IF you want your golf to be based upon sound principles, beware of the feu de mots.
Avoid falling a victim to those slogans and catch-phrases with which golfing talk and golfing writing are so liberally peppered.
The slogan is the enemy of thought, and the fact that a phrase has been current around club rooms and courses right through the golfing ages is no guarantee that it enshrines a profound golfing truth-it may be just a superficially bright and catchy phrase.
My own view is that the fundamentals of golf are not compressible into slogans.
A large number of these catch-phrases have gath-ered around putting.
We have all heard, "Never up, never in/' "A good putter is a match for anyone," and, "Putting is a game within a game," so often that we must be in grave danger of accepting them as true.
I say "grave danger" advisedly. Take "putting is a game within a game."
If you accept that and its implication-that putting needs a method of approach and technique different from that of the rest of golf-your chance of ever becoming a first-class putter drops to round about zero.
Putting is not a game within a game: it is the game.
It is the essence of correct golfing mechanism. If anyone who has a proper conception of the golf swing will apply this same conception to the putt, his putting will improve in consequence.
Now this chapter is on putting not on catch-phrases, but I want to deal with one more of the latter here because it may help us to get this matter of putting into perspective.
"A good putter is a match for anyone." That phrase was popular and accepted as it is now when my great compatriot Harry Vardon was in his prime.
Because with the limelight on him Harry had been seen to miss some absurdly short putts, some people (but not the folk he played against) put him down as "a poor putter."
The greatest putter of the time beyond doubt or question was Willy Park.
So Willy was pitted against Vardon to confirm the adage that a good putter is a match for anyone.
He did not confirm it; how Harry won that match is historic . . . he pitched so close to the hole that he did not have to putt well.
So we must rewrite the slogan and make it, "a good golfer is a match for anyone," not a good putter any more than a good driver or a good mashie player.
Golf is one whole game. It is true that if you cannot putt you cannot win, for no hole is won until the ball is down-but good scores are only made possible by good play up to the green.
Is it true, you may ask, that, "good putters are born not made," because if so, what is the use of trying to learn how to putt?
Another of those wretched catch phrases you see. You can learn to putt. I was born a good putter, but I became an infinitely better one when I learned how to putt.
In fact I became so exceptional a putter that after playing the morning round with me at Knocke, Walter Hagen called out to Aubrey across the dining-room, "Your brother is the finest chipper and holer out I have ever seen," and though Walter was an inveterate leg-puller, he meant that! I had taken only 29 putts for the round and my holing out up to two yards was exactly one hundred per cent.
And oddly enough I had modeled my methods largely upon those of Walter Hagen himself-the King Pippin on the green of his generation and the father of modern golf-green methods.
In following his lead I was in good company, even the great Bobby Jones went through a period of "Walter imitation' Though he did not adopt the same wide open stance, he used Walter's reversed overlapping grip and smooth slow follow-through.