Golf and PuttingI think it was Harry Vardon who described the putter as "a thing apart" in one of his books. The thing is that he was, and still is, correct. The putter is different from all your other golf clubs in various ways. It is the only golf club with a flat face, no loft at all. You also use an entirely different golf swing and stance than you do for any other golf club, which calls for different golf swing advice.
Of all the golf swings, the putting swing, or stroke, is the most like a pendulum action. Whether you use one of the newer long handled putters that come up to your chin, or one of the traditional sized ones, the putting stroke is essentially the same. The distance to the club head from the pivot point, or axis of rotation, remains the same throughout the swing, a true pendulum action.
I don't know who said this first, but it's been said so often that it doesn't matter. "Drive for show, putt for dough" is the phrase, and we've all seen and heard it time and time again, it's repeated as often as it is because it sums up the importance of putting in the game of golf. Most golfers concentrate all their efforts in perfecting the drive off the tee. The truth is that you will only have a maximum of one drive per hole and if you discount the shorter holes, the average number of drives is only 15 in a round of golf. The short game is much more important to work on if you want to decrease the total number of shots you have in each game of golf.
The masters of golf can drive a ball from here to eternity, but it all boils down to how many strikes of the ball it takes to put the ball in the hole, not how far you can hit the ball. The long accurate drives don't amount to anything if you're unable to putt accurately and end up taking 3 or 4 putts to sink the ball.
Choosing a putter is important, but using, whatever putter you have, consistently, is more so. I've had the same putter for fifteen years, I know what it feels like in my hands, I know its weight and how that plays into my putts.
Putting takes lots of practice. Typically, as I said, we drive the ball fifteen times in a game, but putt at least double that number. Doesn't it stand that we should practice our putting at least twice as much as driving? If you can't get to the practice green regularly, practice on your carpet at home.
Putting is probably the hardest stroke to play in golf because there is less control over the ball. All the other golf clubs fly the ball through the air. Air doesn't differ very much, sure, wind speed and direction varies, but air is air. On the other hand, when putting, the golf ball never leaves the ground. grass varies to a much higher degree than air does, but it's not all that varies, the putting surface is seldom flat and even if it was, the texture, density and height of grass varies a lot, as well as the direction of growth. Putting isn't so much about accuracy as it is about judgment. The judgment you need can only be learned with practice.
Keep in mind that no ball can make it into the hole if it doesn't have enough power behind the golf ball to get there. Three inches past the hole is better than three inches short of the hole. If it has gone too far then at least there was a chance it might have gone in the hole, but if it's short, then it never had any chance of being sunk. Take the time to get down and look at the path from your ball to the hole, does it slant one way or the other? Is it uphill or downhill?
Balance is everything in golf, The whole golf swing relies heavily on your ability to balance. Putting is no different, balance is essential. Stand with your feet spread for balance and line up the putt. Keep your hands, arms and shoulders completely still, imagine that you are a "bobble head" but you move from just below your chest. Keep your head directly over the ball. Pull your club back, keep your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders steady, the movement comes from your chest. Hit the ball, following it with your club.
The golf swing has been likened to a pendulum motion, but in truth, only the putting stroke has a true pendulum motion where the distance from the pivot point to the end of the pendulum, the putter, is always the same. However, if we look at the driver as an example, the distance from the pivot point to the head of the driver is at it's maximum at address. At the top of the backswing, the head of the driver is much closer to the pivot point, the top of your spine. During the downswing the club head moves outward from the pivot point as well as around it. This allows for the centrifugal effect that adds speed to the club head, this is one of the main reasons why the golf swing advice is different for the putting stroke.
So putting and driving are two extremes in golf in more ways than one. They are common in that they both require a great deal of practice. But, there is greater room for error with your driver than with your putter, if your drive goes a few yards too much to the right or left, it can still be a good shot and you will have lost nothing. If your putt goes a few inches to the right or left, then you have missed and it will have cost you a shot. I think it's obvious which one you really need to practice the most.
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