Todd Sones is a PGA Professional at White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills and is one of Golf Digest’s top 50 golf instructors in America. He’s also one of the leading putting instructors in the world and has worked with top professionals such as 1996 US Open Champion Steve Jones and 2003 US Women’s Open Champion Hilary Lunke.
In this interview, Todd shares his thoughts on the importance of being fit for a putter and why most golfers are missing putts due to having the wrong equipment. He also tells why top putters such as Brad Faxon and Ben Crenshaw have an immediate advantage over golfers who change putters frequently.
Chicago Golf Report: How important is it for golfers to be fit for the right putter and why do the majority of golfers go about it the wrong way?
Todd Sones: The reason I became so focused on putter fitting is just because so many people don’t have putters that fit them and if you understand how the length of the putter affects the player, no one can really justify. In other words, if a putter is too long for a player, they’re going to stand up too tall, their arms are going to get stuck into their body and they’re going to set up too far from the golf ball. Even worst, so many people don’t even have a chance to set up a good putting stroke fundamentally because their set up is so poor, but their set up is so poor because the putter doesn’t fit them.
I always work backwards. I actually did some videos this morning on putting. I’ve spent enough time with Tour players to tell you that the best players, their heads and their minds are clear when they putt. They think about the hole because they’re not focused on the mechanics because they roll the ball properly.
To roll the ball properly you have to have a good set up, because if you don’t then you’re always going to be thinking about your stroke. The putters are part of the set up, so if you teach putting the way I approach it, you can’t really help someone if they’ve got the wrong tool in their hand. That’s why I focus so much on fitting, just because how can you make someone a better putter if they’ve got the wrong tool?
An analogy I like that makes sense to me is that if you walked into an optometrist’s office and you couldn’t see clearly and the performance of your eyes wasn’t very good and everything was blurry and that optometrist said, “I’ve got a rack of glasses up there; go find one that helps you see better,” we wouldn’t accept that. You’d walk out of that office, right?
My point is the way we’ve taught people to buy putters is you walk into a store and you just start trying putters until you find one that you think helps you. That’s based on if you can make putts on a green for a few minutes, and then you buy it hoping that it helps you.
I think the process needs to be much like buying a pair of glasses. You see a professional to get set up properly to learn what length putter and what model putter and what design and what weight helps you to perform and then make an educated decision and a purchase based on performance not just randomness, if that makes sense to you.
Chicago Golf Report: With the people that you’ve worked with, the books that you’ve written about putting, can you tell us a little bit about Coutour Golf?
Todd Sones: I actually started Coutour Golf, and I have two patents. I patented the method of fitting putters and then I patented the tool that takes the measurement and then from that, on those patents, I started Coutour Golf. It’s not a big company. It’s for people who really want to get better.
Most people don’t want to take the time to figure it out. They want to go into a store and just try putters and get one that they hope helps them which is why they buy putters every six months or a year.
A lot of times I tell people, “If you get a custom putter that’s done properly you’re never going to need another putter.” I see that with the best players.
The best players, they get a model that works for them. They may get forced into making a change because a company wants to sell putters but ultimately a guy like Ben Crenshaw, Brad Faxon, you know, the guys that really perform well, they don’t really mess around with their putter. It’s like they have a great relationship with it, and so that’s what Coutour is about.
It’s about professionally getting set up properly. Getting a putter that really helps you, and then you’re done. Getting a new putter all the time actually I think hurts people because they never develop the same feel or develop confidence. It takes confidence to develop in a putter because you need to see yourself make putts and if you’ve done that over time, you shouldn’t really change it.
Chicago Golf Report: Is there a typical time frame? Say you’re working with a student and they got fit. They’ve now got a putter that fits them but they’re still, maybe they’re not comfortable, they’re not seeing the results, maybe essentially they’re not seeing themselves make these putts. How long will you typically tell a student to keep working at it, to keep trying, don’t give up? Is it kind of flexible with everybody or is there typically a growth curve where you’re going to have to put some time in before you start to feel the results?
Todd Sones: I think the answer to that is yes. In other words, sometimes we have a student that’s so bad fundamentally that they get fit and they get a lesson and they get set up better and they’re just better just because they were so off before. Sometimes you work with a player that’s kind of learned to compensate and they’re okay in their way but they’re not as good as they could be, so that player has to take a little step backward and get used to the set up and the feel and the bounds of the stroke and all those things, and it does take work.
People don’t really invest enough time and patience in working on their putting, which is too bad because any time I’ve got someone to really invest time in their putting and practice it pays off and usually it pays huge dividends.
An 18 handicap player that’s averaging 35, 36 putts around, many players think they’re averaging 32, 33 and when they add up the average it’s actually a lot higher. If you get that player to truly average 31 or 32, you could drop their score. That 18 handicap player could be a 14 just because he spends time on his putting. That’s a pretty big percentage in improvement in his score.
Listen to the this interview in its entirety below. You can learn more about Todd at ToddSones.com.
Interviewer: Walter Lis. Running Time: 19:48
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