The Guinea Pig: holing more putts

The Putting Doctor, a new customized putter and some hard work has turned the Guinea Pig’s flat-stick skills around.

Matt Cooper, golfer: a hacker playing off 15. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic golfer. Matt Cooper will be that golfer. Better than he was before. Longer, straighter, holing more putts.

Something very strange happened to me two weeks ago; something that I wouldn’t have dared to dream about as recently as six weeks ago.

What happened? Well, a professional golfer (the Challenge Tour’s Andrew McArthur, my team-mate in a recent competition) said to me: “You holed some great putts today, Matt; you had great touch out there.”

It’s nice to be complimented on your golfing ability.

It’s even nicer to be complimented by someone who is a bit handy at the game himself.

But better than both of those things is being complimented on something you have been struggling with for so long; something you have then worked hard at improving; a compliment, in other words, that you feel you have earned.

Because that is what has happened with my putting – five or six weeks ago I was feeling pretty miserable about my efforts with the flat-stick so I resolved to graft.

And it worked.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a round in which I did my normal trick of knocking it close to the pin when within 50 yards of the green only to then abjectly fail to one-putt any green.

What, I asked myself, was the point of knocking it close if a two-putt was inevitable? If I am bound to two-putt I might as well do it from 25 feet as five.

And by a stroke of good fortune, just as I decided to buckle down, I found myself in possession of some tools which could finally transform my putting technique.

Earlier this summer I reported from a seminar hosted by Dr Paul Hurrion, the Putting Doctor who Padraig Harrington, amongst others, regularly turns to.

As I reported, Hurrion is the golfing equivalent of Brains from Thunderbirds – an enthusiastic and pain-staking obsessive about the dynamics of putting and during the seminar he explained how most golfers confuse perception and reality, most specifically in the way we address the ball.

Using a simple method (explained in the link above) he showed how we can discover where we should position our head in order that our perception matches the reality of the straight putt we are staring at.

I had seen with my own eyes how this could be implemented but until I had a putter that would allow me to correctly address the ball and therefore take advantage, the revelation was largely redundant.

But then I got hold of the new Elmer M1 Putter which is revolutionary in its ability to be customized for all golfers.

So I set up the Hurrion perception/reality test (essentially a row of 12 balls in a straight line) and manoeuvred my head until I saw the line as straight as it undoubtedly was (rather than curving left to right or right to left as perception misconstrues it).

In so doing, I learned that I share something in common with Justin Leonard.

Not a Claret Jug or 12 PGA Tour victories.

Not a fondness for fishing, a degree in business or a wife called Amanda.

No, we merely share a need for our head to be inside the line of the ball in order to see a straight putt for what it is – dead straight.

The next job was to get the M1 out and custom-fit it because Hurrion had proved that, contrary to received wisdom, I did not need the ball below my eyes in my stance, but a few inches away from my eyes.

It might not be traditional, but what was good enough for an Open Champion and one of the leading exponents of putting technique was more than good enough for me.

The M1 required a little tinkering to get the correct angle, but once it was right the immediate feeling was spookily good.

I took my stance, looked at the putt and laughed to myself.

You know that sense you sometimes have over a putt that you can “see” the line drawn in the grass? That all you need to do is set the ball on that line and it will drop?

I had that feeling.

I wasted no time with a practice stroke – I simply stroked the ball and watched as it rolled with perfect weight into the back of the hole.

It was absurd!

I laughed again.

With just one stroke I felt all of my one-time (and long dormant) confidence in putting return.

I’m not going to suggest that I holed everything I looked at immediately but everything about the stroke felt good: I was seeing the line of the putt more clearly, I was holding my head still without trying, I was hitting the ball more purely.

Suddenly practice putting was a joy again and I began to spend hours putting in front of the television, knocking balls into a new gadget called a Putt Puck.

You drop it on the floor and it serves as an ideal target – not only is it the same size as the hole you will aim at on the course, but it is cunningly designed to improve your stroke and feel.

The Putt Puck is made of aluminium and the ball will only rebound directly back at you if you hit a putt right in the centre of the Puck with top spin.

Miss the centre of the target or impart side or back spin and the ball will deflect away.

And after hours of practice with the Puck you also find yourself visualising its presence when you get out on the course – so you find yourself hitting at the target on the greens as well as in practice, meaning you hit with a more positive stroke.

Three constructive moves forward and one new putting stroke – it was a case of my flat-stick reborn.

The question was if the hard work would transfer to the course and ridiculously, stupendously it has!

25 putts last time out with a touch, feel and confidence I haven’t had for years.

A bit of hard work, a putter that fits and the biomechanical inspiration of an expert who wants answers not received wisdom – try it, it works!