Monday, 20 August 2012

Aimpoint Golf - The Mist Is Lifting

Let me ask you a question. How well do you putt? I'm sure many of you will say "Hey Homer I putt well and hole my fair share". Fair enough say I. Let me ask you another question. Forget putting mechanics, how well do you read the putt? Can you honestly say you can look at every twenty foot putt and say with sincerity you feel confident you know which way the ball will break and how much break to allow?

I attended a seminar by Aimpoint Golf at the Downshire Golf Centre last Friday. Hosted by Jamie Donaldson, their European Senior Instructor it was a two and a half hour course giving detailed information on how to truly read a green and give yourself the correct break. Founded by Mark Sweeney as a ground breaking TV graphic in 2007 many of you will have seen Aimpoint on the Golf Channel coverage of the US PGA Tour. However he soon realised the potential to show the club golfer the correct way to aim their putts correctly and Aimpoint Green Reading was born.

Mark Sweeney - founder of Aimpoint
According to their blurb "After going through the AimPoint Green Reading education, you will never again have to guess at how much a putts breaks. Any putt. Learn that putting is predictable and discover the most effective and reliable ways to determine the direction and precise amount of break for any putt, all based on gravity (only works on earth)". You have to say that is a big sell and going to be hard to live up to.

They have a snazzy video clip which emphasis the point

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQQoGxFfbeM

So what is it all about and does it live up to the hype. It is an intense interactive course but Jamie is an excellent teacher. As well as working alongside tour pros he is able to deliver the key component of green reading in a detailed yet easy to grasp manner. He takes each of the things that make a read and explains their relevance and encourages the group to learn for themselves with some practical examples using the contours of the putting green. It is a real hands on learning experience.

After learning how to read a green, the pupils finally get their hands on their own chart which gives the magic number and shows the amount of break for the putt based on the information gleaned by the read using the techniques shown. The one thing that each and every one of us found was how much break some putts need. I would look at a putt and think 3-4 balls outside the cup. After doing the read, even on a short ten footer the break could be as much as 10 inches and I have clearly been guilty of under estimating break all these years.

The group was split into pairs and we took it in turns to read a putt under Jamie's expert eye. He watched how we assessed the putt making sure we approached the putt from the correct angle, took into account the key factors and used the chart correctly to ascertain the break. The challenge was then to make the putt and standing over the ball after making a read was arguably more nerve wracking than holing a vital putt on the 18th green.

It is something that will take a lot of time and practise to perfect and the quality of the read will improve over time making the line and break something I can trust. It's then down to me to make a decent stroke and deliver the ball accurately and at the correct pace. I've invested in a training aid to help confirm my reads on the practice green and playing a few holes on my own

The Bubble will confirm my reads and help my confidence grow as I continue to learn how to read greens
After all the hype, was it worth the cost? At £90 it wasn't cheap but I should point out that having paid this fee, I am entitled to attend as many fundamental level seminars as I want or feel I need to really grasp the principles. This means I could go another 2-3 times if I desire and it would be free so based on that it isn't as excessive as it sounds.

Does it work? It's early days and I did use it the day after in the monthly stableford. I did feel a little self conscious going through the motions to get my read and looking at the chart. However I did feel happier in the knowledge that if the book said 3 inches left to right then it was 3 inches left to right. I didn't make any putts from distance but each and every one of them gave the hole a chance. I usually have at least one putt per round that I think will go one way or the other and inevitably it will go the opposite way and I never seem to see it. The round on Saturday had none of these and by looking at the lie of the green and using what I was shown I could make a reasonable read. The quality of these will get better over time.

As with a lot of things, Aimpoint won't appeal to everyone and that's fair enough. However if like me you have struggled more with the reading of putts than the stroke itself then it is definitely worth a look. I stand over the ball confident in my ability to send it where I've aimed but now I have ability to aim correctly and that makes a big difference.

If you are interested, you can find out more at Jamie's own site at http://jamiedonaldson.co.uk/Jamie_Donaldson/Home.html or follow him via Twitter at @golfdonaldson. If you still can't find a course being held near you then you can e-mail him at jamie@aimpointgolf.co.uk Courses are regularly held at the Downshire Golf Centre near Bracknell and are organised by Rhys ap Iolo who can be contacted at rhys.apiolo@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or via Twitter at @Rapi31.

I'm not going to preach to you and say it'll make all the difference but I am convinced even at this early stage that it has given me another tool to make the game simpler in the same way having a lesson gives you a building block to swing the club better. It will take time and patience and I've no doubt I'll get frustrated when I get the read wrong or the ball still refuses to go in but in my mind the mist has lifted and I can see all that lies before me.

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