine the slope value. The drill is to help the student feel the slope with his or her feet.
“That's the biggest challenge, determining the slope,” Kuhn said. “It takes practice.”
Kuhn then calibrates his students to determine how close to their face they should hold up their fingers to determine the direction of the putt. Only on putts longer than 5 feet do golfers use the finger technique, extending their arm and holding up their finger or fingers.
One finger is equal to 1 degree, two fingers 2 degrees and so forth.
So for a putt breaking right to left, the index finger is held up covering the center of the cup, and the last finger is the golfer's aim point.
“It eliminates the guesswork and speeds up the game,” Kuhn said. “Guys are getting their putts ready and going. There is no need to walk around the green looking for a spot.”