My So-Called Putting Game

Looking Back at the Putting Tricks We’ve Tried

I was determined as a young person to make an advanced science out of putting. What I eventually made out of it was often a mockery instead, but I did put in the work. As a junior golfer, of course, having a putter that looked futuristic and cool was a must. I had an old mallet-head that fit the look perfectly, and I could line it up with three dots moving away from the face. It may have had the look, but might as well have been made by a third grade class for a science fair somewhere.  On some days, I found a little accuracy, on others a little control over distance, but almost never both. It was too weak and hollow for the short character-builders, playing right into my lack of confidence. My father had an old Arnie putter that gave him the same problem. The putter was basically fine, but he wouldn’t dare hit it hard enough, because it felt as though he was hitting it out of the county. Our luck didn’t change for years, because we wouldn’t let go of nostalgia and get new putters.

Then the stance work started, and my creativity went crazy. I started in the Palmer stance, knees locked together. I reasoned that since we didn’t have three legs to form a stable tripod, a locked-in two-legged stance was the next best thing. It did’t feel locked in enough, so I kept the locked knees and spread the stance wider. I wasn’t sure if it looked cool or not, but now I know that I looked like someone trying to putt and find a lost contact at the same time. I reverted from to time to standard putting, but it felt too natural and relaxed. Relax? Do I want to relax in my putting? No, I found new ways to lock down, adding a scrunched torso with gripped arms and hands that couldn’t under any circumstance offer a free stroke, or gauge anything.  I had turned myself into a walking human yip.
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I tried the dangling putter shaft to get the line, because I’d seen Gary Player do it, and he putted very well. I held it there and squinted knowingly, then realized that I didn’t know what I was supposed to be looking for or at. Then I got down to ground level like a billiard player to see the break, but that was a no-go. Becoming a master, relatively speaking, at the practice green, I was shocked to realize that the course didn’t feature one single green that resembled it. I put my eye over the ball, to the right and left of it. I moved the ball left in my stance by two inches, as if it were a creature I thought I could sneak up on. That made me push and pull all over the place, Reverting to the Arnie stance, I tried a variation in which I stood over my left leg, stiff as a pole, ball right in front of the toe. The right leg still formed a brace and locked into the left knee, leaving the leg in the shape of a ‘K.’ This time, putting actually hurt. “I must be doing something right,” I thought.

Now I’m in my sixties, and am finally willing to surrender, walk up to the ball, assume a normal stance and swing free, slowly back and smoothly through – most of the time. Within two or three holes, through, I revert again, like a reflex. OK, I think, we;ll go for the cast iron Arnie-style tripod, and keep the upper body loose as a goose. Maybe it’s just nostalgia for the good old days, but wait! I couldn’t putt in the good old days.

As a lifetime mad scientist in the field of putting, now I’m just mad, period. It’s likely that I’ve spent all those decades talking myself out of being a good putter. Thank goodness I do something else for a living.


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