Why I do not use lines for putting

March 26, 2020- by Steven E. Greer, MD

I think it was in 2017, I was playing the Scarlet course at Ohio State with a young otolaryngologist (i.e. an ear expert, or ENT doctor). I had recent started to use a line on my golf ball to guide my putts.

I almost went into ENT instead of plastics and know more about the inner ear balance system than most doctors. Putting next to an ENT doctor gave me an idea. I realized that it was silly of me to ignore what my feet and balance were telling me and prioritize instead a line on the ball that I might or might not have gotten right. On the 5th hole, I abandoned my short-lived golf ball line experiment, and I have never looked back.

I do not use lines on my golf ball, any training aids for alignment, or even have a line on my Ping putter. I have a good reason. It is not voodoo.

Our inner ear balance systems (i.e. the utricle and semicircular canals), special nerve endings in our feet and joints called proprioceptors, and our eyes, all provide input into our spinal cord region called the vestibular system. It is our autopilot.

We can sense less than one degree in slope with our feet. Our eyes can send the information to this autopilot and calculate the break of a putt. We are literally born knowing how to putt.

In addition, any athletic motion does not involve the higher brain, or the cortex. However all of these lines on the ball and putter get the cortex activated, which is the last thing you want. Putting is nerve-racking enough.

Distance control all comes from the autopilot. The second you start thinking about it, you are done.

When I putt, before I start the backswing, I look about a foot past the ball into an imaginary spot under the grass. I zone out. I then hit it. I never think about distance. The only direction I am thinking about is the four-inches behind the ball.

After I hit it, I do not look up. I can only control the stroke. If it feels solid, I am happy. If the ball goes in, then I got lucky. When I start to look up early, I know I am putting poorly and I fix it.

Look at the great players on tour with full swings good enough to get them into the top of the leader-board despite having below-average putting. What do Cam Champ, Tony Finau, Adam Scott, Bryson DeChambeau, or Phil Mickelson have in common? They hit the ball a mile and yet struggle with putting. They have turned to alternative grips and lines on the ball in desperation. Web Simpson is the one exception who uses a claw grip well.

Putting is like the Force in Star Wars. Just trust it. Also, stop even trying to make putts. Focus on the four-inches behind the ball.

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