Opinion: The Art of Putting And Its Glorious Mysteries

Jordan Spieth (photo credit: Golf Magazine)
Bryson DeChambeau Arm-Locking (photo credit: Golf Magazine)

If you are a golfer, you’ve had those glorious days or stretches on the links when you’ve made every putt you’ve looked at. Reading greens comes easy. It looks like the hole has doubled in size. You keep hitting your line. You keep finding the ideal speed. It feels like you cannot miss. Sure, there is likely a bit of luck thrown in, but on those days, you feel like you could go toe-to-toe with any PGA Tour player. 

Granted, putting is not as satisfying as ripping a drive down the centre of the fairway, or hitting an approach to a few feet; yet there is something to be said when you drain a clutch par putt and the feeling that ensues.

The most difficult part of putting? There is truly no right or wrong way to do it. The only thing that matters is a consistent and repetitive stroke that dials in the speed and line. Which begs the question: should we be trying to perfect this skill? If it is so random, how do you dial it in?

No two putts are ever the same during a round of golf, but throughout the years, the art of putting has narrowed down to three main focal points: alignment, line, and pace. While this is true—putting does rely on these three skills—when you look at the putting strokes of many amateur golfers, they typically lack some of these putting “staples”, yet manage to get the ball into the hole nonetheless.

There is something special about the game of golf, and there is something to be said about the unique playing styles and quirks with equipment. Such is the case with the putter, by far the biggest variety from golfer-to-golfer when assessing someone’s equipment and stroke.

There are a wide variety of putter heads, hosels, grips, and stroke methods that have become popular in the modern game. Has putting become an art form, rather than a learned skill? Yes, given how many styles are being used by the best golfers on the planet.

Of the newer styles of putting, the claw has become a popular method of holding the putter grip. Generally, one hand is conventionally on the putter, while the second hand quite literally “claws” the putter, either normally, or left-hand-low. This method is popular among recent major winners Phil Mickelson and Collin Morikawa. 

Secondly, since the ban on “anchoring” the putter that was implement a decade ago, the arm-locking method has elicited a litany of strong reactions, for and against it. Arm-locking is when the butt-end of the putter is pressed against the lead arm, mimicking the benefits of a belly or chest putter – both of which were deemed illegal under the “anchoring” ban. This allows the putter-head to be more stable through impact and, as a result, more consistent. The sudden increase in discussion around the arm-lock style can likely be credited to stars such as Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and Bryson DeChambeau, who started to use this style of putting after experimenting with numerous other methods.

So, what makes a good putter? Brad Faxon, Ben Crenshaw, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth – widely to be among the best putters of all time—all putt slightly differently. There are so many ways to get the job done with the flatstick, yet in 2022, nobody has truly mastered the art. Case and point being a player like Bernhard Langer, who employs a very unconventional putting style, but he has repeatedly proven that he can make putts on the Champions Tour, when it matters most.

In the game of golf as a whole, putting is still very much a mystery. We can dial in our alignment, pace, and line, but there is still so much variance in the actual stroke when looking at individual putting styles. The mystery of putting keeps us coming back and searching for more; many players are still searching for that competitive edge to win their Saturday skins game, compete on tour, or get into the game.

Bernard Langer (Photo credit: Golfweek)
Phil Mickelson’s claw grip (photo credit: Golf Digest)
Tiger Woods (photo credit: Golf Magic)

2 thoughts on “Opinion: The Art of Putting And Its Glorious Mysteries

  1. Great article Johnny, I’m heading to Florida next week, hopefully I’ll put it all together on the green. Thanks.

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