Do you see the entire path or flight of your next shot, or do you see a straight line? How you see your next shot – and the style and fit of your clubs – can substantially affect your success!
According to Australian teaching professional Paul Buchanan, there are 2 significant ‘shot-reading’ styles that players use and both are effective in different ways. One is called “Linear”, the other is “Path”, and each is affected by the style and fit of your clubs – especially in the short game. I recently had the opportunity to work with Buchanan on a shot-reading clinic in Bridport, Australia, and the results were quite telling in terms of how players intend to play their shots vs. their results, and even how their clubs are fit.
For example, Linear shot-reading players normally aim straight for the pin and try to make their shots go straight. Linear players read putts straight and speak in terms of inches or feet of break on either side of the hole. Linear players are more likely to be aggressive putters much like Tom Watson, with a never-up-never-in mentality. They aren’t worried about running the ball past the hole as they see the return putt also straight.
Linear players see straight lines, have trouble with the concepts of trying to curve the ball, and have difficulty understanding why a ball above or below your feet would go off line. Linear players typically have angles on their putters, with offset ‘goose-necked’ hosels and strong alignment lines.
Linear players are less likely to worry about fitting their short clubs, preferring to rely on their swing to carry the day and not blame equipment. When practicing they are concerned with distance control and will practice straight putts with straight-line training aids. Linear players may benefit more from traditional straight-line putting instruction, and will take more time to line up the lines on the ball and the alignment of their club and body.
On the other hand, Path players see their putts and shots in curves and flight paths. They can see where the ball will be anywhere along the path or flight of the ball, and are more receptive of curving techniques.
Path players tend to be less aggressive and prefer to work with the slopes they face with the ball dying in the hole, much like Ben Crenshaw. If they do go past the hole they are likely to watch the ball as it goes by to get an idea of how it might break coming back. Path players have less angles and less offset hosels, and use less lines and alignment guides on their putters – or no lines at all.
Path players will pay more attention to fitting their short clubs, especially the lie angles, and will include fitting their putters. Path players will assess their shots more quickly, and see influences that Linear players might miss. Path players will more easily understand curves and slope influences, and may be better putters from long distances.
Path players tend to more readily understand the differences in fitting variables of their clubs, and understand that the more loft there is from club to club the more direction is lost by either an ill-fitted lie angle or a slope on the course. They know that driver fitting is important, and fitting their scoring clubs is at least as important, if not moreso.
Path players generally take less time to play their shots, translating what they see in path into a feel or a procedure much more quickly, suggesting that they are more into the procedure and movement than the alignment.
How Path vs. Linear affects learning and play is important: Linear players are more likely to set up alignment sticks and practice hitting straight shots, but may have more trouble on slopes and with different grass conditions. Path players put more emphasis into the movements and paths necessary to perform, and may be better on different slopes and grass conditions.
So are you a Linear player, or a Path player? According to Paul Buchanan, how you see your next shot has a big effect on how your clubs are fit, and on how you play your next shot.