There’s always an element of uncertainty when you agree to undergo a testing battery as an adult. Part of me internally notes that I’ve completed my fundamental schooling in my professional area, and that not all of it was enjoyable, much less pleasurable. Tests stand out as those proving grounds, moments of defining one’s effort and one’s worth. An analysis offers little comfort, as it promises to reveal things you suspect are inherently wrong with you, your method or your knowledge. As a result, the doctor’s office is hardly a place to go for solace and recreation.
What I know about myself is my age (late 40s), my physical condition (decent, not great, certainly not olympian) and my desire to continue to improve at golf as I age. Raising children seems to be behind me, so there is a bit more “me time” available and no valid excuse to not get better. And I don’t just mean better at recreational golf; I want to qualify for regional and state events and compete, so there needs to be an elevated level of competence.
My first stop was the Wehrle Dome in Lancaster. I’ve been there for Trackman sessions with Kevin Hoffstetter on prior occasions. During one of those meetings, Kevin mentioned the impending arrival of the SAM PuttLab, a gizmo that would do for the putting game and club what Trackman does for full-swing clubs. I signed up for an analysis, saved up the cash and arrived one Friday afternoon. As I go through the steps of the analysis, I’ll leave you with some images of what SAM PuttLab produced for me, in the event that you are visually-inclined.
Even though I’ve been faithful to a Callaway Two-Ball mallet putter this season, I haven’t had the success I envisioned and decided to go to the analysis with a club I’d stumbled onto: a long-neck Cameron Newport. One of those fortunate encounters and acquisitions, so I opted to thank fate and go with it. I like the Anser-style club head, to boot. Kevin strapped a triangular device with reader to the shaft, pulled an arm out of the SAM PuttLab device to angle my club face at hole center (ten feet away, on a flat surface) and away we went. I hit five putts to get a sense of putter path and face at impact. What I found was that my club rotates left (closes) a whole bunch past impact, although it closes just before impact from 1 degree open to 1.3 closed at impact. If I miss a bit left, I now understand why. Kevin revealed that I am well within the gray area of excellent putters, so it comes down to nerves for me (self diagnosis.)
My second battery included seven putts to assess and confirm elements like putter style, shaft angle at impact, rise angle of putter, timing and cadence of stroke, and other elements. Through the miracle of technology and its science, we determined that I’m a decently-consistent putter, although there is room through practice to improve. We also figured out that I have a glaring weak (see the red bar below) area, and that is back swing timing. It’s herky, it’s jerky and it’s anathemic to a good stroke under pressure. I suspect it contributes to my predisposition to bang putts past the hole at the worst possible times, so I’ll be working on that swing flaw.
We also checked out club lie (see my pointy toe above?) and club shaft length. Kevin suspected that I would need to take 2 degrees off the Cameron, but a surprise was in store. Turns out that this Cameron actually was made 2 degrees upright, so he had to kick it 4 degrees flat for my optimal address. Kevin also took off a degree of loft, since I have a tendency to de-loft (early wrist break?) before impact.
I’m going to invest in a tripod for my camera and take some video of my hand through impact. As they say, the camera usually doesn’t lie and I’d like to focus in on my mitts and see what is going on. I’ve a friend who also went through the analysis and gushed like a feller who’d found a hot new babe to hang out with. Consider that two thumbs up times two from us and consider a little SAM PuttLab analysis for your putter and putting game.
Oh, I’ve saved the irony for last. SAM thinks I should be using a mallet! I’ve got that Two-Ball in case my Cameron doesn’t work out, but here’s the rub: I made all five putts in the first test and six of seven in the second; the seventh lipped out. I’m going to give it the chance it deserves.
Thanks to Kevin Hoffstetter and Donna Henrich of Woods To Wedges, Inc. (Williamsville, NY) for the use of their SAM PuttLab studio and their assistance in decrypting and decyphering my putting game.