Monday, May 9, 2016
THE PUTTING GAME
Practice, Practice, Practice, Jamestown, NC
Golf is a series of games within the game including driving, long irons or hybrids, short irons and wedges and putting, not to mention the seemingly infinite ways a group of golfers can wager on the overall game like Skins, Bingo, Bango, Bongo, etc. Golfers go to all sorts of extremes to save strokes once they’re on the green. The combination of putter heads, grips and shafts is also off the charts. I do believe, however, that if you no longer trust in a putter it’s time to move on to another one that you do feel can work for you. That little flat stick can make millions for a PGA player. When Jack Nicklaus did the improbable and won the 1986 Masters with an extraordinarily oversized putter head, the immediate backlog of orders saved Macgregor’s year. I know of no one who now uses one of these and even the Golden Bear doesn’t know what happened to that putter, although he thinks one of his sons may have given it away to a friend. If found, it could be worth a cool million to the Golf Hall of Fame.
A golf analyst recently mentioned that Jack believes there is much more of an art to the game of putting versus a science. He noted that he only concentrates on keeping his head still and making contact with the ball squarely in the sweet spot. The rest of the game of putting is an art of sighting the break of the greens, pacing the ball accordingly on that line and willing the ball into the hole. In my case, I’d have to add keeping my feet on the ground and not moving backwards! Jack apparently always told himself “that ball has to go in the hole!”
My putting is admittedly not stellar, as my playing companions will attest. But I’ve experienced days when I really was in that mystical “zone” of mindlessly stroking the ball into the hole. And it doesn’t take long for someone to say “where is Larry and what have you done with him?” Unfortunately, it isn’t long before the old Larry returns. And there are plenty of instruction books on the subject like Zen Putting, The Art of Putting and Your 15th Club that promote leading you to the promised land of one putt greens. One of the best teachers of the putting game, Dave Stockton, says there’s way too much over thinking going on in putting. He doesn’t even believe in a practice swing because it interferes with your brain’s autopilot that has already figured out how to make the putt. That’s considered “getting out of your own way” with too much mind chatter.
I always try to be philosophic when driving the golf cart back to the club house after holing out on the 18th green by repeating “if this game were easy we wouldn’t come back.” And the devil always seems to let you make a good putting stroke on 17 or 18 just so you don’t get too discouraged, throw your golf bag with your car keys into a nearby lake (which just swallowed your next to last ball) because he wants you back again so he can mess with your head and dance with you on the greens.