If you celebrate a great drive more than a holed six-footer, it’s time for a rethink... TG elite teaching professional Karl Morris tells you why.
Let's start with a simple question. Which of the following statements would you rather applied to you?
"I am a great ball-striker."
"I am a great putter."
My guess would be you plumped for option one. In my experience of working with golfers at all levels, the typical golfer would rather be known as a pure striker of a golf ball rather than a demon with the flatstick.
For most golfers, a great ball-striker is a true golfer; great putting, on the other hand, is relegated as a lesser skill. After all, your gran could roll in a 10-footer – but it's unlikely she could nail a 4-iron.
In fact, I'd go further and say there are plenty of people who actively cultivate and seemingly enjoy a status as a poor putter. There are folks out there who paint a round of pure striking, undermined by a woeful putting performance, as something noble. No doubt you've heard their stories in the clubhouse.
If this is ringing bells with you, it's time to analyse your attitude to putting – because it could be seriously holding your scores back. We've come across the phrase "what the thinker thinks, the prover proves" before in this column, and if you develop the persona of a poor putter you will surely find ways to reinforce that belief on the course.
For Exhibit A I give you Ben Hogan. In many ways, Hogan was the perfect example of how a golfer flourishes according to the values he creates for himself. "The man who is solid from tee to green will last longer," he once said.
"Show me a player who depends on putting and I'll show you a man who won't stand up to the steady grind."
His belief in ball-striking led to a career dedicated to finding the sweetspot; his dismissal of putting, to the point of wanting it banned, made him – among major winners – one of the weakest practitioners on the greens.
But had 'The Hawk' shown more respect for putting, convinced himself of its worth and shown the same passion to excel with the putter as he did with the 1-iron, how much more success might he have enjoyed on the course?
If you want to become a better putter, you need to adjust the narrative you tell yourself about your putting.
Do you feel putts drop because God puts them in? Do you dismiss people who hole everything, as if they are not playing the real game? Do you like telling the story of how well you hit it but how badly you scored? Is putting a 'dark art'?
If the answer to any of those is yes, it's time to gain new respect for putting. Appreciate that good putters gain their reputations because they putt consistently well, and that in itself proves strong putting performance is down to more than fortune.
It's no coincidence that one of the game's best ever putters, Ben Crenshaw (left), was coached by Harvey Penick, a man who had consummate respect for the skill of putting.
"Go to dinner with good putters," Penick instructed a young Crenshaw and Tom Kite as they set out on their pro careers. "Their attitude and confidence will rub off on you."
Look into the works of respected coach Bob Rotella, a man who advises us to "fall in love with the idea of being a good putter". Remind yourself of the skill needed to hole a putt.
Commit to improving your ability to read greens, a genuine skill that makes a holed putt feel a lot less like a fluke.
And remember the ability to control the blade under pressure is one of golf's hardest skills... and one of its most important attributes.
Finally, invest in a putting lesson, or even a putter fitting which will help you develop
a more affectionate relationship with your putter.
These acts will give you a much more healthy respect for the art of putting – and that, in itself, will make you a better putter.
Karl would like to make it clear he is NOT the Karl Morris who founded of the Lee Westwood Golf School, which has been the subject of a recent litigation dispute.