Putting 101: A tribute to golf's most unconquerable skill

Most of the indelible moments in golf history have happened not after a booming tee shot, but a clutch putt.

With apologies to Charles Dudley Warner (not Mark Twain, it turns out), everybody talks about their putting but nobody does anything about it.

We complain about it the most but we practice it the least, even though practicing our putting, in many cases, costs nothing.

It’s the golf skill that has absolutely nothing to do with raw power. Putting is all about touch, perception and, when something’s on the line, intestinal fortitude. Some of the best putters in the world are children, not yet burdened with a memory that cannot erase decades’ worth of missed three-footers.

Even for golfers who play for a living and therefore practice several hours per week, a putting stroke or sense of feel can go AWOL one day and return without ceremony (or apology) the next.

And don’t even get me started on the yips.

So much of golf’s beauty is in its contrasts, and putting encapsulates some of them. Think of the greatest moments in the game’s history: the most joyous celebrations and the most naked moments of defeat. Almost all of them have happened on some meticulously groomed, rippling plain. Nearly every time Tiger Woods has pumped his right fist in triumph, his putter has been in his left. Sure, the Bryson DeChambeaus of the world may have made 350-yard drives more common (and effective) than ever, but “Drive for show, putt for dough” is still a phrase that carries the weight of history.

My own quarter-century golf life has put me through a roller-coaster relationship with putting. My first memory of joy in golf was holing a 50-footer across a practice green at six years old. But through my junior, high school and college days, putting was my Achilles heel. I have a closet full of magicless wands to prove it.

Recently, though, things have turned around. I was fitted for a putter for the first time a few years ago and have scarcely looked back since. I have had more sub-30-putt rounds in the last couple years than I would have ever dreamed of. I still have my bad days on the greens, but the good ones more than outweigh them, which is something I hope continues. I’m only half-joking when I tell people I want to be buried with my current flatstick.

Our friends at GolfPass recently debuted their newest instructional series, “Build A Better Game: Putting,” courtesy of faculty member, world-renowned teacher and Golf Channel “School of Golf” host Martin Hall. For this deep dive, Martin is joined by his wife Lisa, herself an accomplished player, having played for Europe in the 1996 and 1998 Solheim Cups amid a six-win professional career.

The Halls’ latest effort is a behemoth: 20 parts totaling four hours of immersion into all aspects of putting, from stroke mechanics to green-reading to more in-the-weeds topics like putter fitting and building a solid pre-putt routine. It’s available only to GolfPass’ current community of more than 100,000 subscribers, but you can watch it if you give the service a try for free.

-Tim Gavrich, Senior Writer

Golf Advisor’s 'greatest hits' of putting-related articles
One of golf's big barriers to entry is its perceived cost. But putting and, to a lesser extent, chipping are essentially free for anyone.
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More golf clubs and resorts are realizing that adding a putting course next to their regulation courses is good business
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Original Red and Blue courses become the first to pilot Mach 1, a new strain of Bermuda turf.
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This clever lesson from Martin Chuck will help you hole more short putts.
Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser used the famous putting courses at St. Andrews and Pinehurst as inspiration for his brand-new Punchbowl, a two-acre putting course with more curves than Kate Upton. Matt Ginella has more from Oregon.
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Don't putt for money against this monstrosity.
1 Min Read
Green reading guides sure make putting easier, but are they fair and will they be legal in 2019. We will find out in the next few months.
6 Min Read
Popstroke, a putting-oriented golf-entertainment concept, is poised for growth. We visited and have a review of the experience.
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Is the new flagstick rule affecting turf conditions?
4 Min Read
In honor of the crazy greens at Oakmont, host of the US Open this week, we decided to ponder which golf course has the craziest greens we've seen.
7 Min Read
Rules are rules, right? To prevent shenanigans like what happened Sunday at the Solheim Cup we should just do away with concessions in match play and require that everything be putted out.
3 Min Read
Three-putts are caused by poor lag putting. In this tip, renowned player and putting guru Dave Stockton shows you how to lag it closer than ever.
After a six-week review period that recently ended, the USGA and R&A announced on Monday a new interpretation of Rule 4.3 that limits the size and scale of detailed putting maps that players may use during a round.
6 Min Read
Listen up, masters of the putting game who visit the Grand Strand for your annual golf vacation: You may have been taken to the cleaners by your long-driving buddies on some of the Myrtle Beach courses that don't test the short game as much as you'd have liked. Now its time for payback. Book your group at a track where the greens are the real show, and take no prisoners.
2 Min Read
In this video, Chris Como shares a drill that will help you hone in on the precise point at which the ball will fall into the cup. By sharpening your focus, you'll hole more putts than ever.
Want to play golf in the Palm Springs area after dark? Indian Wells Golf Resort is unveiling a new driving range concept that will make hitting balls in the dark more fun.
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The 2019 U.S. Open host will demand precise iron play of its competitors.
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Tim Gavrich had a custom putter fitting epiphany; you can, too.
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