There aren't a lot of weaknesses in Brandt Snedeker's game.
He drives the ball straight, hits a lot of greens in regulation, gets up and down when he misses and makes tons of birdies.
But there's one area where Snedeker truly stands out: his putting. The 2004 Vanderbilt graduate has established himself as one of the game's best on the greens, leading the PGA Tour's all-important “strokes gained putting” stat in 2012, and ranking among the top 20 all but one year since 2007.
His wizardry with the flat stick is a big reason Snedeker has climbed into the top 5 of the World Golf Ranking (as of May 2013). It's propelled “Sneds” to five career victories and counting, and made him the envy of golfers everywhere – including his peers on tour.
The great thing about Snedeker's stroke – it's incredibly simple. Let's have a look.
Snedeker's signature: Snedeker is known for his brief routine and a short, compact putting stroke, often referred to as a “pop” stroke.
Who else does it: Paul Azinger
What it looks like: The pop stroke was quite, well, popular back when greens were slower and bumpier than today's smooth, slick surfaces. However, you rarely see it among modern pros, who typically use a “pendulum” type motion emphasizing a smooth rocking of the arms and shoulders.
By contrast, Snedeker keeps his shoulders relatively still, takes the putter back a much shorter distance than most golfers, and hits the ball with an accelerating stroke. His putts track the line beautifully and often fall into the cup with perfect pace.
Why it works for Snedeker: Detractors of the pop stroke argue that it makes controlling speed difficult on fast greens. Snedeker doesn't seem to have much trouble. In fact, it's likely that his putting would suffer greatly were Snedeker to adopt a longer, slower stroke.
Why? Because to him, the pop stroke comes naturally. Snedeker putts instinctively, without much thought for technique. Watch how quickly he putts after setting up over the ball – about two seconds. There's no time for technical thoughts, let alone doubt.
How it can work for you: Perhaps the best thing about employing a short, popping stroke is that it makes decelerating the putter nearly impossible. And decelerating is one of the most common curses among amateurs.
To develop a more compact stroke with a firm “hit,” picture a tack in the back of the ball. Give the imaginary tack a good whack, as though trying to drive it into the ball. Here's another drill to shorten your putting stroke:
Also, consider emulating Snedeker's quick, decisive routine. Once you've picked a line, taken your address and aimed the putter, don't stand over the ball more than a few seconds.
Give the hole one look, then make your stroke. Not only will you eliminate negative thoughts, you'll putt more instinctively.
Brandt Snedeker Pro Golfer Compact Putting Stroke
To play golf at the highest level, you have to have a complete game. While most professional golfers have a particular area that is their 'strong suit', competing on the PGA Tour requires a player to have ability in all areas of the game. To be sure, Brandt Snedeker is no exception to this rule. If you watch Snedeker play, you will quickly find that he is very capable off the tee, from the fairway, and around the greens. Without a doubt, Brandt Snedeker is an incredibly talented player in all phases of the game.
With that said, most golf fans know Snedeker for one thing - his putting. When he is playing his best, Snedeker is a putting machine, making putt after putt on his way to low scores. Obviously putting is an incredibly important aspect of the game at the professional level, and Snedeker is consistently among the top performers on the greens. Making putts is the only way to keep posting scores in the 60's, and shooting in the 60's is a prerequisite if you are going to make your living as a professional golfer.
Not only does Snedeker have a unique ability to make putts, he also has a unique method for rolling the ball toward the hole. Unlike most of his competitors on Tour, who use long and flowing strokes to roll the ball, Snedeker uses a rather quick stroke to send the ball on its way. Most golf teachers would advise against the kind of tempo that Snedeker uses on the greens, but it certainly has proven effective for him through the years.
If you have trouble on the putting greens and would like to find a new alternative to perhaps breathe life into your stroke, consider using a quicker motion such as the one used by Snedeker. There may be some drawbacks to this style of putting, but there are some clear advantages as well. Only you know your putting stroke well enough to decide if the advantages gained through this method are ones that will address weaknesses in your current technique. Read through the content below to learn more about a compact putting stroke before you decide whether or not to give it a try for yourself.
Making changes to your putting stroke is an exciting opportunity to lower your scores in a short period of time. It can take months or years to see the benefits from altering your swing technique, but better putting can start to show on the score card almost immediately. If you are willing to invest some time and effort in making improvements to your putting, there are lower scores out there for the taking.
All of the instruction included below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
The Benefits of a Compact Putting Stroke
If you are like most golfers, you have probably spent most of your practice time on the putting green trying to make a smooth, flowing stroke. After all, that is the method that most golf teachers will encourage you to use, and it is the method used by many of the best players in the world. When you picture some of the best putters of all time, such as Brad Faxon, you see a smooth stroke in your mind. However, if that method has not paid off for you just yet, there is nothing wrong with trying an alternative approach. A short and compact putting stroke may not end up paying off in your game, but you will never know unless you give it a shot.
Before you get started trying out a short stroke in your own game, it might be helpful to know what you stand to gain from this technique. Following is a list of potential benefits that you could enjoy when employing a compact putting stroke.
- Better performance on short putts. Nearly every golfer has struggled with short putts from time to time. There is a lot of pressure involved when you are putting from inside of five feet or so, because you feel like you should make each and every one of those putts. While you might have no trouble making them when you are on the practice green all by yourself, it can be a totally different story out on the course playing a match with your friends. Suddenly those three footers look a lot longer, and you may miss a few along the way. If you struggle from short range, a compact stroke could be the answer. With a shorter backswing and a quicker tempo, there will be less time for the putter face to get off track. As long as you are aligned correctly and you keep your eyes down throughout the stroke, you should be able to pop these short putts in time and time again.
- Conquer slow greens. Many golfers talk about being afraid of fast greens, but it is actually slow greens that present more of a problem. When you have to hit the ball hard in order to have it reach the hole, the effort you put into your stroke can cause mechanical problems. Specifically, many golfers struggle with pulling their putts to the left when they have to hit them hard because of the additional action of the right hand through impact. However, when you use a short and compact stroke with an aggressive hit, you will have no trouble rolling the ball firm enough to deal with slow green speeds. Think about the courses you usually play - do you play on slow greens frequently? If so, a shorter stroke could be a good choice.
- Hit the sweet spot. A big factor in controlling the speed and direction of your putts is hitting the sweet spot on the face of the putter at impact. You probably think about the sweet spot more when swinging a driver or your irons, but it is just as important on the putting green. If you can hit your putts solidly time after time, your speed control will instantly improve. By changing to a shorter stroke, you may find that you are able to make contact in the center of the putter face more often than ever before. With less distance for the putter to travel back and through, there will be less time for things to go wrong. It still won't be easy to hit the sweet spot each time, but it just might be a little easier.
If you decide to test out a shorter stroke for yourself, you might find that you experience some or all of the benefits listed above - or you may find that none of these things come to fruition in your game. The only way to know, of course, is to give it a try. When you do head to the putting green to use a shorter stroke, watch for your performance in these three areas to see if there is any significant improvement to be observed.
The Downsides of a Compact Putting Stroke
It should be obvious that there are some downsides to come along with this putting style. After all, if it was all positives and no negatives, wouldn't everybody putt this way? As with everything else in the game, using this putting style is a matter of give and take. There will likely be some aspects of your putting that improve while using a compact stroke, and there will likely be some parts that regress slightly. In the end, you have to decide is the pros are worth the cons – and that answer will be different for every golfer.
Below is a list of a few common downsides that may be experienced when using a compact putting stroke.
- Loss of speed control on quick greens. This is the main downside, and it is the one that most people will experience when trying out this putting style for themselves. The advantage of using a long, flowing stroke is that you have much better feel over the speed of the putter head – and therefore, much better feel over the speed of your putts. When you shorten your backstroke and accelerate the putter quickly, it is harder to feel the speed up in your hands and arms. On slower greens, this won't be much of a problem, and you might even perform better (as mentioned above). However, on fast greens where you really need to have your speed control dialed in just right, you may run into trouble. At the very least, it will require plenty of practice time to learn how to control your speed properly when the putting surfaces get quick.
- Fighting a miss to the right. Using a short stroke can help you to get the ball online, but it can also lead to pushed putts that miss to the right of the hole. The issue here is how much you rotate the putter face during the backstroke. If you allow the putter face to rotate open to the target line in the backstroke, there may not be enough time to get back to square by impact. Therefore, this putting style is better suited to a player who keeps the putter face as square as possible to the line throughout the stroke. Often, this is referred to as a 'straight back, straight through' putting style. When you keep the face square, you don't have to worry about the timing of the stroke because the blade will always be pointed in the right direction.
- Failure under pressure. Brandt Snedeker has won tournaments at the highest level of the game, so obviously he is able to perform just fine with the putter when the pressure is on. However, some golfers may find this technique difficult to use when they get nervous. A quick and aggressive putting stroke relies on your hands more than a longer stroke, so you need to have great feel in order to execute. That might be fine during practice, but when your heart rate goes up on the course, the touch could quickly disappear. You need your putter to hold up when you come to the end of a competitive round with something on the line, so the compact putting stroke may not be the right choice if you notice nerves starting to interfere with your performance.
Just as with the list of positives, not everything on this list of negatives is going to apply to each golfer who tries this method. You may notice that none of these issues are present in your stroke, or you may find that there are other downsides which aren't even mentioned here at all. As you give this method a try for yourself, write down any negatives that you notice early on in the process and then monitor them over time. If those issues don't get better with experience, the compact putting stroke probably isn't for you.
Using This Method
When you go to the practice putting green for the first time to use a compact putting stroke, you need to know exactly what you are trying to do with the club. Simply shortening your current stroke and hoping for the best isn't going to be very successful – instead, you will need to make a few adjustments to your technique prior to getting started. With the right mechanics in place, you will give yourself the best possible chance to succeed with a compact putting stroke.
Following is a step-by-step process which should help you test out the compact putting method for yourself.
- To start, stand slightly closer to the ball at address. Since you are trying to make a compact stroke, you want the whole operation to be smaller – which means standing closer to the ball and shortening the distance from your body down to the ball. If necessary, you might want to choke down on the grip of your putter slightly in order to get comfortable with your new positioning.
- When you address the ball, make sure that it is lined up near the front of your stance, at least a few inches forward of center. You want to be able to hit up on the ball slightly at impact, and that isn't going to happen if the ball is back in the middle of your stance. For most golfers, lining the ball up just inside of the left foot will work nicely, but feel free to experiment until you find exactly the right position for you. Once you locate that 'sweet spot' for your putting ball position, do your best to repeat it over and over again.
- Since this is a putting stroke that requires a little more action in your hands than most other styles of putting, you want to make sure the grip of the putter is in your fingers instead of your palms. You need to be able to move your wrists freely to 'pop' the ball toward the hole, and that movement will be inhibited if you have the grip of the putter buried deep in your hands. In many ways, the grip you use for this putting stroke should be largely similar to the one you use when hitting full shots.
- With your setup complete, you can go ahead and hit your first few putts using a compact stroke. To make sure you actually tighten up your stroke as you are intending, try placing a couple of tees in the ground behind the putter head. For example, if you are hitting a short putt of five feet or less, give yourself just a few inches behind the putter to make the stroke. Place your putter down behind the ball as a guide, then stick the tees into the green to act as a 'stop sign' for the putter head. If you make too long of a stroke, your putter will hit the tees and you will have to start over. Test out various tee positions until you find one that gives you enough room to hit the putt, but not so much room that your stroke gets long again.
- It is important to remember that you need to keep your eyes down on the ball throughout this putting stroke. That advice applies no matter what kind of stroke mechanics you are trying to use. It is tempting to look up early when you are using a quick stroke because you feel like everything is happening so fast, but resist that urge and keep your eyes down until the ball is gone. On short putts, you don't have to look up at all – just listen for the ball to fall into the cup.
The best thing you can do when trying to learn a new putting stroke is simply to hit putt after putt, over and over again. You need the repetition to allow your hands and arms to get used to the technique you are trying to use. Keep the tee 'stop sign' in place behind your stroke and you should quickly become more comfortable with this technique. Remember, since the stroke is so short, you are going to have to accelerate the putter head aggressively through the ball. This is how Snedeker is able to get the ball to the hole even with a short stroke. Rather than a slow, sweeping motion, there should be a distinctive hit in your stroke, much like your full swing. Take a short backstroke, and then hit the ball at the hole with a quick accelerating action. Spend at least a few practice sessions working on this technique before you decide if you are going to make it a long-term addition to your game.
A Few Practice Tips
It is important that you practice the right way in order to get the best possible performance from this method. One practice key is going to be hitting plenty of long putts across the green. It is tempting to stand close to the hole and hit five footer after five footer, but it is really your lag putting performance that will make or break this method. Spend time during each practice session working on lagging the ball close to the cup from long range. While this might not be the most exciting part of your practice time, it can go a long way toward saving you strokes on the course.
Also, make sure you find some breaking putts on the practice green to work on in addition to putts over flat ground. Dealing with break in your putts can change the way you go about making your stroke, so you don't' want to get out onto the course only to have your technique fall apart because the ground under your feet is uneven. Your practice routine should closely mirror the situations you will face on the course, and you will certainly find some breaking putts from time to time.
One last piece of practice advice is to take your time and work through each putt as if it were actually a putt on the golf course for a birdie or a par. Many golfers rush through their practice routine, which really doesn't do much to help their improvement at the end of the day. Golf is not a fast game, and your practice routine should reflect the casual pace that is experienced on the course. Take your time to read and line up each putt before hitting it on the practice green, because that is exactly what you are going to do on the course.
Brandt Snedeker has a great all-around golf game, yet most golf fans will always think of his incredible putting ability whenever his name comes up. There is no doubt that Snedeker's putting technique is rare among professional golfers, but that doesn't make it any less effective. If you are having trouble getting putts to fall in with your conventional stroke, it might be worth your time to give this unique method a try. If it doesn't work out, you can always go back to your old stroke – but if it does work out, you could be in line for some of the best scores of your life.