The art of putting

Isis Town and Country - - Sport - – Paul McCar­ragher

BE­FORE I start on putting, a clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the chip­ping ar­ti­cle as pointed out by some of the play­ers at my club.

Thanks Barry, the com­ment about us­ing a pen­cil un­der a wrist strap to help straighten the wrist is only to be used when practising, as when play­ing it would be construed as an aid and there­fore have the player dis­qual­i­fied.

There is prob­a­bly no sound more joy­ous to a golfer than that of a ball fall­ing into the putting cup on the green; it’s like a symphony played by an orchestra of fine mu­si­cians as ones ears and mind goes off into the realms of fan­tasy at hear­ing it.

Alas, it’s also one of the most elu­sive sounds for a lot of play­ers who can get on the green in reg­u­la­tion or close to reg­u­la­tion only to three or four putt send­ing ones sense of hu­mour out the door and dark clouds of angst hang­ing over one’s head.

Putting is met with a great deal of awe, as heard on most cour­ses, even when pro­fes­sion­als play and the ball refuse to do what it is sup­posed to do as the col­lec­tive au­di­ence of play­ers and spec­ta­tors draw their breath in an au­di­ble “AWE” as the ball lips the hole, stops tan­ta­lis­ingly short, goes past the hole with­out even com­ing near the hole, seems to be about to fall in and then does a lap of hon­our, and fi­nally de­cides to skip out and stop mere cen­time­tres from the des­ti­na­tion it was in­tended for.

There have been as many hints and tips on putting as there are dif­fer­ent put­ters, from broom­stick to ones carved from a solid block of brass to ones that look like they are rocket pro­pelled and the list goes on, but each and ev­ery player de­cid­ing that his or her put­ter is the one to do the job.

Some have per­fectly nor­mal grips that came with the put­ter and oth­ers have changed to thicker grips to give more sta­bil­ity for the hands as they grip it.

Well, here’s some­thing that may as­tound, but it’s not the put­ter but the per­son do­ing the putting that is the sole ar­bi­tra­tor of where the ball goes and its tech­nique that pro­vide the de­sired out­come.

Putting is the most per­sonal part of the game and it’s quite amaz­ing to see the var­i­ous stances that peo­ple adopt from straight backed to the Quasi­modo look and ev­ery­thing in be­tween, and there is no hard and fast rule as to this ques­tion, just what feels com­fort­able to the player.

When you watch pro­fes­sion­als putt, it looks like an art com­pared to the strokes of your high hand­i­cap bud­dies.

If you watch most peo­ple on the putting green at your lo­cal golf club you will see the two main flaws most peo­ple make when they are putting:

* Their put­ter looks like it is be­ing "yanked" back and through. Slow and steady for a smooth putt.

* They lift their head to watch the golf ball as soon as or even be­fore they make con­tact with the ball. The idea is to keep your head down un­til the stroke is com­pletely fin­ished and the ball is well on its way.

While prac­tice may not sound as much fun as play­ing a round of golf, what I’ve found is that prac­tice ac­tu­ally makes your next round of golf much more fun be­cause you can see if all that hard work on the prac­tice range pays off.

Now, I know that in friendly games of golf, those 300mm to 600mm putts are of­ten con­ceded by your golf bud­dies.

But, what hap­pens if you get into a lo­cal tour­na­ment and you ac­tu­ally have to make those putts?

Yep, you guessed it… the knees might shake a lit­tle, and you might have neg­a­tive thoughts in your head as you stand over the putt.

It’s pretty clear that you need to build con­fi­dence in your stroke so that you can sink 100% of those short putts.

Miss­ing them can cost you the hole, or even the match. To prac­tise hit­ting putts while al­low­ing the club to swing­ing on its nat­u­ral path, con­sider a set-up I have men­tioned here.

In prac­tice only, happy Barry, take two sticks and lay them on the ground so that the ends of the sticks point to­wards the hole, wide enough for your put­ter to travel in­side.

Take the ball and set it up in­side the sticks and us­ing the sticks as a guide bring the put­ter back and for­wards, which in re­al­ity like a pendulum with the top of the back­swing and the top of the fore swing al­most equal in height and with the bot­tom of the swing at the place of con­tact with the ball par­al­lel to and with­out touch­ing ei­ther of the sticks, this makes sure that your swing is cor­rect with­out tak­ing the club back in an ark across the ground.

To make sure your put­ter is making square con­tact with the ball place two tees in the ground on ei­ther side of the ball so that con­tact is made with the ball and the tees at the same time.

If your put­ter, on con­tact with the ball, hits only one tee then you are not hit­ting the ball square caus­ing the ball to go left or right. Hit both tees and the ball will go where you aim.

An easy way to prac­tice at home is to get on a car­peted area of floor and us­ing the skirting board as a guide just swing the put­ter back and for­ward keep­ing the club par­al­lel to the skirting.

Or place two strips of tape on the floor and use that as a guide.

Keep the arms and hands rigid and don’t al­low the wrists to break as this will also af­fect the ball and stroke.

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