Korn Ferry Tour player Danny Guise qualified for the Wells Fargo Championship on Monday, and his unconventional putting stroke has had many fans talking.
A few weeks ago, Guise qualified for the Valspar Championship and the video of his winning putt (second slide below) brought in a lot of comments about his ‘heads up’ putting stroke.
Looking anywhere but the ball while putting might seem unnatural or crazy.
Guise didn’t always putt looking at the hole. In fact, he says he made the switch because it actually felt more athletic and eliminated a lot of the overthinking that can bog down the stroke.
“Golf is one of the only sports where you don’t look at your target when shooting.” Guise says, “When I shifted from looking at the ball to looking at my target, I noticed that it freed up my stroke.”
Guise isn’t the first tour pro to find success using this method. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen are just a few tour pros that have tried ‘heads up putting’.
There was even a study published by Sasho J. MacKenzie and Neil R. MacInnis that evaluated visual focus strategies for breaking putts. They found that inside 14 feet, experienced golfers who normally look at the ball, or use a Near Target (NT) strategy, improved their putting performance by 5 percent simply by shifting to a Far Target (FT) strategy.
The study also revealed that players were leaving their misses closer to the hole. MacKenzie attributes the closer misses to better speed control and breaking putts being more sensitive to variability in speed.
While it might seem like there are no downsides to ‘heads up putting’, the study does recognise that there should be further research done to determine other factors it didn’t take into account like distance, skill level and a players predisposition to a certain visual focus strategy.
However, if you are thinking about trying FT, or heads-up, putting, there are a few things we think you should know first…
It’s easier than you think
A lot of golfers think that they’ll miss the ball if they are looking up when putting, or at least make contact outside the sweet spot. In reality, you’re only moving the putter a few centimetres back and a few centimetres through. If you want to try it, trust it and go for it.
Your target won’t be the hole
Unless your putt is straight and uphill, the chances of your target being the hole are slim. When using a FT approach, MacKenzie says “the far target should be a point on a line that extends out from the intended initial launch direction of the ball – the target line”.
For example, if you know that the putt is going to break a foot to the right, find a point to focus on that’s a foot to the left of the hole.
You don’t have to commit completely to start seeing benefits
In the study done by MacKenzie and MacInnis, they reference a book called Instinct Putting written by Eric Alpenfels, Dr Bob Christina and Dr Cary Heath. This book was one of the early studies done to highlight the benefits of target vision putting. In their research, Alpenfels and Christina found that golfers who implemented FT putting, even as a drill, noticed an improvement when they went back to their conventional approach.