Is putting a dream or a nightmare?
By joe jones on 2/28/13
As long as oobers like Joseph Jones submit well written guest columns, we're going to keep publishing them.

When historians discuss who the greatest ball strikers of all time were Ben Hogan makes every list. When the question about course management is asked he is included every time. But, when you ask who the greatest putters of all time were his name never comes up.


Very simply, he was a lousy putter.

He is the only great player that was a bad putter. Hogan was on the tour for eight or nine years before he won a tournament. He fought a horrible hook that he was able to overcome on the practice range with hours of trial and error. He said that he dug the secret out of the dirt. He was notorious for his work ethic.

He was never able to solve his putting woes. Maybe that secret wasn't in the dirt. It is said that after his tragic accident his right, dominant eye was damaged and that was the cause of his problem but the fact is from the beginning he just plain never could figure how to overcome his putting woes.

After Hogan died Byron Nelson told everyone why Hogan was successful. Hogan never aimed for pins. He always played to the best possible spot on the green so he would have the simplest and shortest putt straight up hill. He knew that if he had a side hill breaker or a downhill screamer he couldn't make them. His superior ball striking made up for his deficiency on the greens.

Eventually he got the putting yips so bad that he quit playing completely. One statement he made tells you how he felt. He said, "Hitting a golf ball and putting have nothing in common. They are two different games. You work all of your life to perfect a repeating swing that will get you to the green and then you have to do something that is totally unrelated. There shouldn't be any cups. Just flag sticks. Then the man that hits the most fairways and greens and who got closest to the pins would be the winner". He eventually came up with the idea that if a hole was required it should be at least five inches in diameter. Bigger if possible.

Another thing that may explain why he never went for pins. Ben Hogan had only two holes in one in his whole career. Isn't it plausible that the greatest ball striker would have more? He obviously avoided pins like the plague. Consider this. Art Wall had 54 in his career. An amateur named Norman Manley holds the record with 59 so far. Those numbers suggest that there is more than plain dumb luck involved. There is no dumb luck when it comes to putting.

Theories abound about why the putting yips happen and how to cure them. Quite frankly all of the methods are an exercise in futility. It's almost like being a alcoholic. You are recovering but never assume you are cured. I got them in the late sixties and went to a side saddle style using a long putter. Thankfully it worked for me. I have no idea why and really don't care. I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. That was forty three years ago and still ongoing. I consider myself a good putter but sadly I was better before I got the yips.

I'm not complaining just stating a fact as I remember it.

One thing — I sure wish I could hit my irons a lot better. With my good putting it would make playing a lot more fun. Oh well!

There are several things that I try to apply when I putt. Pick your line and believe in it. Your first read is usually the correct one. Hit the putt with as smooth a stroke that you can. It will go in or not. If all else fails hit the putt and let God take over. It might work.

What do you have to lose?

This was written by Joseph Jones, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

Have an idea for a guest column? Send it here!

Image via Flickr, akeg

[ comments ]
mjaber says:
I think putting really boils down to 1 thing... confidence.
bkuehn1952 says:
I agree with Hogan that golf is comprised of two distinct activities. I can't think of another sport that incorporates such disparate elements. Perhaps back when figure skaters had to carve compulsory figures and then later perform a freestyle routine.

Did I just mention figure skating in the same paragraph as golf? Forgive me.
Banker85 says:
putting is fun when you are draining them. I have had only a couple rounds where everytime i stepped up to putt i could see and feel it go in and it was. That was fun. But missing 10 5 footers a round can get exhausting.
sjduffers says:
There is one sport that does rival and I think outdoes golf for distinct activities: the nordic biathlon, where participants cross-country ski and once in a while stop and shoot their rifle (which they were carrying on their back while skiing) at five tiny targets a long ways away...

I disagree somewhat with the great Ben Hogan and others here: it's not all black and white between full swings and putting. Golf has shots of any/every length and you can use more than one weapon to do the job, particularly in the short game, and putting is just the ultimate short game contest, down to the dreaded 3-5 footer.

@mjaber is right: it's all about confidence. There are days when I can just eyeball the green, step up to the ball and fire the 5 footer without ever missing, and days where the simplest straight 3-footer seems daunting. The same is true, to some extent, with those little chips (not making them, put getting them close).
Trip says:
How many majors would Hogan have won with a belly putter!?
GBogey says:
I have to say that I am totally fascinated by putting, especially how a good putter can quickly overcome a bad game and vice versa. About two years I ago I was matched up with two strangers - one was a great ball striker and the other was pretty good, but they were two of the worst putters/short games I have ever seen on skilled players. Fascinating to watch.
For the record, Bob Rotella states in one of his books that there is zero physical science to explain the yips, it is all mental, but isn't all golf that way.
sv677 says:
Although Hogan was not considered a good putter, this is based on his problems late in his career, after the accident. In his prime he was a very good short (5'-6')putter. I don't have the book with the quote with me, I think it was Nelson that said Hogan could go weeks and not miss a short putt.
accarson3 says:
Most interesting part of this column to me is how Hogan managed his game and that "Hogan never aimed for pins." That's great advice for weekenders (like me).
joe jones says:
sv677. That's exactly what Nelson said with the statement I quoted. He was an excellent putter from 6 to 8 feet,straight up hill. Hogan overcame his weakness on the greens by eliminating difficult putts. He was a poor putter in his youth. He became a horrible putter when he got the yips. I am in no way denigrating Hogan. He used his great ball striking ability to give himself the most makable putts possible.More power to him.
joe jones says:
Trip. With Hogan being a traditionalist he never would have changed to a long or belly putter.He often chided Sam Snead when he putted croquet style and when he started to use his squat side saddle method. He quit before he became almost a laughing stock. I don,t mean he no longer played the tour . He quit playing completely. In his later years he would practice on the range but it was usually in private. He hated other people watching him.
Tim Horan says:
I have to say that good putters do not have long careers. Whilst poor putters like myself seem to go on forever! Bernhard Langer and Sergio Garcia struggled on for years without good putting stats. They later found something that works for them and good on them! Madness is defined by doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If your putting is bad experiment, read, watch a few videos, go and get fitted (don't buy but go through a putter fitting, video yourself...Find something that works! And if this sounds like hard work... guess is!
joe jones says:
The difference between being an exceptionally good putter and an average putter is huge. Exceptional putters think that the hole is as big as a hat every day. When it isn't they are still good putters and score pretty well. Average putters hope the hole looks big and when it isn't they struggle and don't play well. Most players think that the game is played from tee to green. Exceptional putters play backwards mentally. When things are clicking on the green they are almost unbeatable. Good putting generates a positive attitude in your whole game.
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