THE GOLF ACADEMY / LA

To AimPoint or not AimPoint? – by Director Phil Kenyon

Like it or loathe it social media is here to stay and has become a big part of the golf industry. Like it in terms of it gives people a chance to interact and share ideas in ways not previously possible. Loathe it in the way people can use it destructively, taking the opportunity to peddle untruths and trash other users and pander to their egotistical needs.

However this isn’t a blog about social media but the inspiration comes from some recent interactions that occurred on social media over AimPoint and the green reading methods validity. On my travels a common question I get asked is, which is the most important skill as a putter? Is it green reading, start line or speed? It may appear at times I’m avoiding the question but I don’t, as my answer and what I believe is the truth is always that they are intrinsically linked. They are inseparable in many ways and stressing the importance of one over the other would be ignorant to the individual nature of putting performance for one.

In our accredited instructor training course I talk about players existing within an ecosystem that includes these three skills, amongst other variables which drives their performance. A big part of the effectiveness of the ecosystem and players performances survives on how well these skills match. For some green reading is less of an issue, for some more so. The ecosystem however is more complex than that.

I read with great distress recently some coaches, ex-players and golf commentators, slagging off AimPoint as a fad and a con and that it had no use. As a consequence I felt obliged to add my thoughts through my experience of playing the game, but more so having coached players at every level across the game.

As in many areas of the game there are different techniques that can be used to get the job done. Look across the putting green or chipping green at any tour event and you will see players adopting different strategies and approaches. Some methods are more effective than others, many different methods even have the same basic principles at the heart of it, they are just applied differently. The same can be applied to green reading. The way I see AimPoint is that it is a specific method, a method which is based on many sound principles of green reading that can also be apparent in other methods of green reading. Essentially we need to understand and factor in gradient, angle, green speed and in some situations grain.

AimPoint does so in a very simple way to give you an approximated target reference for the amount of break. Is the method 100% accurate or perfect? No, no method is. Is the method a valid approach and accurate enough if done correctly to help golfers? Yes, I see it help golfers every week.

The problem we have however is that many people approach the game with a one size fits all mentality. I’ve be guilty of it myself but as I’ve grown as a coach I’ve realised there are multiple solutions to many problems, and we limit ourselves to helping individuals if we don’t see that. I’ve also seen certified AimPoint coaches adopt this approach which in turn does not do the method any good in the eyes of others.

So from a green reading perspective is AimPoint the only system or method you should use? No, why is that? Because it might not match the other parts of the ecosystem your putting exists in. For example some players use what they call feel more. One of the best putters I have worked with and a multiple Ryder Cup player will often not make his final decision in terms of read until he is over the ball. Often feel subconsciously takes into account players stroke bias or memory and as such their feel can help them pick a read which is effective for them. In this scenario aim and read also become one. The trick here is if you are very successful as a putter your ecosystem works, and the various parts match.

I was once fortunate to spend some time working with Colin Montgomery, and he spoke about how years ago when he identified and worked on improving a left aim with the putter, that he actually got worse. For me that was because he didn’t match the other elements of his ecosystem.

For those whose parts don’t match and the element of green reading appears a large source of inaccuracy, looking at the different strategies available to you would be a sensible thing to do. However you have to make sure that strategy compliments the other parts of you ecosystem or indeed adjust some of those other parts if required. You also need to make sure that your approach or method is based on sound principles. To do this I would suggest you spend time with a good coach to help identify the best approach for you.

The reason I decided to learn the AimPoint technique and qualify in the method was the fact that I see many players whose ecosystems don’t function and their green reading processes aren’t good functioning. The more I thought about it, the more methods with sound principles I had at my availability the more chance I had to help those individuals. Upon further research I also believed Aim-Point principles were sound.

Since using this approach, I’ve enjoyed seeing the amount of golfers this has been right for and how it has helped them and this has been the key for me. It’s not how sound things look on paper or how theoretically correct something is or how it looks in the classroom. It’s the practical application as a coach and how to help players putt better? I’ve always said concepts don’t have to be perfectly correct to be of value to golfers.

It would also be appropriate to note however, I have also discouraged some golfers to not use it because of the effective strategies and process they already have in place. Their ecosystem functions already to the highest level.

The problem sometimes is to have such understanding, that you have to take a step back from the game itself and take a more objective view. If you have spent most of your life as a player then the cocoon sometimes that role requires, it’s often hard to be objective. You can too easily and rightly get immersed in what is right for you. Indeed I believe that many ex-players who get into coaching often set out more prescriptive in style as to where they finish.

So what does this mean to you? Are you a golfer looking to improve their putting? I would suggest you take a lesson from someone you can trust who can help decide where your focus needs to be to be. If green reading is an area to focus on then I wouldn’t be afraid to try AimPoint. Primarily you are being taught information and a series of processes based upon sound principles. These are not intrusive and if need be you can forget quickly if you are someone that is frightened of change that doesn’t work. But you never know if it will or won’t help you until you try. Don’t be afraid…..

I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes to digest….

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man, who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble”