The pendulum or plump-bob technique sees players holding their putters from the top of the grip allowing the shaft to fall and intersect the target.
This hanging pendulum splits the potential putt into two halves allowing players to better assess the lie of the land on both sides of the putter shaft. Reading the line consistently is extremely important when putting as correct judgment of the surface's contours will allow the golfer to correctly assess the speed at which the putt should be hit and how far outside a hole the ball should be aimed. Advocates of the pendulum or plump bob method say that splitting a putt in two by using the club shaft helps break up the green reading process into equal, simpler slices.
Imagine a 20 feet downhill putt turning severely from left to right across the green. This challenging putt is something all players will be faced with multiple times on multiple courses during the duration of a season. It's a vital putt and you need to be sure of the read to be confident of stroking the putt down the green and possibly bagging a birdie. Use the following pendulum method to see if this form of green reading will work in your game.
1. Take four paces back from your ball on the green and crouch down low to bring your eyes down closer to the level of the grass.
2. Hold your putter out in front of your body by the handle with a fully extended arm. Allow the putter shaft to fall and intersect your ball lying on the green.
3. First, take in the lie of the land from beyond the green (to ensure you don't miss anything obvious like being on the side of a hill!). Depending on your dominant eye (simple enough to find out with a simple test http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-Your-Dominant-Eye) assess each side of the shaft in turn. If you are left eye dominant start with the left hand side and vice versa if you are right eye dominant.
4. See on which side of the shaft the land is higher.
5. Then move your vision closer the hole, again assess each side of the shaft. Judge again the height of the ground level on each side of the hole at varying distances from the hole to the ball until a firm pattern begins to emerge.
6. After the first reading, walk round the back of the hole and repeat the process. By judging the putt from both sides of the hole using the pendulum method it will be easier to be more confident about your read.
7. Come back behind the ball and decide your line and pace. Envisage the ball rolling down your selected line and dropping in the hole.
8. Step into the side of the ball, take a few practice strokes and roll the putt home.
There are many different methods for reading the line of putts and every person responds differently. Try the pendulum method whilst playing and see if you can incorporate it into your pre-shot routine.
How to Use a Pendulum – Plumb Bob Method of Lining Up Putts
Reading greens is one of the most important skills you can develop in the game of golf. When you think about improving your game, you probably think first about how you can make a better swing, or a better putting stroke. However, the decisions you make on the course have just as much to do with your score as the technique you use – and being able to pick out the right line for your putts over and over again will quickly help you become a better player. Most amateur golfers struggle to read greens correctly, meaning they aren't going to make putts even if they do execute a nice stroke.
As you spend time at the practice facility of your local course working on your game, honing your skills in the area of green reading is a great idea. Few players actually take time out to work on green reading, and that is a mistake – just setting aside a few minutes per practice session to sharpen your green reading talents can pay off in a big way on the course. Green reading is more of an art than a science, meaning it is something that you can get better and better at with each practice session. You don't have to resign yourself to struggling with this area of the game forever. If you are willing to work hard, you can absolutely see improvements.
In this article, we are going to address a specific part of green reading that you may wish to incorporate into your game – the plumb bob method. You have probably seen golfers using this method on the course previously, even if you didn't know exactly what they were doing at the time. Have you ever noticed another golfer on the course holding their putter straight up and down from behind the ball while reading their putt? If so, you have seen the plumb bob in action. Not all golfers use this approach in order to read greens – and it seems to have gotten less and less popular over time – but some players still swear by the information that it can provide.
Before we get into this topic, it is important to note that some players find this method not to work at all for their green reading needs. This is somewhat of a divisive issue in golf – some players believe the plumb bob is incredibly valuable, while others think it is totally pointless. In this article, we are going to outline the basic method that can be used to plumb bob so you can make up your own mind. There is no guarantee that this method will work for you, so keep that in mind going into the process. The best thing you can do is to try it out on the practice green and check on the results – if you find it does work, then you may wish to add it to your routine on the course. If not, you can forget about it and move on to other green reading technique.
All of the content in this article is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
How It Works
One of the main reasons most golfers never bother to try out the plumb bob method for themselves is the simple fact that they don't understand how it works. Unless you know someone who already uses this method and can teach you the ropes, it can be tough to figure out what people are doing when they look down the putting line while holding their putter up in the air. Fortunately, by reading through this article, you should be able to get a clear picture for how this is supposed to work.
The first thing you need to understand is that the putter needs to hang straight down toward the ground if this method is going to have any chance of working for you. To make your putter hang straight down, grab on to the shaft of the putter by pinching it between your thumb and your middle finger. You should pinch the shaft just below the end of the grip, so that the putter head is hanging down toward the ground. You want to hold on just tight enough to control the putter, but not so tight that you influence its movement. By allowing the putter to hang free, you can use gravity to your advantage in forcing the putter into a vertical position.
Once you learn how to allow your putter to hang properly, the next thing to work on is your positioning on the green. You need to stand in the right spot if this method is going to have a chance to work correctly. The best place to stand when trying to plumb bob a putt is a few feet behind the ball, on an extension of the line that runs from the ball to the hole. This is a natural place to stand, as it is approximately where most players would stand when reading a putt even without the plumb bob method. By standing behind the ball, you will be able to see both the ball and the hole at the same time – which is exactly what you need in order to make this work.
With the putter hanging freely and your body in the right position, it is time to go ahead and actually read the putt. At this point, you are going to hold the putter out in front of you with your arm (whichever arm is holding the putter) extended. The goal is to line up the bottom of the putter shaft with the ball as it rests on the green, while the top of the putter shaft is lined up over the hole. When you are lined up correctly, the shaft should be obscuring both the hole and the ball from your view.
Now that you have the putter in the right spot, with the bottom of the shaft covering the ball and the top of the shaft covering the hole, you are finally ready to get your read. To do so, you are going to close your non-dominant eye and look down the line with your dominant eye only. If you don't know which is your dominant eye, you will need to figure that out before this method is going to work for you properly. When only your dominant eye is open, look up toward the hole – which side of the shaft does it appear on? If you can see the hole on the left of the shaft, the putt should break to the left. If the hole appears on the right, the putt will likely break to the right. Of course, if the hole still appears to be behind the shaft, there should be little or no break in the putt.
While it might seem like a long process to get to the read when using the plumb bob method, the whole sequence should only take you a few seconds once you get the hang of it. Practice this method on the putting green at your local course to learn how it works, and you will soon feel comfortable repeating it without having to think through each step one at a time.
Testing It Out
As was mentioned earlier, you shouldn't just assume that this method of reading greens is going to work for you. It is more successful for some golfers than others, so taking the time to test it out during practice is important. There is nothing on the line when you are just hitting putts on the practice green, so you can feel free to experiment in order to figure out if plumb bobbing your putts is going to be a good idea on the course.
The best way to test this method for yourself is to start with a putt that has a known break. Roll a few putts around the practice green and find one that has a significant and obvious break in one direction. For example, you may be able to find a 20-foot putt that breaks at least a foot to the left as it rolls. When you locate such a putt, you can use it to test out the accuracy of your plumb bob method. Position your ball for this putt, and stand behind the ball to plumb bob the read. Once you are finished, compare the results to what you would have expected to see based upon the break that you know exists. Did the plumb bob show the ball breaking to the right correctly? Or did it have it wrong? The success or failure of the process during these trials will tell you all you need to know about how accurately the method is working.
Once you get an idea of whether or not the plumb bob is working on dramatically breaking putts, you can gradually work on reading more-subtle breaks on the practice green. To do this, you are going to basically work backwards on getting your read. Instead of reading a putt before you hit it, you are going to hit the putt first and then read it with the plumb bob to see if your read matches with reality. Roll your ball toward a hole in the distance, carefully watch how it breaks, and then go through the process of getting the read. If you are able to get reads which match up with how the ball rolled along the ground, it is safe to say that you are on the right track with your plumb bob skills.
Of course, at some point, you are going to have to transition from the putting green to the golf course if you plan to continue using the plumb bob method. When you make that transition, you need to be fully dedicated to the read that you are getting from the plumb bob. If you believe that it has been working properly for you on the practice green, then you should take that belief with you out onto the course. One of the worst things you can do as a golfer is to hit a putt when you don't really believe if the line that you have selected. Confidence and belief is key when putting, so commit yourself to the line you have picked out and make the best stroke possible each and every time.
Much like reading the green with any other method, you aren't going to read each putt perfectly even when you have the plumb bob working properly. There are simply too many variables involved in putting to expect the ball to curve right into the cup each and every time, so be careful not to set your standards too high. You want the plumb bob to get the read right most of the time, of course, but missing one or two along the way does not mean you should immediately throw the whole thing out in favor of something else.
Limitations of the Plumb Bob Method
While plumb bobbing putts is something that many players have done with great success over the years, it is certainly not a perfect method. There are some limitations to be considered when using this approach, so you need to understand those issues before getting started in order to sidestep them when they do pop up. By knowing the weaknesses of the plumb bob approach, you can be sure to only use it in situations where it is likely to help you get a better read.
- Double-breaking putts. If you are facing a putt that is going to break in two or more directions as it travels toward the hole, you will want to keep the plumb bob method out of the read. The presence of more than one break along the way is going to cause the plumb bob method to have trouble, and it may even wind up giving you a completely incorrect read of the putt overall. Instead of plumb bobbing this kind of putt, simply use your eyes to break down the putt into sections and do your best to come up with a read that will leave you close to the hole in the end. Double-breaking putts are always going to be difficult, so you should be focused on successfully two-putting so you can move on to the next hole. Remember, when reading this kind of putt, it is the break at the end that is going to be the most influential, so give that part of the slope the biggest consideration in your read.
- Short putts. When you start to get within a few feet of the hole, you will again want to put the plump bob method away. Being so close means that you are going to have a hard time getting any kind of useful information on the read, unless the putt is breaking dramatically from one side to the other – in which case, you probably won't need the plumb bob to help you anyway. Once you are within a couple steps of the hole, rely on your eyes to tell you which line is going to lead to a successful putt. From short range, the stroke becomes more important than the line anyway, as a well-stroked putt that starts inside the hole will usually hold on and fall in. Only when the green has a lot of slope will you need to worry about getting a perfectly detailed read in advance of hitting the putt.
- Dealing with grain. If you play golf on courses that feature a grass with a strong grain – such as Bermuda, which is common in warmer climates – you might not be able to get much out of plumb bobbing your putts. Sure, the plumb bob still may be able to help you read the slope, but that is only have the battle on greens with strong grain. The grain of the grass – the direction in which it is growing – will have a profound effect on the path that the ball takes toward the hole. You won't learn anything about the grain by using the plumb bob, meaning the helpfulness of this method is going to be limited when grain is an issue. To deal with grain, look for the shading of the grass and use color to figure out which direction the ball will move. If the grass you are looking at is dark, the grain is likely running toward you, while lighter-looking grass indicates that the grain is moving away. It takes practice to read grain in addition to slope while putting, but this is a necessary chore in some parts of the golfing world.
As you can see, the plumb bob method isn't something that you are going to be able to use all the time. That's okay – it should be seen more as a tool that you can have available to you, rather than as a sole means of reading the green. If you are able to use the plumb bob from time to time to gain information that helps you hole putts, then this method is doing its job nicely. The final read is always going to be up to you, and using the plumb bob method is just one of many ways to pick out the right line.
Plumb Bob When Chipping?
When chipping from around the greens, you might find that you can actually use the plumb bob method to help get a better idea of the line you should use for your chip shots. If you are like many golfers, you may not even bother reading your chip shots at all – which is a mistake. You should read the green just as carefully when chipping as you do when putting. By getting a great read before you hit a chip, you will stand a good chance at placing the ball close to the hole – and you might even knock one in from time to time.
Of course, it wouldn't make much sense to plumb bob your entire chip shot from behind the ball, as you are going to be going over a variety of slopes before your ball lands and rolls out toward the cup. So, instead of going through the usual routine, you are going to walk up onto the green and plumb bob the last 15 or 20 feet of the shot. Since the ball won't be down on the green, pick out a spot on the ground (such as an old ball mark) to use as a substitute. Go through the rest of the process as usual and use the information you gather as you pick out the line to be used for your chip.
It is worth noting quickly that you don't want to become so obsessed with the line of your chip shot that you forget to consider the speed that you need to use. Speed is always more important than line in the short game, whether you are chipping or putting. If you can get the speed right on a chip shot, you will almost certainly leave the ball close to the hole even if you do miss the line a bit. So, take a moment to use the plumb bob prior to hitting your chip, but remember to return your attention to the speed of the shot before you play away.
Is the plumb bob method reading putts something that is going to work for everyone? No – absolutely not. Plenty of players have had no luck at all with this method over the years. However, some players manage to get great re