Remember that the first thing in putting is not any question of your style, your individuality, or how you look while you are doing it. Cease to think of yourself at all; or, if you cannot avoid this somewhat popular amusement, try to think of yourself as an old grandfather's clock and your hands as the bearing whereon the pendulum is swinging. Know that if you reproduce, as nearly as you can, the swing of that pendulum on to the ball that in the end the result will be good, for your mechanical efforts will have been right; and it is these that count in putting and not wandering thoughts of failure, putting the blame on Mother Nature, of style and so on. And know that if Mother Nature gave you an individuality worth having, you will graft that on to the proper foundation of the stroke, which is, in the first place, correct mechanics. Know also that, so far as your individuality is subservient to and harmonious with the correct mechanical production of your stroke, it is a right and proper thing to let it edge in and assist to make your form on the green; but remember above everything that the person who thinks of form or style except such as comes from playing his strokes well and truly is no guide for you or me.
It may seem that I deal with this matter in a somewhat irreverent manner. It is indeed hard to refrain from being serious and severe. It is almost impossible to say how much despair, gloom and despondency has been spread throughout the world of golf by the hopeless message of the great triumvirate on the subject of putting. Golf, as most of us know, is now of almost more importance than religion and politics together. Can one who knows the truth sit calmly by and see untruth needlessly and carelessly circulated to the detriment of a great game without raising one's voice in protest and flashing forth the message of hope and confidence and truth which must take the place of the woful tale of the great three - a tale to which they would not now subscribe their names.
Taylor, Braid and Vardon speak of wonderful "individuality" in putting. If they said "contortions" it might be nearer the truth. It is very strange, but nevertheless true, that a great number of human beings find it extremely hard to be natural on a putting green when in possession of a putter and about to hit the ball.
The trouble is that the grand tale of the mystery merchants has spread. The "gigantic conspiracy," as James Sherlock, the famous English golfer, calls it, is in full operation. Every one who approaches golf is filled up with tales similar to the quotations that I have given from the books alleged to be by Braid, Vardon and Taylor. That unfortunately is what I have to combat. It is truly some handicap to start out to tell simple honest folk the simple honest truth with such a mountain of prepared and authoritative falsehood to knock down, but fortunately I have some very strong corroborative testimony in support of my argument.
I say "fortunately" because it amounts to this. If you are going to get any good from this book you must believe the obvious outstanding truth and reason of what I say and discard the nonsense associated with the greatest names in the history of the game.
Now, in connection with putting (the more important half of the game, remember), some people might think that I ask too much when I claim to have my teaching accepted without demur against such men as the triumvirate. It does not seem so to me. Names mean nothing to me unless they are associated with the truth. Fortunately, since most of this foolishness was published James Braid has recanted. In his book, Advanced Golf, at page 144, Chapter X (The Master Stroke), dealing with putting strokes, he says: "Thus practically any man has it in his power to become a reasonably good putter, and to effect a considerable improvement in his game as the result."
(3) Swing Back.
Observe that the Club has gone straight back and that the hands have barely moved.
The Club has followed straight after the Ball, the hands coming slightly forward
SALIENT POINTS IN PUTTING.
Here is the right note. This is the message of hope to the golfer and the beginner. Braid here says that "practically every man" can "become a reasonably good putter." I go still further. I should say instead of "reasonably good" "very good." Think what this changed message means to the world of golf. If I had nothing else to convey to golfers, this one lesson of hope and trust and confidence on the green, and my showing that it is justified, would be worth while.
It will be remembered that Braid, Taylor and Vardon are practically agreed that good or great putters are born and not made. The statement is, of course, so ludicrous that one would if the words gave one any chance to do so accept them in a figurative sense. Taylor goes further and says that the best evidence that one cannot learn putting is the bad putting of some professionals. He argues that the fact that they cannot improve is proof that putting cannot be learned.
Fortunately for the people who cannot put we have the two remarkable cases of Braid and Vardon, two great golfers who could not put when they were using wrong methods, but who became good putters directly they abandoned their faulty execution.
Let us see what Braid has to say of his own salvation. On page 146 of Advanced Golf he says:
"Of course they say that good putters are born and not made, and it is certainly true that some of the finest putters we know seem to come by their wonderful skill as a gift, and nowadays put with an ease and confidence that suggest some kind of inspiration. But it is also the fact that a man who was not a born putter, and whose putting all through his golfing youth was of the most moderate quality, may by study and practise make himself a putter who need fear nobody on any putting green."