Sunday, 26 July 2015

I Think I've Got an Attitude Problem

I've been focussing lately on my putting.  I have come realize, after an honest appraisal of my game, that I'm never going to improve unless I become a better, more consistent, putter.  But, it seems, when it comes to putting, I've got an attitude problem.

In his book Bobby Jones on Golf, Bobby addressed the all-important subject of attitude when it comes to putting.  He wrote:

"Someone told me a story about an experienced professional who regained his putting confidence by rather drastic measures in the middle of a round.  Playing well otherwise, he suddenly lost all ability to hole a short putt.  After missing several, he was left, at one hole, with a mean one of about four feet.  This time he walked quickly up to the ball, closed his eyes, and rapped the recalcitrant sphere straight into the middle of the cup.  He holed the next one or two in the normal way and thereafter pursued his way rejoicing.

I should never attempt nor recommend the method employed here, but there can be no question that anxiety and too much care cause most short putts to go astray.  When you see a man obviously trying to guide the short putt, or hitting quickly with a short, stabbing stroke, even though he may hole a few, it will not be long before he meets trouble.  A short putt, even as a long one, must be struck with a smooth, unhurried, and confident stroke.  The best way to accomplish this is to decide upon a line and to determine to hit the ball on that line and let it go hang if it wants to.  I have never had any better advice in golf, from tee to green, than was contained in a telegram sent me by Stewart Maiden in 1919.  It read: 'Hit 'em hard.  They'll land somewhere.'  You must not apply this advice literally to putting, but its application is obvious.  Hit the putt as well as you can and do not allow worry over the outcome to spoil the stroke.

It is worthy of observation that nearly everyone finds it easier to stroke properly putts of twelve to fifteen feet than those from less or greater distances.  There is a very good reason why this should be true.  The player fears he will miss a shorter putt, and fears he may fail to lay a longer one dead, but when he is putting from middle distances, he merely hopes he may hole out, without feeling that he must guide the ball into the hole--and he knows that he will not likely take three putts.

We would all profit greatly if we could cultivate this attitude toward putts of all lengths; it ought to be easy, too, for we all know, or should know by this time, that worry does very little good.  If we must be wrong, we may as well make our mistakes gracefully by choosing the wrong line as by allowing a nervous, overcareful stroke to pull the ball off direction."

Bobby went on to talk about putting as a kid in the moonlight with his friend and how they actually putted better when holing out on the putts up to eight or ten feet.  He concluded:

"There must be something learned from that moonlight putting.  I believe it to be this--the men who putt well on greens good and bad must have schooled themselves to see a putting green as we used to see it in the moonlight.  Let me say here that I do not believe any man can be so accurate in striking a golf ball, or so uncannily precise in his judgement of speed, borrow, roll, and all the other things that go to make a perfect putt, that he can propel a golf ball over ten yards of uneven turf with such unerring certainty that it will find a spot the size of the hole.  There are so many factors to be taken into account that the skill required is simply beyond me.

I wonder how many putts that are holed follow exactly the path laid out for them in the player's mind.  I should say that as many of those that go down deviate from that path as follow it.  It appears to me that the good putter is simply the man who can keep coming close--who gets more times within one-foot radius--and that such a man holes more putts because of the greater number that come close, a greater number more likely will go in.

Working on this idea, it must appear that we should concern ourselves mainly with the more general contours of a slope rather than to try to account for every little hop or roll the ball is likely to take.  This does not mean that we should be taking a haphazard shot at the hole, but only that we should determine upon a line upon which we want the ball to start and hit firmly upon that line.

Worrying about rough spots in the green has no effect except to make the stroke indecisive, and I believe that bad putting is due more to the effect the green has upon the player than to that it has upon the action of the ball."

Reading this again, I was reminded of when I started golf as a youngster.  A buddy and I would ride our bikes out to the course in the morning and often still be on the putting green at dark, putting for dimes, after we'd gone round and round the nine hole course.  We could putt like demons in the growing dusk or dark; or at least we thought we could.  We had a great attitude in those days.  We tried to make every putt, rather than trying not to miss them.

Somewhere along the way, I got worried and careful with my putting.  I developed a bad attitude.  I need to get back to putting like that kid in the moonlight.

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