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Lest we forget, golf has long been a shotmaker’s game. The era of perfect putting surfaces, solid core distance balls, and 46 inch 460cc clubheads is still in its infancy. The greater annals of golfing history are filled with men and women who distinguished themselves through the quality of their striking, breadth of imagination, and mental fortitude to physically create what once existed only in the mind’s eye. The ability to work the ball – left, right, high, low, off sidehills and downslopes, tight lies and hardpan, different grass types and in varying weather conditions – was of paramount importance to championship caliber golf. Classic courses of the persimmon age demanded it. Shotmaking Corner will serve, I hope, to preserve a few bits and pieces of the once great body of knowledge of the great shotmakers should the next generation express a desire to direct the game back towards a more traditional form.

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The Shotmaking of Putting by Jack White

As with most good conversations, there were several sub-threads within the “Set for All Seasons” dialogue that deserve to be explored further.  One such point was raised by hickorychris AKA stixman with respect to the legacy of Ping Anser putters.   Is the Anser a classic blade in the traditional sense?  Certainly it’s old (about 50 years since generation one) and often copied.  But here is the counter which I believe to be irrefutable:

“…While the advantage, realistically marginal as you say, of high MOI putters is that a more consistent strike may be obtained, to a touch and feel player this may well be quite limiting.  In fact the only way these putters work is if the ball is struck close to the centre point (may or may not be the sweet spot). The advantage of a true blade is that different effects may be conjured by not hitting the ball out of the centre of the blade. Try hitting a Ping Anser out of the toe on a slippery downhiller to see what I mean, or try hitting it out of the heel to hold the ball against a right to left slope. This is stuff which is meat and drink to old school blade putters (mine is a 1950s flanged blade by Donaldsons of Glasgow, a firm unknown except to the hickory brigade).  I have no problem with anything you say and applaud your presentation. My feeling is that the Ping style of putter started a process of both de-skilling and removing  artistry from the most important scoring element of the game. I know this is swimming against the tide of progress but it is why I find it difficult to find a place for Pings etc in my bag. “

Now we’re talking!  Where is this kind of instruction in modern teaching philosophy?  It will be hard to find at a Sam Putting Lab or on a Tomi infrared sensor system.  I’ll admit that there is an admirable thoroughness in having “one swing for all full shots” and “one stroke for all putts ” but for better or worse, I’m in love with the idea of learning golf one shot at a time (or better yet, one club at a time). And to build up your putting arsenal, here are some bullets, courtesy of Scotland’s Jack White, Open Championship winner at Royal St. George’s (1904).

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The Downhill and Uphill Putts by Jack White

1. The Downhill Putt

This putt, to my mind, is the most difficult of all, and took me longer to find out how to do it than all the other strokes put together.  I stand a little more in front of the ball, gripping the club quite loosely ; the is hit on the point of the putter, the heel being raised about one inch from the ground, and the putter face laid slightly back.  After a little practice, having discovered the right way to use the putter, I found I could put sufficient drag on the ball to stop it on the fastest green.  It is quite simple to keep the line with an ordinary putting cleek, and no other putter will answer the purpose.

The ball is undercut with a loose touch of the forefinger of the right hand.  It is a most valuable stroke to learn, as every golfer knows it is easier to putt uphill than down.

 

2. The Uphill Putt

The uphill putt is just the reverse of the downhill:  the toe of the putter is cocked up, the heel resting on the ground.  This, together with the turning over of the right wrist at the proper moment, puts “top”  on the ball, an counteracts the tendency to be short. 

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It’s interesting that White proscribes an ordinary putting cleek (blade) “and no other putter will answer the purpose”.   Prophetic words… I guess we know how he’d weigh in on the cavity backed Anser for these types of shots!

9 Responses to “Shotmaking Corner – Jack White’s Putting Strokes”

  1. Avatar of Jordan Jordan says:

    Love these old articles, thanks PGT. I use Mr. White’s technic on downhill putts quite a bit.
    I don’t lift the heal that much but I do like the feel that there is more pressure on the toe
    than heal at address. I gonna have to give the uphill technic a try as I have not heard of that one and it makes sense. As far as the ping anser being a traditional club I feel torn on this one. It definitely passes the age test but the design is just so foreign to anything being made
    at the time or before. It is a really good putter though, it’s funny that you posted this because I had just banished the cleveland blade to the store room (6 putts missed from 6 feet or less in one round, It can’t be me right?) and put my old anser into play just because it had been years since i’ve used it. It has fit right in with the blades and persimmons nicely.
    Thx Jordan

  2. It has certainly been around a while – perhaps it’s just a matter of taste. Here is one interesting thing to consider: Part of the allure of traditional blades and smaller drivers is that they were the tools of Nelson, Trevino, Vardon, Player, Thomson, etc. So even though they were, in general, difficult to use, those who mastered them became the very best ever and although there are many great players today none are considered better strikers than those mentioned above. With putting, it’s a different story IMO because I believe Woods and Stricker are amongst the best putters ever and they both use descendents of the Ping Anser so there is anecdotal evidence that you can be the very very best at putting w/o a blade. Then again Locke, Nicklaus, Pavin, and Crenshaw all used blades so you’d have to say that a few of the very best of all time also played blade putters. Even though I concede you can putt great with any putter design, it’s still fun to manipulate the stroke as described in the article which I agree is easier w/ a blade design.

  3. Avatar of hickorychris hickorychris says:

    Interesting that Jack White favours the putting cleek. A regular hickory putter of that era would have some 5 degrees of loft. A putting cleek could easily have as much as double that. Then you can readily see how he could fashion ‘drag’ on his downhill putts.
    Also the ball is interesting; it has a bramble cover. First I thought it might have been a gutty, quite dead in terms of feel, but then I judged that the Jack in the photos was post 1904 and his Open win, so the ball is probably a rubber core. Even so it will react differently off the smooth face of the putter than a dimpled ball off a lined face putter.
    All great speculative fun!

  4. Avatar of hickorychris hickorychris says:

    Just been dipping into one of my favorite books, Fundamentals of Golf, by Seymour Dunn, published in 1922. He was the grandfather of the science of golf teaching and club fitting, also one of a great golfing dynasty. He was based at the Lake Placid GC.
    He advocates a putter with a loft of 10 degrees.

  5. Avatar of Jeff Stern Jeff Stern says:

    I recently aquired a Gibson forged Smith’s Patent putter (yes, a few of these ‘anti’shank’ putters were produced) circa 1910-1920. It had nine degrees loft- an indicator of the condition of the greens of the period- meant for a surface the consistancy of Mars bars. For today’s greens I bent it to @3 degrees.
    My opinion of the PING ANSER- It may rank as a ‘classic’ contemporary putter, but I emphasize the term contempoary in the context of being an invention of investment casting technology. I do not put it in the same class as the BullsEye, the Schenectady, Standard Golf’s series of aluminum head Mills putters, ‘Calamity Jane’ style blades, ‘Gem’ style blades… put plainly, head patterns made before the Space Age. Give Kartsen Solheim his due- the ANSER and its variants are possibly the most copied styles ever. Does that qualify the ANSER as a true classic? I leave that issue still up for debate.
    The Forged Radical

    • Avatar of Jeff Stern Jeff Stern says:

      Fellow PGT contributors, I must correct a typo of mine- Meant to type that due credit must be given to Karsten Solheim for his contribution of the ANSER putter.
      I must really do a better job of proof reading; don’t want to be confused with most of what passes for newspaper editors today.
      TFR

  6. Yes, I believe the gentlemen of the hickory age were putting on surfaces that were more akin the “fringe” or “collar” of the green that we are now familiar with. That said, I know of a few folks who have manually increased the loft on their putters to 8 or 9 degrees and use them well on today’s surfaces with a moderate forward press of the hands.

  7. Avatar of Jordan Jordan says:

    TFR I think you nailed it with “classic contemporary putter”. Every company out there has a anser copy and they are not cheap. Some companies are even remaking the different eras of the anser. One of my golf buddies plays a scotty cameron anser copy, I can’t remember what the model name is but it is literally exactly the same as my late 70′s model ping. So we were playing together last thursday and he spys the ping in my bag and asks to take a look at it. Well he sees that it is basically the same minus the removable weights and hits a couple putts with it and says and I quote “I knew it was only a matter of time before they started making cheap scotty copies” I didn’t have the heart to tell him who was copying who at the time but after thinking about it we are going to have a little putter history lesson. That means I need a “calamity jane” style putter asap. For educational purposes of course. :) In regards to putter loft I saw a great interview with kenny perry and he has 2 putters that travel with him on tour. The putters are identical except for loft. 3 degrees for the fast bent greens and 6 degrees for bermuda, poa annua, etc. He says he likes a little more loft to get the ball on top of the grass and rolling better on the latter. Thx Jordan

  8. Avatar of daleheck daleheck says:

    Great read as usual Riley, I recently acquired a nice Bullseye Standard at a local thrift store for $2.99, (i’ll have to post a pic on the equipment forum) adjusted the lie angle a bit flatter and a bit of lead tape on the back and its good to go! LOVE the soft feel of the brass… will most definitely try some of these techniques! I think it is fantastic to bring some of these elements of: toe up, heel up, and playing the ball off of different points of the clubface- brings some artistry back to the sometimes ho’ hum’
    world of putting!

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