2006: Taking aim at putting stroke

Reedsport, Ore.

The sand dunes on this section of the Oregon coast, about 45 minutes north of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, are stunning. One of these dunes, nicknamed the Coliseum, rises more than 600 feet.

This is where, three decades ago, David Edel discovered the world’s most efficient practice range. One day, hitting some golf balls into the hard-packed dunes, he noticed that all the balls rolled back to the same spot on the firm sand.

This spot became his personal tee. He could hit a short iron, and the balls would roll back to his feet. He could hit his driver, and the balls would do the same.

Edel is a curious, inventive person.

In his shop alongside Oregon’s Umpqua River, he makes handsome watches, fly reels and belt buckles. And, oh yes, he makes putters.

Edel, a longtime golf professional, has become so successful with his putters and his putting system (www.edelgolf.com) that he is about to move to Dallas to be closer to larger markets.

Texas, because it is a mecca for serious golfers, has been very receptive to Edel’s message. Noted instructor Chuck Cook, based at Barton Creek Resort in Austin, is his biggest customer.

Some golf professionals in California also have become captivated by Edel’s meticulous approach to putting.

Says Walter (Smiley) Jones at The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif., “I thought in my 66 years I had learned everything there was to learn about putting, and this man just totally changed the way I look at it.”

What makes Edel unique? For one thing, he is obsessed with how golfers aim the putter, and he talks candidly about the factors that influence aim.

Here are some of Edel’s reflections:

Golfers tend to aim mallet-style putters to the right.

Offset putters tend to get aimed to the left.

Aiming lines in general aim players to the left. The more lines, the farther left most people aim.

Putters with longer shafts often promote aiming to the right.

Putters that are shorter often promote aiming to the left.

Golfers with slower putting strokes sometimes require more flex in their shafts.

Golfers who aim left and block their putts to the right often need less loft, because they effectively are adding loft to the putter at impact.

Golfers who aim right and pull their putts to the left often need more loft, because they effectively are delofting the putter at impact.

“Loft has such a big influence on aim,” Edel says. “If a golfer sees too much loft, he will try to take it (the loft) away. If he doesn’t see enough loft, he will try to add loft.

“The way we stroke the ball is so often a result of our perception of the way things look.”

Eye specialists – such as Dr. Craig Farnsworth, who has worked with hundreds of touring pros – use a variety of training aids and drills to help golfers adjust or correct their vision and aim.

Edel, on the other hand, says bluntly, “I don’t believe anybody is broken. You see the world as you see it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I build you a putter based on the way you see things.”

Edel claims 95 percent of all golfers cannot aim a putter straight, yet he believes they use an “appropriate” stroke. Why? Because if they aim left, they instinctively push their putts to the right. Right aimers make equally adept compensations to the left.

“If a golfer can’t aim straight,” Edel asks, “why would you fit him for a putter as if he could aim straight? Being honest is one of the first steps toward building the right putter.”

If a golfer wants to learn to aim straight and develop a new stroke to go with it, Edel encourages him but always issues a disclaimer: “It requires a lot of work, and generally a person will get worse before he gets better. Changing to a new putting stroke isn’t for everyone.”

It is the configuration of the head and hosel that creates visual confusion for many golfers, Edel says.

“Certain geometric shapes elicit a response in some people, but not in other people,” he says. “A golfer has to be comfortable visually with his putter.”

For golfers who are putting well, Edel says, “Don’t change. Stick with your putter and your method, and don’t listen to anybody.” For those not putting very well, Edel offers five loft choices, 36 hosel options, 17 aiming line combinations (including no aiming lines, which is the best choice for some golfers), a variety of head shapes, head weights, shaft flexes and shaft lengths.

The proper putter loft, of course, is influenced by many factors, including the angle and direction of the putter face at impact. Whether a golfer uses a forward press is a huge element in determining the correct loft.

Edel once was a fitter for Henry-Griffitts, the custom golf club company based in Hayden, Idaho, and he says, “The Henry-Griffitts system was a great beginning for me. I’ve just continued on with this legacy. I’m just trying to make putters for real people.”

His newest invention – available in September – is a putter with interchangeable weights and face plates. These snug-fitting face plates enable a golfer to alter the loft of the putter, depending on the type of grass and mowing height of the greens.

Edel pays particular attention to lie angle. “If there is a disease in putting, it is lie angle,” he says. “I get golfers who say, ‘(Seve) Ballesteros and (Isao) Aoki had the toe way up the air, and so do I.’

“I try to remind them, ‘Well, you’re not Seve Ballesteros, my friend. You are you, so let’s identify your unique putting stroke, which is as distinctive as a fingerprint.’ ”

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