Lou Stagner's Newsletter #61

Heads Up Putting

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Heads Up Putting

Have you ever tried heads up putting? This is where you look at the hole instead of the ball while making your stroke. I was first exposed to this style of putting by Dr. Sasho MacKenzie. There is a podcast he did and a presentation he gave on putting that are well worth your time. I recommend you watch them and give Sasho a follow.

Watch podcast here.
Watch presentation here.

What is Heads Up Putting?

Heads up putting involves staring at the hole (or your intended target) rather than the ball when pulling the putter back and hitting the ball. It's a big shift from the traditional method where you keep your eyes glued to the ball. The idea is to use your natural hand-eye coordination to improve your distance control.

How Does It Work?

The concept is pretty straightforward. By looking at the target, you can better gauge the distance and direction of your putt. It’s similar to how you naturally judge the distance when throwing a ball. Dr. Sasho MacKenzie’s research supports this approach, showing that heads up putting can improve your feel for the putt.

How to Practice Heads Up Putting

Start Small: Begin with short putts around 3-5 feet. Focus on keeping your head up and eyes on the target throughout the stroke.

Use Drills: Try the "Look and Go" drill. Look at the hole, take a practice stroke, then replicate that stroke while keeping your eyes on the target.

Gradual Increase: Gradually increase the distance of your putts as you become more comfortable with the technique.

Feedback and Adjustment: Use alignment aids or get feedback from a coach to ensure you’re maintaining good mechanics.

Benefits of Heads Up Putting

Improved Distance Control: You can better judge the necessary force for the putt, leading to improved distance control.

Enhanced Feel: Helps you develop a better feel for your putts, making it easier to adjust to different greens and conditions.

Reduced Tension: Keeping your head up can help reduce tension and anxiety, leading to a smoother, more natural stroke.

Potential Drawbacks

Adjustment Period: It can take time to get used to this new approach and might feel uncomfortable at first.

Consistency Issues: Some golfers might struggle with consistency, especially if they switch back and forth between heads up and traditional putting.

Personal Preference: Not everyone might find this method suits their style or mental approach to the game.

Personal Experience and Insights

I’ve been experimenting with heads up putting this year, particularly from about 25 feet and longer. Inside of that distance, I’m still putting heads down. My distance control has been MUCH BETTER. I’ll very likely stick with it for the rest of the year for putts outside ~25 feet. I also love using this for the Texas Wedge off the green.

After practicing heads up for a few days at home to get used to it, I did a total of 10 practice sessions outside, five with heads down putting and five with heads up putting. For each session I hit a total of 30 putts, 5 putts each from 25 feet, 30 feet, 35, 40, 45 and 50. I was putting to a ghost hole as I was only interested in distance/dispersion control for this test.

By the end of these sessions I hit 25 putts from each of the six distances, 150 putts in total for heads down putting and 150 putts in total for heads up putting.

Here are a few plots for the putts from 25 and 30 feet.

Heads Up Putting:

  • Average distance short/long: 0.44 feet long

  • Standard Deviation short/long: 2.45 feet

  • Average distance offline: 0.15 feet right of target

  • Standard Deviation offline: 1.25 feet

  • Percent putts short of hole: 44%

Heads Down Putting:

  • Average distance short/long: 0.83 feet short

  • Standard Deviation short/long: 3.10 feet

  • Average distance offline: 0.23 feet right of target

  • Standard Deviation offline: 2.02 feet

  • Percent putts short of hole: 62%

I have also been testing heads up putting on the course while playing. So far I have 32 attempts from ~25+ feet with heads up putting, and 35 putts from ~25+ feet with traditional heads down putting.

I am averaging 0.06 strokes gained per putt (against a scratch player) using heads up putting.

I am averaging -0.04 strokes gained per putt (against a scratch player) using traditional heads down putting. I am losing strokes with heads down putting.

I am averaging 0.40 strokes better per round with heads up putting compared to traditional heads down putting so far this year.

I am nearly a half a shot better per round with my lag putting!


My Thoughts

My distance control with heads up putting is better. I am going to start trying this from closer to the hole… move my threshold to 20 feet, then 15 feet. I am not sure I will use heads up putting from much closer than 15 feet, but I am going to experiment with all distances and see what works best for me.

If you have never tried heads up putting, I would encourage you to give it a shot. Work with it on the practice green for a period of time so you can get used to it. Sasho’s research has shown many players will see an uptick in performance with this approach. Give it a shot. See if it works for you!

Now that my putting is coming into form, I just need to get my ball striking to cooperate!

See you next week!


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    Have a great week!

Lou Stagner