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

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