Matt Kuchar is on to something. He may not be the one that invented his Arm-Lock putting style, but he is quickly making it famous. I once heard Johnny Miller claim on the air at Doral that he invented the Arm Lock style, but that’s disputable. Either way, he’s using it with great effect and I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.
Kuchar used a unique Bettinardi putter to win more than $5.5 million in 23 starts on the PGA Tour in 2013 without missing a cut. That’s an average of $244,209 for every tournament he played. The guy is simply a check cashing machine, and his putting has a lot to do with it. A quick look at his putting stats reveals that he made 88.25 percent of all putts inside 10 feet for the season, and an incredible 97.56 percent inside 5 feet. For the season, Matt had 1268 putts inside that critical 10 foot scoring range, and made 1119.
If you don’t think those numbers are all that impressive, try it yourself! Line up 100 five foot putts on the putting green at your club and try to make 97 of them. Then try it on different courses with different grasses and greens rolling at 12 on the stimpmeter, and put $244,000 on the line. The PGA Tour is right on with their catchphrase: “These guys are good.”
I just spent three paragraphs talking about Matt Kuchar and his putting stats because I think his putter has a lot to do with it. I would be skeptical reading this had I not tried this putter first hand and almost immediately put it in my own bag. Kuchar’s tool of choice is the Bettinardi Kuchar Model 1 Arm Lock putter. Designed specifically for him, it varies greatly from Bettinardi’s standard Kuchar Model 1. The special Arm Lock model has seven degrees of loft, 2.5 degrees of shaft offset, a 400g head weight and is 42″ long. Like all Bettinardi putters it is 100% milled in the USA and looks fantastic with a striking pewter PVD finish.
At first glance, this Bettinardi putter looks weird. Most putters have between 3 and 4 degrees of loft and slight offset, but the Kuchar Model 1 Arm Lock has 7 degrees of loft and a large shaft offset, which makes it look strange when at address. This high loft and amount of offset is by design of course, because the arm lock style requires a pretty healthy forward press to anchor the top of the handle to a right handed golfer’s left forearm. Once locked in to the required stance, the putter sits perfectly square and is easy to align.
The 400 gram mild carbon steel head and milled F.I.T. (Feel Impact Technology) face give this putter a classic Bettinardi feel. The ball rolls off the face with a soft feel, yet isn’t mushy like most insert putters. The weight and face balanced design make it very forgiving on off center hits, and the traditional Bettinardi hex face milling and beautiful pewter PVD finish gives the putter a classy look.
The Arm Lock putting style is such a radical departure from my standard putting style that it felt very strange and uncomfortable to get into such an extreme forward press with this putter. However, once I figured out where to grip down the shaft and how to align the putter properly, I found that the ball was rolling on target immediately. I was starting to see what made the Bettinardi putter so solid on short putts. The key to this style of putting is to make sure the shaft remains anchored to the left forearm (for righties) throughout the stroke. Imagine pulling with the left arm during the stroke with the right hand just along for the ride, and you’ll have the right feeling. The main drawback to the arm lock style is the same as any anchored putting style – distance control. I’m used to letting my wrists hinge a bit on long putts for better feel, but any anchored stroke eliminates the wrists and engages the big muscles of your shoulders instead. Distance control can be an issue with the anchored strokes, so a little practice outside 20 feet will go a long way to fixing that.
I was fortunate enough to have the Kuchar Model 1 Arm Lock in the bag during my visit to PGA Village in Port St Lucie, FL recently. There I met golf technology specialist Mark Drenga, PGA who put me through the paces with the SAM Putt Lab. This amazing ultrasound tracking device measures 28 parameters of the putting stroke down to a tenth of a degree. During my session, the Kuchar Model 1 Arm Lock allowed me to keep the face almost perfectly square at impact, and I also had minimal face rotation (about 1 degree) before and after impact. What this means is my putts will almost always start on my aim line. The SAM Putt Lab also showed my stroke path going 1.2 degrees right, which is a slightly in-to-out direction. While not perfect, I am able to repeat this path with 99% consistency, which is key.
What does all this data mean? According to Mark who guided me through my session with the SAM Putt Lab, my stroke with the Bettinardi Kuchar Model 1 Arm Lock putter is on par with PGA Tour players. That was a huge ego boost for me. Unfortunately my speed control, green reading and aim are not quite at the same level, which explains why I don’t make as many putts as the guys on the PGA Tour. What I can say with a high degree of confidence is that the Arm Lock putter style has dramatically improved my putting inside 10 feet, just as it has for Matt Kuchar. I have played quite a bit lately (9 rounds in 12 days) and have seen the results of better ball striking converted into better scores because of my improved putting. My handicap has fallen a full stroke to +2.4 in just over 6 weeks due to improved scores with the Bettinardi putter.
Robert Bettinardi has taken his mastery of the flat stick to another level with the Kuchar Model 1 putter. Matt Kuchar has wielded this wand with great effectiveness on the PGA Tour, and now everyone can try it out for themselves. The anchored arm lock style is USGA legal also, since the butt of the club is not static. It swings with your arm, so by definition isn’t illegal like belly and long putters who’s anchor point doesn’t move. This putting style isn’t for everyone, but it has worked wonders for me and I look forward to getting better with it at longer distances. The Kuchar Model 1 Arm Lock putter is available at select Bettinardi dealers around the country. To find a dealer, visit Bettinardi’s website for a complete list. MSRP for the Kuchar Model 1 Arm Lock is $375.