A refreshing approach to putting

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ

I recently heard something very refreshing from a golf commentator on television.

The commentator noticed that a player on the LPGA Tour was putting with only the white of the ball facing upwards. There were no lines marked on the ball to help with aiming and even the ball maker’s name was facing away from the player’s view.

The female commentator said this was the way she preferred to putt as well.

I thought wow.

Every week I see players on television spend hours reading a putt. Okay, hours might be an exaggeration but you know what I mean.

They then carefully aim a line on their ball at where they think they want to hit the ball. Another hour has passed.

They then re-read the putt, do a 360 degree walk around the putt and then place a marker behind the ball again. They then move the line on the ball 0.0000001 of a millimetre to the left or right. Another hour has passed. Once again, slight exaggerations in those last two sentences, but you know what I mean.

They then remove the ball marker, get ready to make the putt, steady themselves and make a stroke. The ball slides past the hole — in other words they missed.

And these are the best players in the world.

Okay, I understand such players might be putting on very fast greens and putting is not easy.

But my question is: does a line on a ball help with putting?

The following is what one putting expert, Neville Walker from Australia, said: “Using a line or the logo on your ball draws on the argument that it is easier to aim at a target from behind than from the side. Nobody disputes the logic of this statement.”

But there’s a but.

The expert continued: “Why then wouldn’t every golfer choose to use this method or technique for aiming?

“The argument against using a line on your ball is that it restricts the freedom of your stroke. Your stroke becomes too mechanical as you are fixated on your ball rather than on your target.’’

Very interesting. The line on a ball could be more of a distraction than an aid.

The expert continued: “Golfers argue that when they look down, the line on their ball appears to be aimed incorrectly. This leads to indecision and a tentative stroke. The line acts as a visual distraction rather than an aid to aligning their putter-face.”

My argument about putting is if I could paint a line on a green for a 20 foot putt, showing the exact break, could I keep the ball on that line and therefore sink the ball?

The answer is most probably not. That’s because the painted line on the green would be for a certain speed of the ball.

Getting the pace correct for a putt is probably harder than getting the right line. And that, to me, means that getting the pace of a putt is probably more important than getting the precise line. If you get the pace right but still do not sink the ball, you will almost certainly finish near the hole and therefore avoid the dreaded three-putt.

I reckon that many players, at our level, who sink a putt do so because they mis-read the putt and miss-hit the ball — in this case, two wrongs making a right.

I’ll leave the last word to the expert.

“My recommendation is that if you are going to use a line, pick an intermediate target close to the ball and aim at this.”