Give yourself the joy of hearing it slide into the hole, of seeing it disappear, of knowing that you completed the task as nature meant it to be done. Putt the ball into the hole, not near it, not by it, not within a foot, two feet, three feet; putt the ball INTO the hole. If you take a step back and look at the game of golf, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that putting the ball INTO the hole is actually defined as the object of the game. Don’t deny yourself that pleasure.
Section 1-1 of the USGA Rules of Golf: The Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the rules.
Within our golf group at Camelback, we have adopted a policy which coincidentally corresponds with the USGA Rules of Golf. We are putting the ball INTO the hole. As expected, there is grumbling. “That’s ridiculous. I would never miss a putt that close!”
If that is true, then what are you bitching about? If you can’t miss it, enjoy the sound of the ball rolling in the bottom of the hole. Bathe yourself with the satisfaction of playing the hole in the manner in which the game was designed. Bask in the glory of having upheld the honor of the game of golf by playing by the rules.
As a reality check, consider the case of Sue Clark. In her last twenty or so rounds, she has carded a 74, a 75, a 78 and a 79. It’s probably reasonable to assume that with scores like that, she’s a better than average golfer. (I’m practicing my understatement skills.) However, on Friday past, she three-putted from three feet! It happens. It is not uncommon to see someone “give” a three footer, but obviously, it shouldn’t be a given. I still have nightmares about the time I four-putted from six feet in a tournament. Maybe if I hadn’t been so willing to accept gratuitous “gimmes” in previous rounds, I might have improved my score by only three-putting.
Why do golfers give and accept “gimmes”? When someone gives you a two-footer and you pick it up, the reality is you do so because you’re scared half to death that you might miss the putt.
Why does someone offer to give you a putt? Because it gives him a feeling of magnanimity and authority. There may also be a darker side to the act, an implied quid-pro-quo. “Hey you jerk, I gave you a three-footer back on two and you’re going to make me putt this one?” (Hint: The correct answer is “Yes”.) If you feel the words “Pick it up” or “That’s good” welling to your lips, spit them out, but don’t say them. Don’t lead your fellow golfers into temptation.
One of the arguments, lame as it might be, for awarding gimmes is … it speeds up play. Nonsense! Truth be known, if we assume someone has a one-footer remaining on each of the eighteen holes and he takes a full three seconds to tap that “automatic” putt into the hole, then you’ve added a full 54 seconds to the round. Oh my, call the marshall.
Since we’ve been playing with a more rigorous approach to putting out, hardly a soul hasn’t missed a two-footer. I certainly have. If we accept the gimmes, we’re hurting ourselves. We’re fooling ourselves into thinking we’re actually a little better than we really are. We’re gazing into a carnival mirror to evaluate our own abilities. The only thing a vanity handicap buys is a place near the bottom of the standings in legitimate tournaments. We’re denying ourselves the practice we need on the short putts and that practice is a critical component to becoming a better golfer. On the two-footer, the stroke is shorter. The follow-through is shorter. The muscle control is in many respects more demanding. Miss a thirty inch putt in the club championship and you’ll kick yourself for taking all those gimmes.
Old habits may be tough to break. You may slap at the ball that stopped four inches from the hole and you may miss it. It’s possible; ask Ernie Els (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXcG6GcH4zo). Ernie has won nearly fifty million dollars on the pro tour, but he seven-putted in The Masters. If he can do it, so can you. And note that no one said to Els, “Hey, that was good.” If you miss your putt – it’s a stroke.
Here’s what we’re going to do within our group until we establish the habit of finishing the hole the way the rule book says we should. If someone absentmindedly picks up his six-incher through the force of habit, his playing partners MAY allow him to place the ball back on the spot from which it was lifted with no penalty. The golfer must then make the putt.
Golf is a game of honor. Play it with honor. Putt it into the hole. Do it for Ernie. Do it for yourself. If it feels good, do it.