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The Reason One Setup is Better than the Other:

The setup determines your capacity for targeting from beside the ball. The body positions you start with at address and the specific movements you make during targeting with your head-neck and eye muscles affect the perceptions you build in terms of accuracy and acuteness.

Golfers certainly target from behind the ball and elsewhere before adopting the setup position, but once in the setup position, more targeting is engaged in. In particular, the golfer must re-orient to the path as seen from behind the ball, and must assess whether his body is square to that path and in position to make a straight stroke along it. He also needs to reacquire the location of the target itself and any landmarks or references he may be relying upon. And he must judge anew the distance and force required for the putt. Most of this involves the sense of body positions in space, rather than "seeing stuff" with the eyes. The eyes mostly help you orient your body to the ball and target and the planned square stroke.

For a variety of reasons discussed in some of my articles (Dead Eye Putting Routine, Gaze Dead Straight for Dead Aim, Stone Cold Putting, and others -- see the TIPS section), simply placing the eyes above the ball is not the full story for optimal performance. By orienting the gaze straight out of the face and straight down, this allows an in-plane head turn to carry the line of sight accurately along a line on the ground to the target -- thus connecting your square setup with the target through the head-turn and making a no-compensation straight putt the repeating ideal technique. For More, see my Gaze Page.

Golfers who have their heads tilted up so the forehead is higher than the chin above the ground necessarily have their eyes inside the ball or their gaze directed down their cheeks or both. This static setup position then introduces eye-muscle changes in the gaze direction when looking along toward the target, interrupting perception of the straight line along the ground with jumpy saccades of vision skipping irregularly along. The starting position also prevents use of an in-plane head turn. Instead, the head-turn has to rove out of plane to adjust the direction of the line of sight. These compensatory head and eye-muscle moves add to the complexity of the perception-building process, and the precise moves vary with the length of the targeted path. Hence, these start positions and moves make for an unstable process for building accurate and vivid target perceptions and yield less rich perceptions than otherwise possible, and also introduce obstacles and inaccuracies in targeting.

You might notice that most golfers up to about 1974 followed a fairly consistent setup ideal, with notable exceptions like Bobby Jones. Apparently, when Ben Crenshaw joined the Tour, the media raved so much about his putting, and especially his "million dollar look" with head raised from the setup beside the ball for one last targeting peer (sort of like a wary buck hearing a stick snap while grazing and rearing up to scan the tree line for movement and then returning to grazing), that the older, superior technique lost currency among younger golfers on Tour these days. To his credit, Crenshaw recognized the idosyncratic features of his putting style (eyes back inside from the ball, gaze down the cheeks, head up, arcing / gating stroke path requiring extreme timing precision) and wrote an article in Golf Magazine to warn others not to try to emulate his techniques. No wonder he needed a "million dollar look" from his setup!

The Best

Of all the setups I've seen, Jim Flick here demonstrates perhaps the best -- eyes absolutely dead in plane, vertically above the ball, gaze straight out of the face, head-turn sends fixed line of sight straight along the ground to the target. His glasses earpieces are vertical when looking down at the ball, and when he turns to the target his two eyes revolve like gondolas on a Ferris wheel, one vertical above the other in the same vertical plane so now the cross-piece on the front of his glasses aligns vertically with the plane of the putt above the ball.

The Not-Best

Despite advising others to setup with their eyes directly above the ball, Tiger Woods usually sets up with eyes inside and forehead higher than chin. Pro golfers who use this setup make do because they have been golfing since early childhood and simply are accustomed to a sub-optimal habit. Even so, these pros exhibit streakiness and could do much better. Tiger Woods is a prime example of a marvelous capacity for targeting ill-served by his technique at address, resulting in unfortunate runs of streakiness in his putting alternating with pure genius. He could more consistently stay on the genius side of things. He may have as many as three more strokes he can shave off his astounding stroke average by optimizing his putting technique.

Tiger Woods


The Good Guys

Head flat, eyes over ball, gaze straight out of face, head-turn stays in plane, line of sight steady and stays on line and in plane between ball and target

The So-So Guys

Foreheads up, eyes inside, gaze down cheeks, head-turn and eye movements variable and irregular from putt to putt, line of sight keeps coming out of plane
























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