The Importance of a Level Spine
27 Jan 2009
by Pat O'Brien

see also: Pat O'Brien: The Short Game Blog


One of the more overlooked things in putting is having too much spine tilt to the right. I see it everyday with my students, and I am certainly as guilty of it as anybody. We are used to tilting to varying degrees when we hit full shots, but it is imperative to lose that tilt when you step onto the putting green. Here is why:

When your spine is tilted to the right, there is a very good chance your neck is also tilted. Simply put, your right ear is lower than your left. Your eyeline is therefore not only pointed upward, but also to the right of your shoulder line. Your aim gets compromised and your putter path will go low and inside on the backswing, and high and to the right on the follow through. That is your perception of the correct path. If you hit putts on the heel or thin, and left to righters scare the heck out of you, you are too tilted! Most of the time in this position, your aim will be to the right of where you think it is. You can see it is very hard to be consistent when all of your lines do not match up.

In addition to these things, as if that is not enough, your body is out of balance. It is harder for your hands to move freely back and especially through. Try this test: Set up without a putter and your hands together. Tilt to the right and notice your weight go more to your right leg. Now move your hands back and through. You should notice some resistance and how much your hands travel upward on the way through. It is like they are fighting an uphill battle. You may, however, not notice it as much until you experience the difference.

When your spine is level, your pectoral muscles are even, as a reference point. Your shoulders are fairly level, with the right being slightly lower because the right hand is lower on the putter. It is a great deal easier to have your eyes level and square in this position. Your weight will be evenly distributed. Your aim and path of the putter will improve immediately. When your hands are even with your sternum or navel, you are truly centered and your body is in a calm state. Your hands will move back and through without effort. Perhaps now you can feel the difference.

I have found the easiest way to achieve this position is to take your left hand and touch the top of your left knee on the outside of your leg. Do this before you place the putter behind the ball. Now grip the putter and keep the position the same. It is that simple! You may feel like you are more on your left side, but you are not. Check it in a mirror to change your perception and trust it. You are ready to make a free stroke, especially when you grip it correctly. Remember, a putter is designed to swing on an arc, and that arc travels UPWARD on the backswing, then down through the ball, then back up. I do not agree with the putter moving low to low. That takes way too much effort!
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