The Only Thing That Matters in Putting Setup: Forearm and Putter Shaft Alignment

As the title says, I’ve always thought that only one important part of a putting setup is that:

The back forearm needs to align with the putter shaft.

The big reason I figured now would be a good time to write about putting setup is Tiger’s change of putters, where he moved from the same old blade putter to a mallet.

This is a newsworthy change since he’s been with the Scotty Cameron putter forever, but more importantly, I noticed while watching him the second round at the Quicken Loans National, is that his putting stance changed as well.

See the difference?

The argument is that having the arm aligned takes wrist movement completely out of the equation. If you’re looking to feel what I’m saying, take a putter, bend those wrists to create a giant angle between the forearm and putter shaft, and try to keep the putter head stable. You can’t. The less movement the better. Another thing to think about is why people switched to anchored putters. One long shaft takes wrists out of the equation, similar to the affect forearm alignment does.

I’ll also say that the majority of the people reading this already have the forearm shaft alignment, because it’s the natural, athletic way to handle a putter.

If people can come up with a reason that not having the forearm shaft aligned is better, let me know. I want to see what you can come up with to disagree.

Remember though, setup isn’t the most important part of putting. Attitude is. I’ve written before about how the best mentality over a putt is to expect the putt to go in, and be surprised if it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter your setup, but if you don’t think the ball is going in the hole, you’re toast and will never be a great putter.

Picture time!

One thing to remember here is that camera angles sometimes make it difficult to know fore sure what the arm alignment is for the players. Google image searching only gets so far, but hopefully people agree with what these pictures show.

I’ll start with Jack Nicklaus, who, as you know, has quite the odd overall setup, but that back right forearm goes right up where his putter shaft is aligned. It was hard to find a picture of him exactly from behind, but here’s one of him right before making the winning putt at the British in 1970 at St. Andrews and launching that putter in the air with two hands.

Brad Faxon was another initial thought as he’s considered the best putter these days, and has credit for being the putting guru. Searching for his setup brought me to this picture in a forum, which includes Aaron Baddeley, who is considered the world’s best putter by this random British golf blog.


The comment with this picture from the site is that their eyes are in the same place, which is true, but more importantly is that their arm / shaft alignment is the same even though they’re in much different positions away from the ball, and their elbows are hanging differently as well.

Time for Stricker. This is a screenshot I took from a youtube video I found showing him down the line.

Look at where his eyes are! And his feet are incredibly close to the ball compared to Baddeley above especially.

I looked up strokes gained putting for the 2018 season so far, and Jason Day is the big winner. Let’s look at him.

He’s got a very rigid setup, but that right forearm is dead on aligned with the shaft.

Counter Examples

When you watch on Tour, there are some who still don’t have that aligned arm. One example to bring up is Ben Crenshaw, who always gets put on the lists of best putters of all time. Here’s a picture of him putting from his website, on a page where he talks about golf tips, where his hands are slightly down.

In that page he says: “Putting is an entirely personal sort of thing and I believe it should be your own. There is really no right or wrong way to stand or set up. If you follow the sport, you know there have been many successful putters with radically different methods.” I absolutely agree with sentences one and three. As for sentence two, I agree there is no right way to stand, but that the forearm shaft angle way of setting up is important.

One more for good measure, is Phil, who is currently listed at number 2 on strokes gained putting. Here’s a picture of him from in 2011.

Brutal. Looking at strokes gained putting from 2011, he was pretty bad, all the way down to losing 0.19 strokes a round in 144th place. Also brutal.

And here’s Phil now, right before he’s about to hit a putt that would roll off the green if he doesn’t save it.

Looking better Phil, but I’d still say you want those hand a little more up. And why not, here’s Phil hitting the moving ball, where his arms are aligned.

Remember above when I said that the alignment is the natural feeling? This picture shows it. Phil hitting a moving ball on the green gets his arm extending the putter shaft.

People can be successful without having the arm shaft alignment, because attitude is still the most important part in putting. If you’re able to get the putter face to hit the ball squarely every time, you’re golden. Having your back forearm is aligned with the putter shaft really helps make that putter return square, which is why you should make sure you do it.

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