One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.
By Gary Van Sickle
I love technology. I would love it even more if I had, say, a million shares of Apple or Google stock, but that’s my own fault.
It’s silly how much technology has forever changed golf, the way it’s played and the methods by which it is taught, mostly for the better.
Sometimes, though, low-tech still works. That’s the case with InPutt (www.InPuttGolf.com, $79.99), and it’s why I’m making an exception to my policy of not writing much about golf training aids. Too many of them don’t work as advertised, and too many fail for the same reason why diet plans fail: users don’t stick with them. You were sure you’d use a stationary bike at home and quickly drop 25 pounds. Yeah, how’d that work out?
PHOTO COURTESY OF INPUTT
InPutt teaches a square-to-square putting stroke.
I like InPutt because it’s a simple but smarter wrinkle on the age-old putting-stroke trainer. InPutt teaches you to make a square-to-square stroke.
It’s a plastic rail that you lightly slide the putter against during the backstroke and forward stroke, but it’s different from the dozens of straight-rail trainers on the market because it is curved.
Curved? Yes, the tail of InPutt (the right end, if you’re a righty putter) tapers away slightly, giving the long-ish, rectangular InPutt the look of a whale, if you use your imagination.
The reason it’s tapered is that, to make a square-to-square stroke, a golfer has to take the putter back a little to the inside. Inventor Barry Herbst, one of those guys who just makes putts – he is a two-time club champion at Hanover Country Club in Abbottstown, Pa. – figured out his inside-track method through trial and error.
“I used to do a lot of putting in my office at work,” Herbst explains with a wry grin in a video on his website. “Yeah, I know. But I did it anyway.”
Herbst taped a vertical line of string against his office wall, then attached a laser to his putter face. During the stroke, he noticed that the laser light would re-aim right of his target, the string. “Any time you’re aiming right,” Herbst said, “you’re not going to make the putt.”
Herbst, now retired, owned a manufacturing company and a machine shop (he was very successful in the cigar-mold business) and was used to working with plastics, so he decided to create a stroke trainer to duplicate his own deadly stroke.
“It took probably 15 prototypes until I could get that laser light to stay dead center on the string throughout the stroke,” Herbst said. “All you have to do is keep the putter face square with each mark on the InPutt.”
The concept of square-to-square putting – that is, keep the putter-face square to the target instead of letting the face swing open, another popular method known as the swinging-gate style – is an old one, but it has never been choreographed quite so well in a training aid before.
InPutt president Richard Ogg is the design engineer who created the prototypes and the final InPutt product.
“Barry brought some rough wood shapes over and said, ‘Can you guys help me make this into a product?’ ” Ogg said. “That’s what I’ve done for 40 years. My caveat to Barry was, ‘If this doesn’t work and it’s just a gimmick, I don’t want anything to do with it.’ So I was a good guinea pig because I’m not a very good golfer. I can put more balls in a pond than anyone and miss the hole from any distance.
“Barry took me out, and within 20 minutes of using InPutt, I started making 90 percent of my putts from 4, 6, then 8 feet. I asked Barry, ‘Are you kidding me, that nobody actually trains this way to putt? Because it makes perfect sense.’ ”
Ogg said he gets a lot of questions from golfers about why the InPutt is curved. Herbst’s stock answer is, because it works, it’s his stroke, it’s the way he taught himself to putt and he’s a very good putter.
“A lot of people say you need the science to break it down and explain it,” Ogg said. “We say, that’s our secret sauce; that’s our Coca-Cola formula.”
If it works, it works. That’s good enough for me.