Monday, 13 July 2015

Bobby Jones on The Importance of Putting

Whether we like it or not, putting is a big part of the game.  In fact, Jordan Spieth's brilliance is built around his ability to make key putts, especially those in the fifteen to twenty foot range.  Good putters have the advantage of knowing they are able to turn three shots into two, by regularly holing putts well outside the proverbial leather.  I have always wished I could be a better putter, regularly envying players whom I've had beat me, not because they hit it better than I did, but because they putted so well.

Bobby Jones had an interesting take on the age old question posed by poor putters, namely, is there too much of a premium placed on putting?  In his book, Bobby Jones on Golf, Bobby said:

"The experiment of substituting eight-inch cups for the stand four and a quarter inch size brings us back to the old contention that too much of the game of golf is played on the putting green.  Someone is always trying to improve or reform something and golf has not escaped.

I remember some years ago a professional tournament played over an English course--Wentworth, I believe--in which an attempt was made to reckon points for accurate approach shots.  A series of concentric circles was laid out around each hole and the players were awarded so many points for score, and in addition, a varying number of points depending upon which circle they were able to hit with their second shots.  Like the Florida experiment, this was a protest against the importance of putting in golf as it has always been played. 

The argument runs something like this: Par is intended to represent perfect golf.  The average par of an 18-hole course is, roughly, 72, and par figures always allow two putts to a green.  Thus, in an18-hole round, par figures allow the player 36 putts and 36 other shots distributed among his remaining clubs.  Since one-half of the strokes of a perfect round of golf may be played with a putter, is there not too much premium placed upon skill with the club?  Would not the distribution be fairer if the hole could be made of such size as to make one putt per green, instead of two, a reasonable allowance?

One answer to this is, of course, that excellence in driving and in iron play receives its reward as certainly as does excellence in putting.  Often, bad putting can nullify the advantage gained in other departments, but certainly a long, straight drive makes the second shot easier, and an accurate second shot places the player in winning position.

The advocates of the larger hole would eliminate from the game the unfair result coming about when one player holes a long putt and 'steals' a hole from a man who has outplayed him to the green.  Their contention is that the hole should be large enough so that the holing of any reasonable putt after a fine second shot would be practically certain.  But they overlook the fact that the 'thief' would then be holing from off the green and from bunkers quite as often.

The dub hails the larger cup with delight, because he conceives that he will no longer be blowing the short putts and that all little ones that now rim the hole will begin to fall in.  But here again the thing is entirely relative.  Instead of rimming and missing from two, three, and four feet, he will experience the same disappointment when he misses from ten, twelve, and fifteen feet.  No matter what we do to the hole, we will never cease to hear about the ball that might have gone in but didn't.

It seems to me that the larger hole might have just the opposite effect from that claimed for it, for I believe it would make more difference in the putting game for the man who was continually leaving himself away from the hole than for the fellow who is always banging his second shots up close.  The second man seldom has to worry about taking three putts, even with the present hole size, and if he is at all a good putter, he will pick up a number of one-putt greens, whereas the other fellow, playing a bit wider on his approaches, will scarcely ever get down in one, except by accident and often, if his touch is not just right, he will be taking three.

I have no real fear that these experiments will lead to anything.  I do not think that making the hole larger would make the game any better, but even if it would, I should still recall what I consider the best argument advanced against a change.  I once heard someone say, when a discussion like this was going on, 'Surely, go ahead. And make the hole any size you please.  But. When you do, do not call the game golf.'"

Is it just me, or was that Bobby Jones not one seriously intelligent man?  I'll just have to quit complaining about the short putts I miss, and either learn to putt better or expect to keep getting beaten by guys who don't hit it as well as me, but can putt like stink.