Be Realistic about Putting
The 45th Secret
Putting is the most difficult part of the game. If one is not realistic in this regard, he will fail to take the
steps which will bring about improvement.
Putting is difficult because it is highly complicated, fully as complicated as three-cushion billiards—and perhaps
more so. In fact, Willie Hoppe, who mastered billiards, was astonished that he could not overcome his poor putting.
This is not too difficult to understand. His table was small; greens are large. The table was absolutely level;
greens never are. The cloth on the table was always of the same speed; greens vary almost from hour to hour. He
played on one table; a golfer plays on 18 different greens. Hoppe played in a calm atmosphere; in golf, the weather
can change from cold to hot, calm to windy, dry to humid, etc., in a matter of minutes. On the billiard table skill
generally wins; on the green, luck is often decisive. In billiards there is virtually no problem of grip, stance,
stroke, or type of cue to be used; in golf, the variations are almost endless.
Although we are aware of the danger that this emphasis on difficulty may affect the very confidence which is
reputed to be essential for good putting, no progress can be made unless we first face the facts. Even if there is
some lessening of confidence at first, this will be better compensated for by relying more on putting practice than
by believing that wishful thinking will cause putts to drop. My own experience has been that the more I tried to
generate false feelings of confidence, the more careless I became, and the more putts I missed. In fact, I seem to
make many of my long putts at unpredicatable times—probably because of the laws of chance.
After we accept the fact that putting is a difficult art—a game within a game—it is much easier not to be
discouraged. If we know a trip will be long, it is much easier to accommodate to it than if someone says that the
journey is a short one and it turns out not to be so. In addition, when the difficulties are overcome, our
competitive position is much safer than it would be if the difficulties did not exist at all.