“Among golfers the putter is usually known as the payoff club and how right that is! Putting is in fact a game in itself.”– South African Bobby Locke (1917 – 1987), who won the British Open in 1949, ‘50, ’52, & ’57.
For the lucky ones, there is your weekly round of golf with your buddies.
For the ULTRA lucky golfers, it means golf both Saturday and Sunday. Now that’s a lot of golf, a lot of putting. Think about it. On average, 43% of your strokes will be taken with your putter. If your average score is 85, that means you will have the putter in your hand 73 times in a weekend.
While golfers KNOW putting grips, stances, strokes and styles vary greatly, I do believe there are common denominators that make sense for everyone. Below are three book excerpts from three of the best-ever putters – Nicklaus, Watson and Woods. I think you will agree that their thoughts on putting make sense for each one of us. If you take the time to read them, you might find “your 85” becomes “an 83” this weekend.
“Charge” or “Die”
From the book, Golf My Way, by Jack Nicklaus with Ken Bowedn (Simon & Schuster 1974)
On the assumption that by knowing exactly what you are trying to do you give yourself the best chance of doing it, I think you should decide whether you are by nature or choice a “charge” or a “die” putter.
Arnold Palmer was, of course, the greatest “charge” putter in history. His policy was to hit the back of the hole hard enough and true enough to “trap” the ball into the cup.
I’m a “die” putter, in the sense that I am to drop the ball just over the front lip of the cup when I stroke it perfectly, or, hopefully, let it topple in from the sides when I don’t. One reason I prefer this technique to Arnold’s is that it’s less wearing on the nerves, especially as one grows older and those 3-foot comeback putts start looking like 15-footers. But if you putt this way, you should have the old maxim in your mind, “Never up, never in.” Putt to let the ball “die” at the hole – not before it ever gets there!
To Accelerate the Putter, Swing It Back Shorter Than You Take It Through
From the book, Getting Up and Down: How to Save Strokes from Forty Yards and In by Tom Watson with Nick Seitz (Random House, 1983)
Most putting problems are caused by deceleration at impact. The putter wavers and moves off line. To counter this tendency, I try to make sure the putterhead is accelerating – gaining speed – as it swings into and through the ball.
Mechanically I determine how far I will hit a particular putt by the length of my backswing. Of course there are many variables: the speed of the green, the grain, whether the putt is uphill or downhill. You need to fight the length of backswing that will produce an accelerating stroke and propel the ball a certain distance on a given putting surface. On very fast greens -- Oakmont’s, for example – I’ll make my stroke shorter than usual, with the same rhythm.
Most poor putters take the putter back too far and then decelerate coming into the ball. Bob Hope is a prime offender. I’ve worked with him, but haven’t been able to get him to shorten his backswing and make a more forceful stroke. He’s done pretty well with his method, but I can see why Bing beat him more times than he beat Bing.
Having contained the length of my backswing, I accelerate the putter into and through the ball a solid, authoritative rap. My contact will be much more consistent, even I mis-hit the ball. This is one of my important keys for good putting: to accelerate through the ball
Grip Pressure: Easy Does It
From the book, How I Play Golf by Tiger Woods (Warner Books, 2001)
I was on the practice green with Butch Harmon one day in 1998 when Butch noticed something. “If you hold that putter any tighter, you’re going to twist the grip right off it,” he said with a laugh. I always listen to Butch and sure enough, I was holding the putter so firmly that I was squeezing the blood out of the tips of my fingers at address. I tried to hold the putter more lightly, but I didn’t seem to have the same amount of control. And even then Butch said my grip pressure was much too intense.
A few days later, Butch show up with a device he attached to the grip of the putter. He fooled with the setting for a minute, then challenged me to hit some putts without make the device emit a loud “beep.” It went off the minute I addressed the ball. I lightened my grip pressure to quiet the thing, but when I actually went to hit a putt it went off again. Man, that thing drove me crazy. But eventually, I was able to hit putts with out activating the beeper.
Still, I wanted some reassurance that holding the club lightly was the way to go. Early in 1999, at the Byron Nelson Classic, I ran into Ben Crenshaw, who may be the greatest putter of all time. I asked him how tightly he held the putter. Ben said he gripped his putter so lightly it almost fell from his hands. “The lighter you hold it, the better you’ll be able to feel the weight of the putterhead at the other end of the shaft,” he said.
Hearing that from Ben did it for me. I committed myself to easing my grip pressure, and it really paid off. I shot 63-64 over the weekend and won the tournament.
I’d say that on a scale of 1 to 10, my grip pressure is about a 5. That may be tighter than Ben holds his putter, but it’s pretty light for me and I do have an increased sense of feel.
Now it’s time to practice – outdoors or indoors.
*Bobby Locke on Golf was first published in Britain by Country Life in 1953. Simon & Schuster published the U.S. edition the following year.