Many people know Natalie Gulbis from her work off the golf course. She has been a regular on the Golf Channel, had a TV reality show, posed for glamorous calendars and modeled for the “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue while “wearing” a painted suit. But Gulbis also has been a successful LPGA Tour player since 2002 who has an unusual putting stroke.
As of May 2012, Gulbis has one LPGA Tour victory, the 2007 Evian Masters, where she defeated Jeong Jang in a sudden-death playoff. Gulbis' consistency is perhaps best exemplified by her three Solheim Cup appearances and her 2005 season, during which she earned more than $1 million on the tour without winning an event. In 2006, she was one of only two players -- the other was Lorena Ochoa -- to record a top-20 finish in each of the four major tournaments.
Unusual Putting Stroke
Gulbis began using a hammY brand putter in 2005. The club essentially has two grips. A right-handed player puts her left hand on the top grip and her right on the lower grip. She opens her stance wide, about 45 degrees to the left of the hole, and putts with her hands separated. Gulbis compared the putting technique to a hockey stance. “For me, it takes my hands out of my putting,” she said in 2005. Gulbis used the putting technique during her 2007 Evian Masters victory.
After several years of using the hammY, Gulbis returned to a standard putting stroke. In 2012, she told the Golf Channel that she employs a quick pre-shot routine, taking two practice swings and one look at the hole before putting. She’s careful to set the putter square to the target line before taking her stance. Gulbis plays the ball a bit forward in her stance, with her weight shifted slightly toward her front foot. She keeps her head down and uses a straight back-and-forth putting stroke. The only unusual aspect of her putting technique is her grip. Rather than overlapping her right pinkie on her left hand, she places her left index finger over her right hand and points the finger down the shaft. “It’s just something that’s helped me feel comfortable,” she says.
In 2004, using a conventional putting technique, Gulbis was tied for 53rd on the LPGA Tour in putting, with 1.82 putts per green hit in regulation. In 2006, the first year after switching to the hammY, she lowered her average to 1.77, which was tied for 11th on the tour. In 2011, after she returned to a conventional grip and stance, she finished 33rd at 1.81.