This week, I'd like to discuss the fine art of putting.
This is a subject that can be talked about late into the evening with almost no final agreement on style or technique. There are any number of grips (the latest is "the claw"), putter types, putter lengths and putter weights. Any number of these factors can have an effect on the outcome of any given attempt to hole a putt.
Let's look into putting from another aspect or thought process.
The great teacher, Percy Boomer once said, "I putt as I drive and drive as I am."
What he was implying was that the putting stroke was just a miniature of the full golf swing; that's the philosophy I'm committed to as well.
The late George
Low, noted putting "guru," felt the same and taught the likes of Palmer, Nicklaus and many others.
When Palmer won The Masters in 1960, he credited his victory to a putting lesson from Low.
In 1962, Low approached Jack Nicklaus and asked him to try a putter he designed. That putter, the George Low Wizard 600, would bring Nicklaus 15 of his major wins. Today, we have a new putting "guru" named Stan Utley. Well, guess what? Utley teaches almost the same principles as did Low.
What are these fundamentals? Both Low and Utley agree that the putting stroke is a small crescent shape or arc.
They feel straight back, straight through is artificial and contrived. A backstroke of a foot or more will arc inside of its own accord, making it go to the inside of the target line, as a club in a full swing does, once it gets a few feet into the back swing.
One of the greatest putters of all time was Bobby Locke. His stroke was very fluid and much on an arc (some said he "hooked" his putts), which was just the club head moving through the arc instead of straight through. The modern-day Bobby Locke could be Ben Crenshaw or Brad Faxon. Both players employ the arc stroke and are considered the best of the best.
Look at the recent success of Jay Haas on the Champions Tour and he'll tell you how much Stan Utley improved his putting. What I see here is that over the length of time, some things never change.
With all the high-tech putters and styles, hard-core fundamentals keep returning.
A good way to get the feel of this is to make a putting stroke hitting, let's say, to the north. Now stop the backstroke about halfway, holding the blade in position, then turn your body to the east. If you now put the blade back on the ground, you'll find it square to the target line. The blade "opens" to the line, but is square to the arc. The same test would apply to the follow-stroke - the blade appears to "close" to the line, but remains square to the arc.
A final thought about putting is to try to create a rhythmic stroke. The tempo is relaxed and slow, allowing the momentum and mass of the putter to propel the ball. In a true pendulum stroke, the putter almost falls or drops down on the ball like an acorn falling from a tree.
Loren Roberts (the boss of the moss) says the same thing; that there's no hit in his stroke, just a collision of putter into ball, propelled by rhythm.
Give these ideas a try and watch that ball "look" for the cup.
Yours for better golf,
Del Starks is a PGA teaching professional at Abacoa Golf Club in Jupiter. Contact him at (561) 262-0708, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.delstarks.com.