Putting Science Vs. Art: The Pelz and Stockton Debates

Dave Stockton’s book Unconscious Putting got me to thinking about the art vs. the science of putting. I’ve always liked Dave Pelz and his Putting Bible, and it’s a real “putting as a science” book. This shouldn’t be any surprise, because Pelz was a NASA research scientist before he became a short-game guru. I like his book because it’s so data-driven and minimizes the “this is my opinion about what works” part of golf instruction.

It often seems like you’re being asked to buy something when you read about the golf swing. Is stack and tilt better than the traditional swing? Is the anchored putter better? Just look at these guys that use it! They play great! It can make your life better, too! Pelz doesn’t do this. He just presents the data and lets you decide. You can distrust the data if you want, just like scientists argue about research results, but there’s no sales job. (And I suggest that you have a better reason than “I don’t believe it” if you distrust the data.)

Stockton is more on the art side of putting.  At the risk of greatly oversimplifying, he encourages you to get out of your own way and putt freely. He spends a little time talking about technique, but he’s really trying to get you to free yourself up and just roll the darn ball at the hole. He doesn’t argue against Pelz’s data, he just emphasizes a different part of the game.

Combine the two approaches, and I think you’ve got something. I’m prone to getting overly analytic (surprise, surprise), so I’ve been working on injecting some Stockton into my Pelz. So far, so good. My putting feels a lot better and I’m less likely to miss short putts because I tighten up and pull or push it. I hit the ball past the hole more, with less fear of missing the comeback putt, but I’m still trying to avoid going too far past. I’ve incorporated a little forward press to jump start a free stroke, and it feels good.

I even had 8 one putts in one round last week. Too bad the rest of my game was arguing about swing theory.

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