Putting should be like writing your signature

By Neville Idour

Neville Idour from Dunedin has written for various golf magazines in the past and he joins Golfer Pacific with this piece about the putting.

In the June edition of this magazine, editor Paul Gueorgieff wrote what gave cause for more comment on the often complicated (by both players and coaches) art of putting.

Gueorgieff’s hyperbolic exaggeration of the ridiculous time some of the world’s best players (male and female) spend on their routines before both fairway shots and, in this case putting, is spot on. 

Let’s be frank, it is detrimental to the enjoyment of the game for fellow players, spectators and television viewers. Thankfully the United States television channels mostly avoid the known culprits until they are about to hit the ball.

Who will forget Rory Sabatini’s (a brisk player) exit from the green some years ago before slow-coach Ben Crane had putted?

In the women’s game Cristie Kerr, Haru Nomura, Ha Na Jang, Chella Choi and even our own Lydia Ko are mentioned as slow while Ben Crane, Kevin Na, Jason Day (nickname All Day), J B Holmes and Jordan Spieth are on the men’s anonymous players’ list as the slowest. 

Conversely, who is aware of anything time consuming when Brooks Koepka, Matt Every, Dustin Johnson or New Zealand’s Ryan Fox are on the green?

Who is not sick and tired of watching players stopping, marking, then repositioning their ball carefully with the line on it before standing for an age before making an easy tap in?

So why was the sight of an LPGA player putting without a line on her ball a surprise, as Gueorgieff recorded in his column in June?  

It shouldn’t be because putting guru Dave Stockton has advocated this at his golf schools since the 1990s. 

Stockton is a multiple major winner on the PGA and senior PGA tours and was always one of the very best putters on tour. As he has said in the past: “I had to putt well as my game was not one of the longest.” However he had an outstanding short game.

Stockton’s book “Unconscious Putting” is a gem and so clear and understandable. Does he know what he is talking about? Results say yes. 

Over the years he has influenced many of the world’s best including the likes of Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, J B Holmes, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Morgan Pressel, Annika Sorenstam and Yani Tseng to name just a few. 

Mickelson went to him in September 2009 for two days saying: “He made putting simple for me again.”

Up to that point on the 2009 PGA Tour, Mickelson had made just 13 putts of more than 20 feet all year. Next week at the Tour Championship he made nine, had 36 one putts in four rounds and won.

There is no room for detail here but Stockton’s putting mantra is simple and likens it to one’s signature. We do it without thought, almost unconsciously. 

But try and do a signature slowly, copying it, and it will not flow easily. It’s the same for putting.

Stockton said “putting is a small, simple stroke that relies almost completely on touch and feel. So when players concentrate on technique and mechanical thoughts they lock themselves out of that feel.” 

“Instead of being locked into these, they should be locked into two things — the line and rolling the ball to the hole, turning into an unconscious act like your signature.”

Stockton believes reading the line does not need a lengthy frog dawdle around every part of the green. He says read any break from behind the ball and then on the low side of the putt.

Surely if the putter has a line on it this is a much better aiming point than a line on the ball. If the putter is on the correct line and the pace is right the putt should go in. Of course the other benefit is, the putting routine will be relatively quick and therefore the game becomes more pleasurable for all in every group.

In harmony with Stockton, the quiet eye system is worth a look. 

Tests of significant numbers of players of all handicaps has shown immediate gains of up to two shots per round. 

Quite eye revolves around the eyes or gaze having just two focal points after setup — the hole or aiming point, no more than three times, then on the back of the ball for two or three seconds before the stroke. Quiet eye should remain on the green briefly after contact.

If these experts thoughts can improve our putting and at the same time remove interminable time consuming routines and habits that statistically have little benefit, they may be worth a try.