By Joe Soraghan
"My putting is so bad, I could putt off a tabletop and still leave the ball halfway down the leg." — PGA Pro J.C. Snead
I think I've discovered how the putting green was introduced into golf.
In the early beginnings of golf, small courses were set up in churchyards, with the blessings of the church leaders. Holes were short in length, about 50 to 100 yards, and played with only one club. I guess you could say it was the beginning of mini-golf.
With church philosophy becoming very strict, players were forced to move their game out to the meadows, or "links." With these moves, golfers brought along the concept of hitting a ball into a target, the hole, and from this practice, the putting surface was added to the game. For players who struggle with their putting, you can now blame Henry VIII and the Reformation for your troubles.
The pro golf tour is in full swing. There have been two world-class players who have had some trouble on the greens. Each has "six-putted" during a tournament. Ernie Els did so on the first green at Augusta National, and Sergio Garcia did so this past weekend on the fourth hole at the TPC. Many players want their greens hard and fast, like you see on the tour. But the average golfer doesn't realize that the high speed of these greens can reduce the best of putters to agony. Every "blip" in your putting stroke is accentuated on Tour greens. Most golfers typically don't have putts that break 12 feet. Nor are we usually forced to hit to a position that requires aiming your putt 45 degrees from the intended target. The pros play at a level that we can only dream of achieving.
For Els and Garcia, their performances were not the norm. Els is struggling with the "yips," and Garcia seemed to lose his concentration. Both players imploded on greens that are notoriously difficult, Augusta National, and the TPC at Sawgrass.
During the winter months, many golfers take their game to the warmer climes. If you spend some time in areas where golfers gather, you hear stories of players whose skills are the equal of tour players but lack a complete game. More often than not, it is the "flat stick" (putter) that prevents these talented ball-strikers from competing with the best players in the world. Golfers everywhere will try putter after putter until they find one that will take them to the "promised land."
Legendary golfer Ben Hogan felt that putting went against the premise of golf. He said, "Putting is played on the ground while hitting a ball requires you to hit it in the air." Hogan would later develop the "yips" on the green, to the extent he could not bring the head of the club to strike the ball without a sudden jerk of his shoulders.
There was a time when the speed of greens was a non-factor as many greens were comprised entirely of sand. But with evolution of the game, the change in the putting surface has given even the best players reasons to lie awake at night. Enjoy the feeling of making everything on the green, and try to get over the missing of a two-foot putt. As for me, I'm in the market for a new putter as I blame my woes on religion.
• North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391: The results are in for first of four Champ of the Month competitions. For the ladies, it was Gay Folland and for the men, Tyler Palmer. Coveted parking spots are awarded to the monthly champs. Congratulations to both. The One-Day Golf School is still accepting players who would like to sharpen their game. The school will be held May 26 and is limited to 12 players. This weekend, the club will host the Opening Scramble on Saturday and the Spring4-Ball on Sunday. Check with the pro shop for more information.
• Indian Mound Golf Course, Center Ossipee, (603) 539-7733: The Rivers Edge Quota League saw Ryan Gile (plus 6) and Tom Broderick (plus 5) win the weekly event. Skins were won by Dan Ratliff, Fuzzy Martin, Joe St. Lawrence and Michele Curly. The popular Nine and Dine is held every Sunday. This week's winners were Jen MacDonald, Ian MacDonald, Ryan Gile and Racheal Else. Clinics will begin on May 24 at 9:30 a.m. and run for three weeks. The cost is $12 per player. The Men's League will begin May 25 and the Ladies' on June 1. Check with the pro shop for more information. The Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Tournament will be held May 25. On the Links Travel League will head to Wentworth next week. On May 28, The Parkhurst Project will entertain at The Mound.
• Wentworth Golf Course, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641: The Ladies League had an "Even Hole Tournament" on Tuesday. Taking the top spot was Anne Frost. Second place saw a tie between Kathy Duane and Jenny Simone. The Kickoff Scramble is May 29. Sign up by May 26 in the pro shop. PGA Pro Jay Pollini is offering traditional and videotaped lessons. Madeline's will open on May 28. The Spring 4-Ball is scheduled for June 21. The Red Fox League postponed Monday's first round due to the cold and wind. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this Monday.
• Hale's Location Golf Course, West Side Road, North Conway, (603) 356-2140: Hale's is enjoying a great early spring and offering players some great greens fees. Pay $29 for nine holes and $39 for 18. Both rates include a cart. The Men's and Ladies' Leagues will start soon. The men will start on Tuesday, May 31 and play for 13 weeks. This is a 4 p.m. shotgun start each Tuesday. The women play on Mondays and will begin their season on June 6. This is a 9:30 a.m. shotgun start and will run for 12 weeks. All are welcome. For more information call the pro shop. Please note: The greens will be aerated Monday, May 23.
• Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: The first week of Don Ho action saw The Golfaholics take the early lead with a minus 7. Tied for second, with a minus 6, were The Jackson Six, Tee-Rouble, and Six Styxx. Closest to the pin went to Ian Hayes, while long drive winners were Ann Bennett, Carey Lufkin, Bobby Labbe and Steve Puzas. PGA Pro Bob McGraw will be offering a two-hour tune-up this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Players can brush up on the fundamentals of chipping, pitching and the full swing. The fee is $50 and is limited to five students. Due to the rainout on Mother's Day, Bob has extended the free clinics for beginners to include the next two Saturdays. These will start at 1 p.m. and all are welcome. Call the pro shop for more information.
While looking for ideas for an article, I ran across information on a course in Oregon. This nine-hole "throwback" had sand greens until 15 years ago. When you completed a hole, you were asked to sweep the green with a piece of carpet, so the next group would have a smooth putting surface. This was the norm for courses with sand greens, but the philosophy that was stated on the scorecard could apply to any course today. The local rule stated, "Rake all the greens. Don't be lazy. Think of others and observe golf etiquette. If everyone observes the rules, all will enjoy the game. The task of sweeping the greens falls to the loser of the hole."
A nice standard we can all adopt. Have a great weekend of golf. Special congratulations to Eagle golfers Meghan Soraghan and Evan Coburn, who are to be married tomorrow.
- Category: Sports Columns