Golf can be a frustrating game - master one part of it, and another part goes wrong. But as Colin Channon reports, help is at hand for anyone who needs help on the greens...
Putting, they say, is a game within a game. Hitting woods and irons solidly is only one part. Actually getting that little ball into the hole is another mystery altogether.
Now, though, putting has gone hi-tech.
The latest computer technology is being put to good use so we handicap golfers can find out why we keep missing those short putts - and, more importantly, how we can stop doing it.
A room close to the driving range at Goodwood has been transformed into a putting guru’s dream. There are computer bits and pieces everywhere.
So how does it help?
Goodwood’s head professional Christian Fogden explained: “The computer technology is amazing - and it really can help.
“Some players have three or four putters, and when they start missing putts, they switch to another putter and hope that will cure it. But the fault, the reason they are missing putts, remains.
“The technology can highlight the reasons why the putts are missing in the first place.”
To be honest, putting should be easy. After picking the right line, and hitting the ball at the right pace, it’s all about
delivering the putter face square to your target line at impact.
Easy, eh? Only it’s not.
But the computers can help.
A gizmo attached to the putter gauges how much the club turns in the hands during the stroke. Another computer displays where on the putter head the ball is struck.
A player makes five putts at a hole several feet away, trying to hole each one. And then the computer works out what is wrong with your stroke.
Christian says: “In our layout the putt is perfectly straight, so if the ball doesn’t go in the hole, it’s because the putter isn’t being taken back and through on the right line.
“The computer shows how many degrees the clubhead turns on the way back, how square the putter face is when it contacts the ball, and how much the club turns on the way through. All we are looking for is a repetitive stroke that delivers a clubhead square to the ball at contact.”
And, equally important, is that the ball is struck in the same place on the putter head each time.
“If the strike is not consistent, then one putt will zoom past the hole, and the next will finish short,” says Christian.
“We want players to be in a position that if they don’t hole the putt, the next stroke is just tapping the ball in - none of us likes to be left with awkward three-footers because the ball has gone too far, or hasn’t reached the hole at all.”
Most right-handed players aim too far right with their putts, says Christian. And he’s a big advocate of the professional’s trick of marking each ball with a solid line around its circumference.
“The idea is to have the that black mark pointing along the line you want your putt to go,” he said.
“If you need to start the ball three inches to the right of the hole, aim the line three inches to the right. Then, when you make your putt, ensure the mark on the putter head that shows the sweet spot strikes the line.
“It helps with delivering a quality, consistent strike, and also helps with the aim.”
The computer gizmo underlines how, when it comes to putting, fractions make a difference. For a 10ft putt, if the putter is just three degrees out, the ball will miss the hole by eight inches.
And the system - it’s called Science and Motion, or SAM for short - will pick up every little nuance of your putt - it measures 28 different parameters of the putting stroke, to 0.1 of a degree, and 0.1mph.
“The computers show the results of the putting stroke, and then it’s down to the professional to make the changes needed to help each player putt more consistently,” says Christian.
“We need to work on a player’s technique so he has a more realistic chance of holing more putts.
“The best putters in the game don’t let their wrists hinge in the stroke - it’s very much keeping them as still as possible, and turning the shoulders.”
- The normal price for a one-hour putting lesson, using the new technology, is £60. Observer readers can book a lesson with Christian Fogden for a special price of £45 until the end of January 2014. Email him at email@example.com for details.