Because there was so much discussion and and questions on my spot putting article, I thought it would be best to elaborate on the importance of the eyes in alignment and ball position and why it will make a big difference in your putting.
“In golf the eyes are our most important asset.”
What most amateurs don’t appreciate is that in golf the eyes are our most important asset. Approximately 80% of off-line golf shots are due to poor alignment (the difference between where you think your target is and where it actually is) vs poor mechanics. Most amateurs aren’t lined up to the target and make compensations in their swing and putting stroke to get the ball to go where they want it to.
Alignment is a fundamental of golf for a very good reason
Alignment to the target is one of the 5 fundamentals of golf – it’s something you should learn as a beginner and continually work on (even the top players in the world practice it). After all if you’re not aligning the club/putter face square to the ball to target line at address, how can you expect to hit the target? Going through the proper steps before you stand over the ball is imperative as when you’re addressing the ball and look up to your target, your eye angle creates an optical illusion resulting in bad alignment 99% of the time.
You can have a perfect swing or a perfect putting stroke but still end up missing the target because your eyes have deceived you.
Your dominant eye and its importance in golf…
Even though you think you’re looking at something with both eyes equally, what’s actually happening is your brain is taking more input from one eye than the other. That is, everyone has a “dominant eye” which is better for aiming (just ask anyone who’s done shooting or archery and they’ll know all about it). The brain favors one eye in telling it how far away something is and where you are in relation to it. So when you’re identifying your target in golf this needs to taken into account.
Finding out which is your dominant eye for golf is key to getting your body aligned.
Over 70% of people are right eye dominant but it doesn’t always correlate with hand dominance. Here’s a quick test for finding out which is your dominant eye.
1. Hold your hands out an arm’s length and make triangle and focus on an object with both eyes open, like in the diagram below:
2. Now close one eye and then the other. When you close one eye, the object you are focusing on will remain in the triangle and when you close the other it will disappear. The one which keeps the object in the triangle is your dominant eye.
3. What’s actually happening, is that both eyes cannot see the object directly, so your hands naturally move to allow your dominant eye to focus on it.
Now let’s see why this is so important for golf…
Your eye dominance means you fall into 1 of 2 categories:
Same-side Dominant e.g. Right eye dominant and Right Handed Swing. Most players (over 70%) are same side dominant.
Cross dominant e.g. Left eye dominant and Right Handed Swing. Some famous players in this category are Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods
If you don’t go through the proper steps to align correctly, the head will naturally turn so the dominant eye is slightly inside the ball to target line. In putting, this causes the view to be distorted so that player thinks the hole is on the opposite side of the ball to target line – so for the right hand, right eye dominant golfer the target appears slightly to the left of its actual location (and vice versa), resulting in more missed putts. Here are a few drills to remedy this.
Knowing exactly where the target is
1. Find your target from behind the ball with your dominant eye
Stand directly behind the ball and close your non-dominant eye and locate your target (this is especially important for short game and putting where depth perception is needed). Find a spot a few inches in front of the ball in-line with that target (where you want the ball to start), as in my previous article on spot putting and how to align for putting. This spot can be a discolored blade of grass or loose grass, whatever it is (there will be something) make sure you clearly identify it with your dominant eye. Once you’ve done this, it doesn’t matter whether you are right or left eye dominant as you’re making a stroke towards that. So all you’re doing over the ball is checking the alignment of the putter face to that target which is a few inches away. You can align the logo on the ball to it, if that helps.
2. Ball position and stance
To help see the line with less distortion, the ball should be positioned between your feet just in front of your dominant eye as you look over it (and consistently so). To test this, you can drop a ball down from your dominant eye and it should land just behind the ball you’re addressing.
For the right hand-right eye dominant golfer, opening the stance (so the feet point to the left) can give your dominant eye a better look at the line. Cross dominant players, don’t have a problem with a square stance as their dominant eye is the forward one.
3. Eyes parallel to target line
Instead of allowing your head to adjust for your dominant eye and cause your eyes to be on a diagonal plane to the ball to target line, we need to make sure they are parallel so there is no distortion. Try this drill, courtesy of Dr. Craig Farnsworth in this book, The Putting Prescription: The Doctor’s Proven Method for a Better Stroke
1. Put a mirror on the ground and use the top edge as the target line
2. Now address an imaginary ball and look down at the mirror
3. If one of your eyes is closer to the mirrors edge you’re not properly aligned
4. Repeat making sure your eyes are both the same distance from the edge of the mirror
4. Straight line gaze
Distortion of the line is also created if we point the eyes downward (while keeping the head in the same position). This causes the hole appear to the inside of its actual target.
To fix this, you need to make sure the eyes are looking straight forward out of the head, not tilted downwards towards your face. Look directly over the ball down the line of the putt by turning your head like it’s swiveling on your neck (not lifting your chin from your chest). If your gaze is straight out of your face, this is the only way you can do this.
Thanks for reading (I know this was a long one) – I really think that by trying this simple techniques your body will adjust and your alignment to your target will improve and you’ll see much better results.