London. I’ve got something to show you.” Bernie Silver, who owned Dynaflyte, the largest mail order company in the United States in the Seventies, never called me by my first name. But “London” sounded a great deal better than my UK nickname: “The Putter Nutter”.
Bernie walked towards an aircraft hangar. I followed, expecting to see Bernie’s private jet. No jet, just row upon row of putter shafts hanging in the rafters. “Every goddam one of those putter shafts,” laughed Bernie, “you, London, will sell! Your US media tour starts in three days. Sports stores and golf clubs are waiting to meet and challenge the man who, 4ft from the hole, never misses!”
Bernie put his hand on my shoulder, adding, “Miss a plane, a hotel booking, a TV show or a golf-store booking – well, that’s fine. But, London… just don’t miss a putt.”
I hadn’t missed a putt in two years. Now was not the time to start.
My mind raced back to the time I was with my best friend in golf, Lee Trevino. “When you’re putting for a $5 bet and you’ve only got $2 in your pocket, you don’t miss.” Trevino’s words.
The golfing purists insisted history had proved Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino holed out with the Vardon putting grip – the little finger of the right hand overlaps the left forefinger – the reason they had won so many Major championships. True, in every case bar one.
Trevino put all ten fingers on the putting shaft by sliding his right hand down the shaft a shade, the putting stroke controlled by the right hand. This prevented the left hand coming into play at the moment the putter blade struck the ball, preventing pushing or pulling the putt left of the hole. The Trevino grip was an adaption of the Trevillion pencil grip.
I have spent more than 80 years drawing the famous names in sport, always in pen and black Indian ink. The fine line created by the sharp metal tip of the pen is impossible to erase – one mistake and the drawing is finished. That’s pressure.
By comparison, holing a 4ft putt is a walk in the park.
I have for the very first time divulged the Trevino secret. Time for another secret. It’s the pencil grip secret. From 4ft the ball has to be struck firmly enough to drop into a hole 6ft away to ensure it eliminates any borrows. I always focus on an imaginary hole at 2ft. Knowing if the ball passed over the centre of the imaginary cup, it would still carry on and drop into the imaginary hole 6ft away unless the 4ft hole got in the way.
After hours of practise the 4ft hole always got in the way. It still does. Here’s how to do it…
The perfect putting method
1. The putting stance
As Sugar Ray Robinson said, the width your feet are apart with your natural walking stride is the perfect platform for your body weight. So that is your putting stance. Check it out: drop a ball on the floor and walk up to it. Stop and now bend your knees and you are as solid and as steady as a rock. No body or head movement throughout the arms and club-putting stroke.
2. The putting crouch
Tilt from the waist and ensure your shoulders are parallel to the ground. The centre or axis of the putting stroke is the top of the spine between the shoulder blades. You could ask someone to place a tray across your back and balance a drinking glass on top and the liquid in the glass would be perfectly level.
3. The soling of the putter
Keep the sole of the putter perfectly level with the ground. Start your putting stroke by lifting it slightly, to ensure you do not catch the grass on the backswing and follow-through.
4. Eyes over the ball
Keep your eyes directly over the ball. You can check this out by dropping a ball from the bridge of your nose. It should land on the ball below.
5. Alignment to the hole – The Square Method
With all short putts the ball must be hit firmly enough to eliminate any borrow along a straight line to the hole. Having decided on your line to the hole, your putter club-face and body must be positioned along this line square to the hole. This is known as “The Square Method”. Your feet, ankles, knees, hips and shoulders are in line with the hole.
6. Grip pressure
Your grip should be tight, just like you would hold a pencil… but it should never be tense. Never tense! Forget “feel” for the short putt: the ball is too close to the hole for feel to play any part.
7. The pendulum stroke
Both your arms should hang naturally from the shoulders with both palms facing each other and perfectly level with each other. Because you want to take your right palm to the hole, pendulum-fashion, take your left hand out of the stroke by placing it at the top of the grip. Using your right shoulder, take the club straight back and through.
8. The strike
As a mental image, imagine the ball is asleep. Give it a hard whack, its eyes open… it sees the hole and it dives in. The putt’s history!
9. The follow-through
A confident follow-through sinks the putt. It’s a clear indication of what went on before you struck the ball. You must take the putter-face to the hole.
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