What mighty ills have not been done by putting? Destructive, damnable, deceitful putting?
-Horace G. Hutchinson, from his book The New Book on Golf (1912)
There are many SCARY golf shots for the average golfer, including the first tee ball of the day; an approach over water; a pitch over a bunker; the first shot after a shank; the first shot after a dreaded toe job; a half-wedge from a tight lie; the downhill, short-sided bunker shot; the flop shot and the low punch shot that must stay under a maze of tree limbs.
While all of those shots are SCARY and TRICKY, the truth is that we may only face those daunting situations three to four times in an average round. On the other hand, a golfer can’t ignore the fact that 40% (or a bit more) of all “shots taken” during a round are putts. And if you are a so-so putter or a streaky putter or in a putting slump, any putt can be challenging whether it’s for the club championship or just to win a few bucks in your weekly game. As sportswriter Dick Schapp wrote, “Ask any athlete who has thrown a block, sunk a free throw, hit a curveball and tried to play golf. Nine times out of 10, they’ll tell you that nothing in sports is as scary as a seven-foot putt you have to make.”
And despite the fact that nine-time Major winner Ben Hogan thought putting was way overemphasized and believed, “Hitting a golf ball and putting have nothing in common. They're two different games. You work all your life to perfect a repeating swing that will get you to the greens, and then you have to try to do something that is totally unrelated. There shouldn't be any cups, just flag sticks. And then the man who hit the most fairways and greens and got closest to the pins would be the tournament winner,” the rules still state that a short knee knocker and a 275-yard, down-the-middle tee ball both count as a stroke.
If putting is a weakness – or is from time to time -- then you have to ask yourself what’s the primary cause. Is it your technique, your putter or is it a psychological issue – i.e. the fear of missing? Perhaps the quotes below will help you to determine whether it’s time to call the Pro Shop to schedule a lesson or get fitted for a new piece of hardware or it’s time to read a self-help book written by a guru who believes that fear is the greatest motivator of all. As Dale Carnegie said, “ If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
“I think if golfers were to try it (getting fitted for a putter), their first reaction would be ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’ It makes the game more fun when you play with clubs that you know and trust. And you gain confidence with that knowledge.” – Putter designer Scotty Cameron
“There’s really only one thing that can make you a better putter: Practice. Only after hitting thousands and thousands of putts will you begin to develop feel. And feel is what makes a good putter.” – 1969 Masters champion George Archer
“The biggest thing we fight in golf is tension. You have to let the body perform what it’s supposed to do.” – Ken Green, teaching pro at Aviara Golf Academy
“If you take your stance, then try to aim, you’re cooked. … A better routine is to aim the putterface very carefully down your intended start line, then take a comfortable stance and go.” – Golf instructor Butch Harmon
“Do not jerk the [putting] stroke, a fault usually resulting from a fear of sending the ball too far, and remember that the secret of good putting, as in good driving, is the follow through. – From the book, Hints to Golfers by Niblick (The Salem Press Company, 1902)
“A lot of three-putts happen because players start looking up. They anticipate the hit. I do it. Not all the time, but I’m guilty of it. To stop looking up on your putts, listen for them to go in. Pretend your ball is on coin and when you putt the ball from the top of the coin, see you can tell me the date of that coin before you look up to see where the ball went.” – Six-time Major winner Lee Trevino.
“In putting, distance is everything. You have to learn to hit the 15-foot putt 16 feet and the 30-foot putt 31 feet. Until you can get the ball by the hole, 10 to 14 inches every time, you’re not going to be a good putter.” – Former PGA Tour player and TV golf analyst Gary McCord.
“I try to play the highest line I can because I think that’s the safest way I can
putt. I play all putts to die at the hole. However, on an approach putt, I’ll try to bring the ball in high and soft so it won’t get away from the hole that much. I think most people who three-putt hit the ball lower line and with the wrong speed.” – Ben Crenshaw, two-time Masters champion, 1984 and 1995.
“Solid contact is as important with your putter as it is with your 5-iron.” -- South African-born Zimbabwean Nick Price, winner of 3 Majors – 1994 U.S. Open and the 1992 & ’94 PGA.
The bottom line, I don’t want the poem below to be on my tombstone.
A Golfer’s Lament (circa 1899)
My driving’s really wonderful,
My iron play’s superb,
My mashie play is reasonable,
But my putting is absurd.