Stockton emerging as the newest short-game guru

Dave Stockton, flanked by his sons Ronnie (left) and Dave Jr.

There is a new short-game sheriff in town. It’s Dave Stockton, the two-time PGA Champion.

Stockton’s students are faring well this week. Phil Mickelson and J.B. Holmes are close to the top of the leaderboard at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and Michelle Wie is threatening to win the Kia Classic.

So what can we, the amateur golfers of the world, learn from Stockton?

• Use a putter with at least four degrees of loft. Five or six degrees is OK. Less than four is unacceptable.

• Have the putter loft measured by a qualified PGA professional or clubmaker, using a precise instrument such as the TourGAUGE Putter Machine from Mitchell Golf. It may be necessary to bend the putter to increase the loft, because most putters are designed with less than four degrees of loft.

Stockton insists on four degrees or more because he requires his students to use a forward press to start the stroke. This decreases the loft of the putter during the stroke.

The Stockton forward press is “triggered” by the index finger of the top hand (the left hand for right-handed golfers). This finger overlaps the little finger of the bottom hand.

Stockton is adamant about all this. He wants the index finger to overlap just one finger of the bottom hand, not two. He believes this provides the most comfortable, tension-free grip.

Holmes was so enthusiastic about Stockton’s method that he quickly discarded his belly putter. Anybody who has used a belly putter or long putter knows the forward press is impossible with these methods.

When starting the stroke with a forward press, be careful not to change the direction of the putter blade. In other words, don’t open or close the face during the forward press.

Stockton teaches a relaxed, flowing stroke with plenty of feel. He is the anti-mechanic. As long as the putter head returns to a square position at impact, he pays little attention to the path of the putter head during the backswing.

Although I don’t pretend to speak for Stockton, I have talked with him at length and written about his stroke. Complete information about Stockton and his golf professional sons, Dave Jr. and Ron, is available at www.davestockton.com.

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