Legendary instructor Harvey Penick enchanted students with his homespun approach to golf. He also mentored a small core of successful teachers who now carry on his simplicity, humor, and rock-solid belief in the fundamentals. One of his students, Barbara Puett, together with Jim Apfelbaum, has written a book that demystifies golf's complexities from a woman's unique perspective. A Woman's Own Golf Book acknowledges that millions of women attracted to the game have other demands on their time. A companion to Puett's sold-out clinics and seminars, the book features beautiful illustrations, and a package that like the memory of her beloved teacher, will stand the test of time.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Barbara Puett is a professional golfer and runs her own golf school. She is a regular columnist for Golf For Women magazine, has coauthored the book Golf Etiquette with Jim Alpfelbaum, and lives in Austin, Texas.
Jim Apfelbaum is a senior writer for America Online's Golf magazine, and writes widely for golfing magazines. He is the author of Golf on $30 a Day and coauthored Golf Etiquette.
Barbara Puett runs her own golf school at Riverplace Country Club in Austin, Texas. She is the director of instruction for Empowered Women Golf Schools and has co-authored A Woman's Own Golf Book with Jim Apfelbaum. She lives in Austin, Texas
Jim Apfelbaum is a two-time recipient of the South Texas PGA's annual media/PR award. Host of a long-running weekly golf radio show, Jim is president of the Texas Golf Writers' Association.
Read an Excerpt
A Woman's Own Golf Book
Simple Lessons for a Lifetime of Great Golf
By Barbara Puett, Jim Apfelbaum, Eddy Davis
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1999 Barbara Puett and Jim Apfelbaum
All rights reserved.
Putting: Painting the Way to the Hole
I'd like to learn to play golf.
I want to lower my scores.
I want to play in a tournament.
My teacher, Harvey Penick, made sure every one of his students appreciated the importance of putting and never lost sight of its value.
Harvey believed the putting green was the best place to begin learning golf. After all, we use the putter more often than any other club. The most difficult part of the game for the professional player, putting is the easiest introduction to golf for the beginner. While the tournament player must sink putts to win, the newcomer need only learn distance control.
Putting's importance to playing well can't be overstated. Every hole and every round ends with a putt. Putting begins building continuity in one's game, laying the foundation for chipping, pitching, and the full swing. Competitive golfers will be the first to tell you that the green is inevitably where tournaments are won and lost. Professional golfers rely upon their ability to putt consistently, and often spectacularly. Those who don't soon find other ways to make a living.
Sinking a putt is an undeniable pleasure. We receive positive feedback, reinforcement, and confidence. Newcomers making a first attempt share the satisfaction of the seasoned pro. They can also share something else: proper technique. Just how much they have in common reminds me of one particular student.
I had a group of professional women on the practice green one morning. Many had never before held a putter in their hands, let alone played any golf. My next lesson was a private one with Teresa, a better player who was having putting problems. She arrived early and watched the class go through its paces on the putting fundamentals of grip and stance, ball position and stroke. When the class ended and Teresa began her lesson, she couldn't miss.
"Why did you want this lesson?" I felt compelled to ask her.
"After watching the class," she said, "I realized what I needed to do."
It was a minor adjustment. Teresa noticed it and cured herself, another lesson in the enduring value and simplicity of the fundamentals. For newcomers and experts alike, the basics never change. As often happens, she just needed a refresher. She got it watching the beginners. I lost a lesson but the better my students play the happier I am.
There's a wonderful irony about putting, a game within the larger game of golf. While it may be the easiest aspect of golf to learn, putting beguiles the experts. For something so straightforward, it offers a sterling test of nerve and judgment. The game's long and distinguished history is positively littered with tales of heroism and tragedy that turned on a putt. The legendary Bobby Jones once recalled that standing over one of only a few inches he felt himself "quivering in every muscle." Putting will never become ordinary and it can never be taken for granted.
Elusive as it can be, the best golfers have always been terrific putters, rehearsing with the diligence of top musicians practicing their scales. The fact remains: No matter how well we're driving the ball or hitting our irons, the buck stops on the green. A missed six-inch putt counts the same on the scorecard as a 200-yard drive — one stroke, no more, no less.
For something so important, putting requires no more strength or dexterity than wielding a paintbrush. It's often characterized as more of an art than a science, a part of the game that allows for and even encourages a certain creative, artistic expression, eccentricity, and even genius. Perhaps that's why putting's often buried or glossed over in instruction books. Within the framework of the fundamentals, putting individuality, no matter how offbeat, is permitted — assuming, of course, that it works.
Before going any further, let's acknowledge a genetic blind spot in golfers. Everyone wants to hit the long shots. They're fun to practice, much more dramatic than stroking little putts. There's always room on the practice green, while the driving range is often crowded. The range seems to emit a magnetic pull and the hypnotic effect of hitting one ball after another quickly draws us in. Every golfer wants to savor the sensation of hitting it long every time out. That's human nature. But golf is more than a game of distance. It's a game of accuracy. And, as an Irish caddie once wryly noted, "the little ones count as much as the big ones." Those who can pull themselves out of the seductive orbit of the driving range will find that regularly spending even a few minutes on the practice green pays dividends.
This sounds like the beginning of a bad golf joke but it's a true story. There was a golfer, it happened to be at a club in Cleveland, who had the misfortune to break his back. Golf was out of the question for a year, doctor's orders. While Frank couldn't play, or do much of anything, his wife insisted he get out of the house and spend time at the club. Since he was there anyway, Frank figured he might as well be productive. He could barely move around, let alone take a full swing, but he found he could putt and hit short chips without discomfort. These he did conscientiously during the months of recovery. When he could finally play golf again, Frank was astonished by the fantastic scores he was shooting. He even won his club championship, a title which he had always desired but realistically knew he never stood much chance of winning. Studious practice turned him into the club's best putter. Yes, there is a moral, if not a punchline. One needn't suffer a broken vertebrae to see the value of practicing the shots around the green. Practicing putting and the entire "short game" (as the shots hit from about one hundred yards and closer to the green are known) may not have the sizzle of banging balls, but it's time well spent.
Your mother should know
You'll think your mother is with us at various times throughout the book. Discussing the golf stance is one of them. Of course, mother only wanted what was best for us. With respect to good posture, she had it exactly right.
When she told us to hold our heads up and keep our backs straight, she wanted our appearances to be proud. Proper posture is routinely seen as preventing a slew of ailments, among them swayback and pinched nerves. Good posture makes us feel good and look confident. Poor posture makes us look and feel tired, so much so that a beauty expert calls it "the most common crime against the body." Just as mothers rightly view it as an important component to an attractive and healthy appearance, good posture remains a cornerstone of good golf.
Everything I Learned About Golf I Learned in Kindergarten is an unlikely title, but let's turn back the clock for a moment. Remember leaning over and swinging the elephant's trunk? That's the ideal golf stance. The back straight with the arms hanging naturally allows freedom of movement. When the arms hang naturally the hands hang beneath the shoulders, where we hold the putter. Some golfers prefer the arms to hang straight down to grip the putter. Others may bend their arms slightly. The idea is to get the rear end out of the way so the arms can swing freely à la an elephant's trunk. With the head up, bend from the hips and flex the knees slightly. With good posture, we won't have to make later compensations or adjustments in the putting stroke or the golf swing. Years of poor posture, of forcing the body into unnatural and uncomfortable positions, results in self-induced back pain for many golfers, particularly in the lower back. It brings us full circle to a mother's common sense. Beginning the game with good posture is sound, preventive maintenance.
Pleased to meet you
Gripping the putter couldn't be easier. Ninety-five percent of newcomers correctly hold it without instruction. Nevertheless, since putting inspires a lot of improvisation and originality, grips can get interesting, even bizarre. Golfers are always experimenting, searching for the magic. Every now and again, a tour player will even go so far as to putt one-handed.
Harvey introduced the grip this way: he'd face the student, extend the putter grip, and ask that she shake hands with the club, first with her left hand, then with her right. The grip is no more complicated than that. Shake hands with your putter; after all, you hope to become good friends.
Putter grips are flat along the top so it's pretty clear where the thumbs go. Some players hold it with all ten fingers on the grip. Others overlap the left index finger over the fingers of the right hand. Some prefer to have their left hand on top, others their right. Any of these methods is acceptable providing it feels good.
Grip pressure is a concern with all the clubs, especially the putter. Nothing will ruin a putting stroke or a swing more effectively than tension. Let the air out of the balloon. Relax. Hold the putter as you would a dinner fork: lightly. For a surer feeling of control place it more in the palms than in the fingers, still holding it gently. Placing the putter more in the palms reduces twisting, or "breaking" the wrists during the stroke, a fatal flaw. With a good stance and a confident grip, it's time to step up to the ball.
Where should the ball be?
You'll find it easier to have the ball a couple of inches left of center, closer to the left foot than to the right.
On every shot you make ...
The overwhelming desire to do something to the ball routinely causes tension in the upper body, especially when preparing to putt. Get in the habit of consciously relaxing the elbows and shoulders. This will be a maxim repeated on every golf shot. Professionals routinely use conscious breathing exercises and relaxation reminders like shaking out their hands or adjusting their clothes to help them recognize and deflect stress. The stakes may not be the same but all golfers experience pressure.
The truth and nothing but
The most fundamental truth about putting is that the hands must stay even with or be in front of the putterhead as it strikes the ball. A quick story. Before Ben Crenshaw left Austin to play in the Masters several years ago he visited with Harvey, as it turned out for the last time. Harvey's final lesson for Ben, considered among the game's best putters, was a putting lesson. The tip he gave Ben was so basic — and so sound — that it helped him win the famous tournament and conquer Augusta National's notoriously fast greens. The reminder was simply for Ben not to let the putterhead get ahead of his hands in making the stroke.
What exactly does this mean?
Grip the club. Now take your stance and move the hands a little left (in the direction you're going), ahead of your zipper or navel. The hands should be over the ball looking down. This offers a slight head start.
Imagine a broom and a dustpan. To sweep dirt into the pan the broom handle tilts a little forward. Your arms and hands pull the broom through the dust sweeping it into the pan. Should the bristles get ahead of the hands, they'll point at the dirt and some of it will be left behind. Stop the hands at the dirt, let the broom-head go, and dirt flies all over the place.
It follows, then, that the most effective technique for achieving optimum broom mechanics — and a sound putting stroke — is to take a nice, smooth sweep with the hands leading the way. Sweep the ball into the hole.
Leading with the hands is essential to good putting. The sooner the newcomer can repeat it and the longer the advanced player can maintain it, the more success each will have. That a putter of Ben Crenshaw's caliber needed a reminder on something so elementary just shows how elusive putting can be. It also serves to remind us of the power of the fundamentals. If thinking about a broom strikes you as too much like housework, let's try some other, more pleasant, analogies.
The paint follows the brush
On a short putt imagine painting a nice even stripe to the hole. The putting stroke, like a brushstroke, should be smooth and low. The thought of painting a stripe to the hole keeps the putter on track through the ball. Or imagine brushing crumbs off a table. The hand leads and sweeps the crumbs the same way a putter leads and sweeps a ball.
Visual imagery, analogies, and metaphors are endemic in golf. They help us transfer our understanding of something we know how to do and now do without thinking — driving, sweeping, riding a bike, etc. — to something as yet new and unfamiliar (in this case, putting). As difficult as it is to learn a skill for the first time, once we get it right, it becomes progressively easier, eventually becoming second nature. That's where we're headed. Establish and ingrain the feeling of the hands ahead of the putter through the stroke. Giving the hands a head start will not only help on the green, it will also help in getting the ball onto the green with chipping.
A good place to feel the motion of painting a stripe or sweeping towards the cup is three feet from the hole, approximately the length of your putter. This is the distance we invariably face, perhaps more than any other, every time we play. Make it easy on yourself by picking out a hole on a flat section of the green. Practice painting that stripe so the ball rolls into the hole.
Taking it slow
One of the biggest tips to helping everyone's putting is to take the putter away slowly from the ball, and I mean slowly. I'm not suggesting downshifting for the entire stroke, only in taking the putter back away from the ball. Make a graceful exit. You wouldn't carelessly back the car out of the garage with the dog loose.
That's the pace to begin putts: a slow brushstroke, the pace we'd use in petting a cat, the smooth, controlled stroke of a canoe paddle through still water.
Going back slowly makes it easier to know how far to come back and through. If you were throwing a ball to someone standing nearby, the arm would slowly come back. This provides accuracy, as it does in throwing a wadded up piece of paper into a wastebasket. The arm doesn't whip back. It winds up slowly.
We all have a tendency to make too fast a backswing. Surprise: the culprit is tension. Newcomers get anxious over a delicate shot and tournament players feel increasing stress as pressure intensifies. Withdrawing the putter slowly (as we do with all the clubs) gives our natural instincts a chance to kick in.
Long distance operator
On longer putts, instead of painting a stripe, think of following one. Putt down the highway center lines. Travelling brings to mind speed, control, and distance. To putt well from long range, we'll need an awareness of all three. Start the putter slowly back from the ball. This allows us to feel how far we're going. Moving slowly gives us control, and a measure in the mind's eye of how far to bring the putter through.
The putting stroke never changes. It only takes two seconds: one for the backswing, one for the follow-through. It's the same with all golf shots. In putting, what varies is the length of the stroke. On short putts, we'll come back a few inches and go through a few inches. On longer putts, we'll increase our one-back-and-two-through. Like a metronome, the backswing and the follow-through are always the same length. Think of every putt as being the same, only longer or shorter. The only change is in the distance of the backswing and follow-through.
Excerpted from A Woman's Own Golf Book by Barbara Puett, Jim Apfelbaum, Eddy Davis. Copyright © 1999 Barbara Puett and Jim Apfelbaum. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
In the Mind's Eye,
1: Putting: Painting the Way to the Hole,
2: Chipping: Sweeping Pennies onto the Green,
3: The Grip: Grasping the Swing,
4: Pitching: The Swing in Miniature,
5: The Two-Second Swing,
6: Swinging the Woods,
7: Bunker Shots: Among the Shifting Sands,
8: Trouble Shots: Finding the Fairway from the Trees,
9: Troublesome Shots,
10: An Equipment Primer,
11: A Lesson Primer,
12: Frequently Asked Questions Answered,
A Gossip on Golf,
About the Authors,
Also by Barbara Puett and Jim Apfelbaum,