Advice on Putting in Prose and Poetry


In last week’s Post I included a poem, “Dedicated to the Duffer” from a book, The Winning Shot, by Jerome Travers and Grantland Rice published in 1915. But what is “the winning shot?”  According to Travers, who won the U.S. Amateur Championship four times and the U.S. Open once,

“Undoubtedly “the winning shot” in golf is the putt. There can be no question about it.”

Travers later on in the chapter continues,

“We all know that there is less of the physical and more of the psychological in putting than in any other part of golf. To be putting well the golfer must have absolute control of his nerves…”

Travers ends the chapter with “a few condensed suggestions” to improve your putting:

  1. Stand well over the ball and keep your head still.
  2. Keep your eye on that ball and don’t move your body.
  3. Cut out the jab or the stab, learn the pendulum swing, and get a follow through with the club.
  4. Cultivate, in practice as well as play, the knack of being a trifle beyond the hole if you miss. Make a steady practice of giving the ball a chance.
  5. Cultivate the habit of concentration.
  6. Cultivate the habit of confidence and determination, for mental faults can be improved as well as physical ones.
  7. And then practise putting wherever and whenever you get the chance.

Remember these words were written almost 100 years ago. They hold up well when reading the modern gurus Pelz, Utley, Rotella and Valiante.

And yet, as the following poem suggests, when you compare all the words of wisdom regarding putting, the result is more often confusion than improvement. 

.                                    PUTT

Oh! it’s all very well for the teachers to tell
Of the drive, with its swift follow-through;
On the brassie and cleek, they can coach by the week,
With the mashie shot, to the green true,
Or the ball on the wing, from the crisp midiron swing,—
You can play them all, with your eyes shut,
But despite all their brain, they cannot quite explain—
…    How to putt.

“Just a sharp little clip and ’twill fall o’er the lip”;
“You must move, like a pendulum slow”;
“Drive it hard to the cup, or you’ll never be up”;
“Drag it in, just like this, don’t you know”;
“Stand up straight, if you please”; “Just get down on your knees”;
“Hold the club always tight at the butt”;
“Grasp it high,”—with these thing, and the various swings—
…   You may putt.

“Never look at the hole or you’ll lose your control”;
“Keep you eye on both hole and the ball”;
“If you wish to surpass, choose a mark on the grass”;
“Move your arms”; “Only wrists, that is all”;
“Tis the easisest stroke, if you science invoke”;
“Only luck,” did you say, but, but, but—
If you don’t want to miss, the simplest way is—
…   Putt—putt—putt.

Though published in the August 1912 issue of The American Golfer the poem still has a feeling of currency.

It was written by Samuel Williams Cooper (1860-1939). Cooper was a distiguished Philadelphia lawyer. He also wrote several books including a novel called The Confessions of a Society Man (1887) and occasional pieces for newspapers and magazines. In addition, in 1921 he published a 16 page “book,” The Nineteenth Hole and other Lyrics of the Links that included the above poem and nine others. Three of the nine also appeared in other issues of The American Golfer.


  1. Chrissy says:

    This is some great advice…thanks. This really helps me as I’m looking to improve my swing and my putting. I’m learning how to better judge it.
    I’ve always enjoyed golf, but playing it I wasn’t so good.
    I actually just fnished a great book, called Shooting an Albatross, by Steven Lundin. It didn’t so much help me improve my swing like your book you mentioned might, but it was a good read for the golfing fan. Even if you’re not an avid golfer like me, you will still enjoy this book. It’s a book for everyone!
    Thanks again, and I’ll be back to tell you how much more I’ve improved!

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