Back in college I had an eccentric coach who’d played the tour back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He was a great player, but unlike the coaches today, much of his advice was founded less in science, and more in old school tips and tricks that read like pages from a hustler’s handbook. I could go on and on about these, but one in particular stuck with me not only because of the crazy thing he said to try in conjunction with it, but because I use it today. He told it to me like this…
“Now Mike, you want to grip that putter more in your finger-tips. Get as many of your finger-tips touching the grip as possible. You’ve got more nerve-endings in your finger-tips than anywhere else in your hand, so you really improve your feel when you get the grip in your finger-tips, rather than your palms.”
I was listening to this point, and thought it sounded like it made sense, so I began fiddling with my grip to see how I could get more of my finger-tips on it when he continued with this capper.
“Now right before you go to putt, take your glove off and go rub your hands on the bark of a tree until they’re almost raw, especially when you’ve got a really important putt. It fires up those nerve-endings and enhances your feel.”
“Huh?” I asked, looking up at him almost in disbelief. “But how are you supposed to play the rest of the round if your hands are raw?”
“Well,” he replied. “Save that trick for the last hole maybe. Can’t go to that well too often, but I’m telling you it works!”
Okay, now I’ll admit that after he told me the last part of his tip I almost threw the baby out with the bath-water and went back to putting my old way. After trying it, however, I realized I actually liked the feeling of gripping it more in the finger-tips. There was in fact some science to what he said, because the types of nerve-endings in your finger-tips, the ones involved in touch recognition, are very sensitive, but I ended up staying with this method for a different reason.
Gripping it in the finger-tips allows me to angle my hands so that I get the shaft of the putter aligned better with my forearms, decreasing the angle of the wrist set, and creating more of a single plane with the forearms directly opposing each other. Watch most PGA Tour Players and you will generally see this same single-plane approach with the shaft aligning with their forearms as well. It allows you to more easily putt from the shoulders, keeping the triangle created by the hands, arms, and shoulders more solid with less inherent angles. In addition to that, it limits one arm or hand from dominating the stroke through impact.
So if you’re looking for better feel on the greens you just might try adjusting your grip so that you’re gripping it more in the finger-tips. And in the process, make sure the shaft of the putter is aligned with your forearms. This change can essentially be like killing two birds with one stone, helping to improve both distance and direction. And while I won’t go so far as to recommend rubbing your hands on the bark of the nearest tree before you try it, I will say, as that old old college coach of mine once said, if you want to get that carried away, at least save it for the last hole!