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Golf Insider: Humming can solve putting woes

Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 11:59 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:02 a.m. CDT

Silence on putting greens is traditional golf decorum.

If Jake Thurm has his way, they could soon be filled with song. The assistant general manager and lead instructor at Fresh Meadow Golf Course in Hillside has encouraged students to find an appropriate putting tempo by singing or humming their favorite song while on the putting green. 

When Thurm putts he hums "This Year's Love," a piano driven, soft rock ballad by David Gray. Each student has a different song based on the tempo that works best for their stroke.

"Tempo is the most overlooked part of putting," said Thurm who detailed his keys to good putting Sunday as he headed to the Des Moines (Iowa) International Airport to depart for the British Open Championship at Royal Liverpoool in Hoylake, England, with longtime friend and PGA Tour player Kevin Streelman, who is making his third career start in golf's oldest major. 

"The tempo that works for each player is unique. But, a solid tempo will improve the ability to putt at the right speed. There is too much talk about eliminating your hands in the putting stroke. The hands are the most sensitive part of the body. Take out the hands and you take out the feel. The best putters are aware of their hands and swing the putter head."

Because golf is a lifetime sport, the ability to control muscle function becomes more of a challenge as a player ages. If song usage doesn't work for tempo and a player has developed the yips – a mental block that prohibits smooth muscular movement – Thurm has suggested the elimination of the disturbance in the swing.

Gerry Gall started to play golf 16 years ago when she was 60. She developed the yips two years ago and thought her golf career was over. Faced with an uphill putt, Gall couldn't swing the putter head. Her right hand wouldn't release. 

In just 15 minutes, Thurm was able to rewire Gall's psychomotor skills with the introduction of the claw putter grip. As a right handed player, Gall's right hand was placed on the putter as if it was a pen.   

"I almost quit golf because of the yips," Gall said. "I didn't even want to play anymore. I would worry about my putt before I would even hit my second shot. When I used the claw, I had to fool my brain because the yip had become thicker and thicker in my motor pattern."

A further solution comes in a simple fitness routine. 

"The older a player gets, the issue becomes the dorsal column in your spinal cord," physical therapist Jeremy Smith said.  "It doesn't give proper feedback as well during a dynamic movement. Practice balancing on one leg. It will take your mind off the yips. It will also improve a players balance. If they are standing on an undulating green, improved balance will be able to better focus on the line and not worry about being off balance."

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