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Putting: Part 3


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The next thing I had to work out was which was the primary of those two essentials, strength and direction. And I concluded that strength came first.

Now, before I came to this conclusion, I thought all over and around the subject and studied it in practice, especially in tournament play and in the four-ball exhibition matches which Aubrey and I used to play a great deal ten to eighteen years ago.

I remember holing three successive putts from eight to ten yards in such a match against Jurado and Perrz on the Mar del Plata course.

As we walked to the next tee after the third of them went down, Aubrey said to me, "How in the name of fortune do you find the line over these greens?"

He might well ask for the greens were terrors!

Well, the answer was that I did not try deliberately to find the line — I looked for the feel of the strength of the shot, and the direction developed out of that feel.

That is why I say that strength comes before direction.

How can you learn to develop this sense of direction out of the feeling of strength?

Firstly, do not putt at a hole.

Just learn how far you can possibly make the ball roll.

The farther you can make it roll with a given feel of power applied, the better you are stroking the ball.

This is an essential study; it is so important that often, when I see people practicing at a hole before a tournament, I feel they would do much better to take at least a few preliminary putts without the preoccupation of the hole at all.

The good putter is the one whose ball starts to roll over as soon as it leaves contact with the club head.

This rolling over is imparted to the ball by the follow through of the club head, and though it must not be thought about, it should be felt.

The feel that we are rolling the ball along is an essential one, and we cannot get it unless we follow through.

The more roll you can give to the ball the farther it will travel in response to a stroke of a given degree of force. In other words, distance depends upon an equation involving both force or power, and roll.

There is a maximum to the roll you can produce and consequently a maximum to the distance which you get from a given power.

This maximum is known as dead strength, and when we can achieve it consistently we can make our putts stop at exactly the distance we desire — exactly hole high.

That is why it so often seems, when a really good putter strikes the ball, that it will never be up — yet it creeps on and on and just manages to tumble into the hole.

"Never up, never in," is not the adage of these putters, nor must it be yours.

Dead strength must be the objective. Putt so that if the hole were not there your ball would stop dead on the spot it occupies.

You can do a great deal to develop dead strength by constant practice on your carpet.

As it develops, a sense of direction will begin to appear, and it is in this sense of direction that you will begin to trust.

In fact, you must feel direction rather than see it.

Of course, what you see with your eyes does help you to find the line, but alone it is not enough.

The sense of feel that guided Hagen when he putted his way round Muirfield in 19 over those fast crinkly greens was something to marvel at.

I played over them that day too, and I know! He relied upon perfect stroking to help him find the line, sometimes across as many as three ridges and hollows.

Incidentally, there is one reason not generally appreciated why we Pros take so long looking for the line on the greens in tournament play — it helps us to keep quiet and not to hurry.

To see old Ted Ray creeping up to the ball, as he used to do after he had got his line, was a lesson in preparation for a smooth feline stroking of the ball.

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