In putting, it is of prime importance that the body should be kept immovable, the hands, wrists, arms, and, to a certain extent, the shoulders only entering into the stroke. If the body be allowed to participate in the work an element is introduced that only complicates the situation, and makes this part of the game altogether uncertain. It is difficult enough, in all conscience, to control the strength of the stroke by simply using the other members; add the weight of the body, however little, and you will get such additional run on the ball as will carry it away over the hole and prove utterly demoralizing to the player. Neither should the wrists alone play any undue part. The less they are employed the better, for uniformity. They should act in perfect harmony with the other factors, the whole so blending and merging into each other as to produce a rhythmical unison, and leave the player wholly unconscious of any particular element being present. There should be more or less of an air of stiffness about the stroke, free, however, from any rigidity born of tautened muscles.
The head, of course, must be kept absolutely still. At the moment of striking, the eyes -particularly the left - should be intently fastened, not only on the ball, but on the dead centre of the ball towards the back, where you intend hitting it. It has been suggested that the left eye more especially should be directed at the ball. This will involve a slight turn of the head away from the hole. In this attitude less encouragement is given to pull the ball -and, as I have previously remarked, this matter of pulling is one of the greatest of all putting sins. As a further aid, it is advisable to get both elbows in line, parallel with the line of the putt. This will necessitate the turning of the left elbow away from the body, the right being somewhat tucked in towards the thigh, but not being allowed to rest on it. By letting the club swing in the manner described it will be noticed that it meets and goes through the ball with the face at a perfect right angle with reference to the line to the hole, and that is the whole essence of good putting. There is no mystery at all about it. The laws of motion are unchangeable, and given that the ball be hit truly on scientific principles, such as I have endeavored to outline, it will assuredly run straight on a smooth and true green, and be far more liable to keep a straight line on an indifferent one than if hit "in any old way."
In respect to the proper degree of strength to be applied, this is largely governed not only by the weight but also by the lie of the club. With a heavy club less force is necessary to make the ball travel a given distance than with a lighter one. So it is with a straight - faced putter as against one a trifle lofted or laid back. The more it is laid back the greater is the undercut or backward spin, and the harder must the ball be struck. Such a club is very useful on a keen green, as there is less liability of over - running the hole. Then, too, the shaft plays a very important part. With one possessing an undue amount of spring it is very difficult to gauge the correct amount of strength necessary. It is better to err on the right side and play with a very stiff shaft.
Probably the best all-round weapon is a putting-cleek of medium weight, and not too much lofted.
I am not an advocate of wooden putters. Off wood the ball is endued with much greater running power than off iron, and therefore the stroke calls for greater exercise of delicacy. Moreover, the ball does not appear to hug the ground so closely, and is consequently more apt to jump the hole. These very qualities, however, make the wooden putter rather desirable for running-up approaches. Nevertheless, I believe the ordinary putter to be, on the whole, the more trustworthy for such strokes.
A little experimenting and practice with different kinds of putters will shortly satisfy the player which particular one is best suited to him, day in and day out, and when this discovery is made, stick to it. You may, however, have a fancy for another with which you are perfectly deadly at times, but hardly feel like pinning absolute faith to it on all occasions. In an important match it is not a bad plan to stick it in your bag, and if you happen to have a poor putting streak on don't hesitate to try a change. Putting is largely mental, anyway, and humoring one's self in this department of the game often produces the desired results. On certain greens the ordinary putter works admirably. More especially on those which are very true. If at all rough the putting-cleek will probably prove the more serviceable. In the hands of a finished player, however, it makes comparatively little difference which he uses. A good player must be highly adaptable; quick to recognize exactly the kind of stroke required, according to the nature of the surroundings, and so "make the punishment fit the crime." Such a player will not hesitate to take his putter when the ball is a yard or so off the edge of the green, but he will modify the stroke slightly by altering his stance, playing with the ball well forward, almost opposite the left toe, and with the club head in advance of the hands. This will cause the ball to be slightly lofted, barely sufficient to skim over the intervening rough part, and to have a free run up to the hole. The same results may more easily be attained with a putting-cleek, owing to the face being more laid back, by standing with the ball just a little more forward than usual. Or, if preferred, an iron may safely be used. It largely depends upon the nature of the ground, and no hard and fast rule can be laid down to govern such cases.
Fig. 29 Cutting To The Left
Fig. 30 Cutting To The Right
Fig 31 Lofting A Stymie Putting
Before concluding this chapter it is proper to say a few words concerning stymies, which, justly so or not, form a recognized part of the game. Nearly every degree of stymie is capable of being negotiated, by (A) curling your ball around the opposing one, (B) lofting over it, or (C) putting a follow - through on your ball and striking your opponent's, causing the latter to jump clean over the hole and yours to go in. Everything depends upon the position of the balls in reference to the hole as to the means employed to make the stroke successfully, joined also to the undulating or other characteristics of the green. Occasionally the undulations of the ground offer assistance. Putting such aside, however, and taking a flat green, with the opponent's ball a trifle to the right of the line to the hole, it is possible, by turning the face of the putter a good deal to the right and hitting towards the heel, at the same time drawing it sharply across, to so slice the ball as to make it describe the necessary curve. Care must be taken, however, to aim to the left of the other ball. Sometimes the balls are so situated as to make it desirable to curl around the opposite way, from right to left. The method of procedure in such case is exactly the reverse of the foregoing one. Let the ball be nearer the right foot, turn the face of the club in so as to face well to the left of the hole, and hit the ball more off the toe, commencing the stroke inward and finishing outward, across the ball, aiming at the same time to the right of the other ball. The spin given to the ball will cause it to curl in from right to left. It is imperative in both cases that the ball should be struck with decision and not in a half-hearted, timorous fashion. For that matter, by-the-way, this applies to all strokes. It frequently happens that the balls are so lying as to make it practically impossible to effect either of the strokes mentioned. In such case there is no alternative but to loft your ball over the other with a mashie. To do this you must hit the ball very clean, without a suggestion of sclaff or top. It is done almost entirely with the wrists, rather snappily, and with a slight upward turn just at the moment of impact. The eye must be kept fastened on the ball. Looking up a fraction of a second too soon is fatal. The stroke may the more easily be accomplished by playing the ball well off the left leg, rather more in advance than usual. The head of the club will thus lie flatter and will assist in getting the ball up more quickly, with little run after alighting. Whether you play to pitch the ball right into the hole or short of it depends of course upon their relative positions. Confidence may be said to be a prerequisite in bringing the shot off successfully. Much, too, depends upon whether you are playing for the hole or a half. Sometimes the shot is of such a hazardous nature that it is better to play safe and accept a half rather than run any undue risk of losing the hole by knocking your opponent's ball in. But if you are playing for a half you have got to take the bull by the horns and risk it.
Occasionally you will be confronted with an absolutely dead stymie by having your opponent's ball just on the edge of the cup, your own being so close, say seven inches to a foot away, that it is impossible to negotiate the stroke by either curling around or lofting. In such extremity there is only one way of getting your ball in the hole unaccompanied by your opponent's, and that is by what is technically known in billiards as the follow shot. Hit your ball towards the top, just above the centre, and aim directlv at the other ball. Strike with sufficient force to go at least twice as far as you would ordinarily wish to. This additional strength is necessary to cause your opponent's ball to jump the hole upon being struck, your own meanwhile dropping into the hole. It is surprising how frequently this will happen when the stroke is executed properly. At all events it is worth trying in an emergency, especially when you have only one for a half.