In putting there are two theories as to how the putter should swing through the ball during the putting action.
The first theory is that the putter head should swing in a straight line backwards and forwards through the golf ball, never deviating from this path. The second theory is that the putter head should travel in a slight arc around the stance of the golfer. This arc swing path resembles the putter head swinging backwards and forwards like a door on a hinge and can be described as an inside, to square, to outside swing path.
A big factor in what theory to use is in what type of putter you use. There are two different types of putter - a blade headed putter and a mallet headed putter.
Blade - A blade headed putter is one where the head of the putter is fairly thin and quite long. Often the shaft of the putter attaches to the heel end rather than the middle of the putter head. The putter is thin and long and so there are often few markings with which to aim correctly. The weighting on this type of putter is not uniform across the putter face and so a putt not hit from the middle of the club face will twist the club head and project the ball off line. This type of putter favours an arc swing more because of the weighting and shape of the club head.
Mallet - A mallet headed putter is a putter that is fairly big and quite chunky. Often the putter has a large rounded back with obvious markings to help line up your putt. These putters come in all shapes and sizes and can often look like spaceships! The large back of the club head balances the weight of the putter head and stabilizes the head on off-centre hits meaning that this type of putter is more forgiving. A mallet putter favours the straight back and through swing as the balance and weight of the putter head is made to swing in a straight line.
Regardless of the type of putter you use it is possible to employ either putting swing theory to hit great putts. In fact you should always putt with the style that you feel most comfortable with as this will always bring more confidence which is the biggest factor in putting well.
In particular, the arc style putting swing is perhaps more suited to senior golfers than the straight back and through style. This is due to the flexibility and posture of the golfer. In order to swing the putter in a straight back and through style, the golfer must set up to the golf ball with good posture and so that the eyes are positioned directly aligned over the top of the golf ball. For many senior golfers good posture and leaning forward so much from the hips is not always possible, or is painful. This means that the senior golfer stands a little further away from the ball which promotes an arc style swing around the body rather than straight back and through the ball.
To perfect the arc style swing, make sure to work on the following points:
1. Keep the ball in the middle of the stance - this lets the putter head square up (point at the target) at the right time, consistently.
2. Keep the elbows close in to the body throughout the stroke - this keeps the putter stable and on a consistent arc. Imagine a 'Y' shape between the putter and the arms.
3. Keep the club head close to the ground throughout the stroke - this promotes a smooth action at all times.
4. Keep your head very still - this is the centre of the swing and the point from which everything rotates.
To practice, place a golf club on the ground pointing at your target. Then set up a golf ball next to, and just inside of the golf club on the ground with the putter face at right angles to it. As you perform your putting swing make sure that the putter head moves slightly away from the golf club on the ground both in the back swing and the forward swing.
Perform a consistent arc style swing to produce great putting results.