Putting: The Game Within The Game

“The man who can putt is a match for anyone.” -- Scottish pro and course architect Willie Park Jr (1864 –1925), winner of two Open Championships in 1887 & 1889

The days are shorter, the clouds grayer, the wind biting here in Kansas City, which means there will be fewer golf days for the next four months. Oh, there will be nice winter days that yell, “Come out and play,” which we will dutifully do. However, as well all know, Mother Nature will have the final say on how often we can get out for a quick nine from the yellow tees or a full 18 from the silvers (the reds and blacks for younger big hitters).

Yes, many of you live in warmer climates, but for those of us who are pretty much winter-bound, it is a challenge to keep our games in reasonable shape. So what can a golfer do during the upcoming frosty days to prevent too much rust from forming (Besides, of course, staying on a fitness program and pushing away the plate)? 

Well, you can practice your putting -- and you should given this statistic from Game Golf: “We use the putter 41.3 percent of the time (including from the fringe).” There will be days you can go to the putting clock for 15 to 30 minutes, but on other days you can putt inside. Nine-time Major winner Ben Hogan did.

As 3-time Major winner Nick Price says, “Putting is probably the most important thing in the game. It's that classic argument you always hear, but it's true. You can hit the ball great, but if you can't make anything, it's so deflating. The psychological aspect is huge. Putting is the source of where you really go in a round.”

Here are a few putting thoughts and tips that might serve you well during your putting practice sessions regardless of where you live:

“It has always been my idea that more practice should be given to gauging the effect of a slope and to estimating the speed of the green; in other words, to training the eye, than to the mechanical perfection of the stroke. It is evident that no matter how accurately the ball may be struck, it is always necessary to select the line upon which it should be started.” – Bobby Jones (1902 – 1971) winner of 13 Majors

“Look at the ball's original position until the ball itself vanishes from sight. If your head moves, everything is for naught." – South African Bobby Locke (1917 – 1987), who won The Open Championship in 1949, ‘50, ‘52 , ’57. According to Gary Player, “Probably the finest putters I ever saw were Bobby Locke and Arnold Palmer.”

"Putting is like wisdom -- partly a natural gift and partly the accumulation of experience." -- Arnold Palmer (1929 – 2016), winner of seven Majors.

“Have difficulty starting the putterhead away from the ball smoothly? Tension is often the problem and the one way to break it down is to initiate the backswing off a slight forward press.” – Jack Nicklaus (b. 1940), winner of 18 Majors

“When putting downhill on fast greens strike the ball with the lighter toe end of the putterhead to deaden the hit.” -- Teaching pro Butch Harmon (b. 1943)

“Develop feel by putting uphill, then downhill.” – Eight time Major winner Tom Watson (b. Sept. 4, 1949), who has 39 PGA Tour victories, which is 11th all time.

“An important key to pace and rhythm is to make my backstroke and forward stroke the same length. If I take my putter back a few inches on a 20-footer, I’ll have to accelerate suddenly to get the ball to the hole and I’ll have to lengthen my follow-through as a result.” – 14-time Major winner Tiger Woods (b. 1975)

Practice Away!

Allan (a 13 for the rest of the year)


(Locke photo credit: Allsport Hulton Archive)

Leave a comment