Guide to the Putting Stroke
Chapter Seven: The Spinal Tilt Putting Stroke
In Chapter Six, we noted that muscles at the side of the body can contract to pull the top of the spine to the left or right. The "spinal tilt" is the bending of the spine sideways left and right. It is also known as the lateral flexion of the spine.
This movement is the basis for our final basic putting stroke. In the stroke, the only muscles involved are those at the side of the body. They contract to pull the upper body to the left or right. The contractions cause the shoulder sockets, and ultimately the arms, wrists and putter, to move first in one direction and then the other, producing a putting stroke.
Muscle Joint Consistency
The Number of Muscle Groups Involved
Two muscle groups are involved - a group on each side of the abdomen.
The Degree of Coordination between the Muscle Groups Involved
The groups are not coordinated. One group can contract independently of the other. As a consequence, there is the potential for inconsistency in the stroke.
The Range of Movement Related to the Joints Involved
While there is some range of side bending movement, the range is more limited than with wrists, the ball and socket shoulder joint, and the bone structure holding the shoulder socket.
The Size of the Muscle Groups Involved
Relatively large muscles on the side of the torso are involved.
Momentum and the Mass Being Moved
The muscles move the upper body, shoulder sockets, arms, wrists and putter. The mass being moved is relatively large. As such, there is a significant momentum component to the stroke.
Stillness of the Eye Sockets
There is considerable movement to the eye sockets, as the top of the spine moves, causing the head and eye sockets to move. Use of the eyes to control the stroke is relatively difficult.
The Rotation Plane in Relation to the Vertical
Theoretically, if the player stands erect with the spine vertical to the ground, the rotation plane of the stroke is vertical. If the player leans forward, the rotation plane leaves the vertical, with the top of the plane moving toward the ball and the bottom toward the body.
The Rotation Circle Radius
The rotation circle centre is somewhere between the shoulder sockets and the ball, and most likely around the abdomen/wrist area. This diagram above illustrates this point. This radius when standing erect is closer to that of the wrist stroke than other strokes. The small radius accentuates problems related to the non-vertical plane of the stroke. The problem is increased because the arms need to be at an angle to the spine. The greater the angle, the smaller the rotation circle radius. Consequently, the stroke is best performed when the arms are at a relatively small angle to the spine.
Steadiness of the Rotation Centre
The rotation centre is steady only when the left and right contractions cause equal movements of the spine to both the left and right. Without inherent steadiness in the rotation centre, the stroke is prone to inconsistency.
The stroke is most vertical when performed standing erect. This means the eye position cannot be over the ball, as the ball will be too far away.
The side bends are limited in extent. In addition, the rotation radius is relatively small. Both factors will limit the power of the putting stroke.
There is no necessity to lean forward. In fact, the stroke is performed best without the forward lean. However, excessive side bending on, for example, long putts, could be problematic.
To get the most out of the spinal tilt stroke:
- Position feet so that the ball is approximately mid-way between them, since the low point in the swing arc is below the rotation centre, which is approximately in the middle of the body.
- Stand as erect as possible while still be able to stroke the ball. The erect stance puts the club face rotation in the vertical plane.
- Do not expect to make excessive use of the eye sockets to guide the stroke. The eye sockets will be moving. It may be possible, however, to counter this movement through the use of the muscles controlling the eye balls.
- Limit the angle between the arms and the club shaft by holding the wrists away from the body at setup. This will maximize the radius of the rotation circle.
- Think about moving the muscles at the sides of the body when executing the stroke, and do not move any other muscles. These are large muscles which lend themselves to mind control.
- Limit the use of this stroke to shorter putts. When more power is needed, use other strokes.
This is a simple stroke with potential for a relatively vertical swing plane and good line. However, it is intrinsically inconsistent, as it does not provide a steady eye position, nor does it allow the "eye over target" setup opportunity. In addition, it is not powerful.