You’ve heard of, and perhaps studied, the theories of golf teachers David Leadbetter, Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, Rick Smith and putting guru David Pelz. But you may not yet have encountered the work of a fellow whose discoveries are changing how the pros putt. His name is Apollonius of Perga. He lived from 260 to 190 BC, and he proved the existence of the shape or path known as an ellipse.

Never mind that the mathematician who was known as “the great geometer” lived some 1,700 years before anybody came up with the admittedly wacky notion of whacking a ball with a stick toward a hole in the ground—golf, that is.

The image of an elipse was obviously on the mind of teaching professional V.J. Trolio a few years ago. Trolio never believed that the ideal stroke was straight back from the ball and straight through it. He felt that the stroke was a miniature swing, and he began to study the matter by attaching a laser to a putter shaft. His observations led to the development of a training device called the Putting Arc.

Tommy Armour III won the 2003 Texas Open shortly after working with the Putting Arc. He set a PGA Tour scoring record of 254 that week and made 58 of 60 putts within 10 feet. In the process, he one-putted an astounding 35 greens. Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, and Bob Tway, the 2003 Bell Canadian Open winner, are also rumoured to use the gizmo. Fellow tour pro Dana Quigley worked with the Arc prior to starting the 2003 Champions Tour and won his first event. “The Putting Arc has helped me a lot,” Quigley says. “It showed me my flaws and corrected my stroke.”

Elegant in design, the Putting Arc is basically a piece of wood in the shape of an ellipse. The golfer first sets the putter head down with the heel riding on the Arc. The idea is to swing along the Arc a few times without a ball. Follow the directions that come with the device, and soon you’ll be swinging the head of your putter along an arc while using a ball. You’ll develop a new feel of how the putter should move.

So don’t be a square start to finish. Go inside-square-inside. The Arc comes in three models that vary only in size, weight and portability. Work with it and you’ll learn to make putts the scientific way, just as Apollonius of Perga would if he were around today. I can attest to the Arc’s value. I’m putting with more freedom, and taking fewer strokes. This makes for a happy golfer.