the putting stroke of rory Mcilroy

Putting Stroke Types: The Arc vs Straight Back Method

Why is the putting stroke important? Putting makes up 40% of your score on average and for some people it’s an even higher percentage.

For example, let’s say you average 33 putts per round and shoot an 85 on average, then using simple math 33 putting strokes/85 total strokes equals 39% in this example.

So it’s important that you spend a huge chunk of your practice time everyday on putting because this will set you apart from the average golfer and lower your score the most.

Resource: The Ultimate Putting Manual + Practice Drills 

In order to get better at putting though, you’ll need to have a solid putting stroke. Otherwise, it will be hard to improve your putting stats if you don’t have a solid fundamental putting stroke because your poor stroke will cause inconsistent putting results.

So are you ready to learn the key aspects of the putting stroke and learn how to improve your own stroke? Let’s get started.

Editor’s Note: If you want a comprehensive practice plan to better your putting skills, check out our 12 week practice academy you can complete at your own pace. Download the plan and worksheets from your online membership dashboard and get started improving your putting stroke and skills.

The Two Different Types of Putting Strokes

Every golfer has a different putting stroke but every golfer’s stroke will fall under one of the following two types.

  • Arcing Putting Stroke
  • Straight Putting Stroke

When you set up to putt your ball, you automatically imagine a target line that you want your ball to start off on and it runs parallel to your stance line.

Arc Putters take their putter back slightly to the inside of this target line in an arcing motion. Then they follow this arc back to impact and follow through by bringing the putter back to slightly inside of the target line to complete the forward stroke.

Straight Putters keep the putter on the target line during the entire stroke.

If you imagine setting two thick Harry Potter books down on the ground leaving a gap between them wide enough for your putter and you attempted practice strokes between these two books.

Then you would be forced to keep a straight putting stroke. If you were an arcing putter then you’d struggle to not collide with the inner book on the back stroke.

Putting Stroke vs Face Relation

In order to be successful at either stroke, you need to understand the importance of the putter face in relation to each stroke type.

For straight back straight through putters, it’s important to keep the putter face square to the target line at impact. A square face will start the ball on line and will allow you to make more short putts when accuracy is crucial.

For arcing putters, it’s important that the putter face stays square to the arc line throughout the entire stroke. Keeping the face square to the target line doesn’t work for this stroke type because imagine yourself trying to hold the face square while moving the putter diagonally. It’s not a natural motion. Instead, you naturally need to open the face slightly on the back stroke to keep it square to the changing arc angle.

If you keep the face square to this arc, then you’ll naturally have a square face at impact when the arc is back at it’s square point to the target.

putting arc motion

Which Putting Stroke Type is Best?

Ideally, you want a straight putting stroke.

It’s easier to control and you can solely focus on keeping the face square to the target line. Arcing strokes force you to adjust the putter face throughout the stroke and therefore creates a higher chance that you leave the face open or closed at impact which will cause your putts to go either left or right of your target line.

The straight putting stroke is simple and easiest to correct because as mentioned above you can get a few thick books and make a path to follow.

You want to keep the game of golf simple.

So if you currently have an arcing stroke, assess how severe your arc is. The less arc, the easier the putter is to control and the more consistency you’ll see in your putts. There’s nothing wrong with having an arc stroke but you’ll need to work hard to perfect keeping the face square to the arc path as well as keeping a consistent arc. Some arc putters may struggle because they take the putter back on difference arc paths every putt.

With the straight back putt, your only focus is to take the putter straight back and you won’t have much variance from putt to putt if you master your control over your stroke.

Resource: Try These Challenging Short Game Practice Routines

Fit Your Putting Stroke With the Correct Putter

Depending on your stroke type, you’ll want to have the proper putter.

Golf research has discovered that straight back putters have an easier time keeping the putter square when the putter’s weight is evenly distributed throughout the head. Therefore if you have this stroke type you should consider purchasing an even weighted putter if you haven’t already.

Arcing putters have to rotate the face during the stroke slight degrees, so researchers and golf technology designers created the toe-weighted putter to assist this slight opening and closing of the face. The weight in the toe helps the arcing putter keep control and not over or under rotate the face.

If you want to look at the different weighted putters here is a link for you to do so.

To test which putter you currently have, you can balance it on your finger or let the putter head hang over the edge of a table and look at how the putter head hangs.

putter toe hang golf practice guides

If you find that you prefer a straight back straight through putting stroke, then you’ll need to purchase a face balanced putter where the weight is evenly distributed throughout the putter face. See my article below.

Read: Best Face Balanced Putters Reviewed

Concluding Thoughts

Let’s make it clear that you can be a great putter regardless of which stroke type you have. Tiger Woods uses the arc putting stroke last we checked and Rory McIlroy uses a more straight back straight through putting stroke. Both are highly successful golfers and putters.

For those of you who are struggling with putting, we recommend trying to switch to the straight back stroke due to it’s simplicity and easier ability to control.

You can use two books, two golf clubs, etc to create a path for you to work on keeping the putter straight and then implement a golf ball and hole to test it and make sure your putts are going straight.

The most important factor of the putting stroke is that your face is square at impact. Remember this if you are feeling discouraged that your path isn’t as straight as you’d like it to be. What really matters is that you’re square at impact and you start the golf ball on the proper line.

If you want to check out our Ultimate Putting Tutorial we dive into 7,600 words of putting instruction covering all aspects of putting.

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Nick Foy, Instructor

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