Let me pause here, ye despondent ones, to repeat the words "who need fear nobody on any putting green." This, now, is going almost further than I do.
Braid proceeds: "I may suggest that I have proved this in my own case. Until comparatively recently there is no doubt that I was really a poor putter. Long after I was a scratch player I lost more matches through bad putting than anything else. I realized that putting was the thing that stood in the way of further improvement, and I did my best to improve it, so that to-day my critics are kind enough to say that there is not very much wanting in my play on the putting green, while I know that it was an important factor in gaining for me my recent championship.
"So I may be allowed the privilege of indicating the path along which improvement in this department of the game may best be effected; and what I have to say at the beginning is, that putting is essentially a thing for the closest mathematical and other reckoning. It is a game of calculations pure and simple, a matter for the most careful analysis and thought."
It would scarcely be possible for any one to eat his own words more fully and effectually than this. We may, I think, take it, as this is in Braid's most important work, Advanced Golf, and as this is, so far as I am aware his last word on golf, that we now have his mature thought on this most important matter. The wonderful thing is that although Braid recants in this whole-hearted manner and gives himself as an instance of a very bad putter who worked out his own salvation, indeed goes so far as to say he may "be allowed the privilege of indicating the path along which improvement in this department of the game may best be effected," he gives us not the slightest clue as to how his reformation was effected. That would indeed have been a pity unless I had happened to see him putting in his old bad days. I have already told what it was that saved James Braid from remaining a bad and unreliable putter.
There is another brilliant player who suffers from the same fault, or perhaps I should say, who did when I saw him play, for it is years now since I saw him tap a put. That is George Duncan. Like many who tap their puts, Duncan on his day is a wizard; but there is another side always to the tale of the man who will not follow through in putting; and I am inclined to think that in times of severe nervous tension, as when a man is laboring under a great match strain, the tapping or stabbing of puts must of necessity be a more dangerous game than leaving all that is possible to the club as one does in the true method of putting.
I have spoken against putting with drag, especially for long puts. It is obvious that a golf ball at rest sinks into the turf for quite an appreciable space. The area of contact between turf and ball is a considerable part of the surface of the sphere and not a point as it would be on a glass table. It stands to reason that if this ball is rolled slowly toward the hole it will depress the sward approximately to the same extent all the way to the hole. In other words its groove is holding it to the line it started on. Now if the ball is started by any kind of a blow that makes it jump from the green one immediately introduces into the roll of the ball a new element of risk, for it is impossible to say what it will meet when it comes down and how it will meet it, for, unless the put is a very strong one, stalks of grass, twigs and pimples have more than a theoretical effect on the run of a golf ball. For this and many other reasons, some of which I have given, there is no put superior to the plain put.
In putting, the feet should be kept fairly close together and the ball addressed so that it is about midway between the feet, if anything slightly forward of the midway line. The best criterion, however, for the right place in which to find the ball in relation to the feet is: Does a line from the bridge of the nose fall plumb onto it? It is quite possible to dogmatize too much as to how one shall stand when one is putting. Much depends on one's physical conformation. Photographs give one a good idea of the methods employed by the leading players and they are a very valuable means of instruction. Examine not one or fifty, but mayhap hundreds, then again and again, about all. points on which you require enlightenment. They will infallibly assist you in time.
Generally speaking, in putting one stands with the right foot almost at a right angle to the line of run to the hole and the left at about an angle of forty-five degrees to the right, but here again I shall not attempt to dictate. What I say is good- generally. It should suit you. It may not do so. Vary it slightly until it does. It is not in the minor matters that we must be strict. It is in fundamentals that we are adamant.
In all putting one should so far as possible confine the movement to hands and wrists until after impact. In the follow through, the hands and . wrists and forearms must go out after the ball; otherwise there is a great chance of hooking-I do not mean pulling-one's put. In approach puts one cannot rigidly adhere to the rule about confining the action of putting to the hands and wrists; and as a matter of fact, there is less of it in short puts in practise than there is in theory; but it is the right idea to inculcate, for the more we reduce the wrists to one bearing (as in the pendulum) the greater delicacy and accuracy shall we get.
Standing with the feet together is quite important in many cases. It is not essential. If one is putting well enough to do all one wants, one need not alter one's style. If, however, one is swaying, one should at once put the feet more closely together, as it makes swaying almost impossible.
It is of the greatest importance to think of nothing but getting the ball into the hole when one is putting. There is, one may say, judging from the amount I write of putting, a great deal to remember. There really is not. I write in great measure of the things that one must know but must forget, or at most use sub-consciously, when one is playing. Above everything be natural. Never fall into a cramped position. Never worry for a moment about which hand is doing it or when the pressure of a certain finger comes in. All this kind of thing is nonsense and calculated to retard your development instead of to assist it.