The Chips Are Down (Or: The greatest long-distance putter in the game)
Through sheer necessity I have become one of the greatest long-distance putters in the game, and I’m not talking here of miserable 50 footers. Without wishing to sound boastful, I can putt with something approaching confidence from anywhere within about 75 - 90 yards; even further, if there’s a decent following wind. I have developed this almost unique shot as an alternative strategy to the conventional chip simply because - even though I have searched for it thoroughly - the chip doesn’t exist anywhere in my repertoire. I can skull, thin and duff with the best of them, but a straightforward little chip from anywhere near the green is simply beyond my capabilities.
The nearest I come to playing a chip shot is pretending I am about to play a chip shot. More than a little self-conscious about my inability to chip, I often take out my wedge or some other irrelevant club, swish it a couple of times in a quasi practise routine and then, to the bewilderment of my playing partners, put it back in the bag and remove my putter instead. I go through this ridiculous charade simply to give the impression that I could chip if I wanted to, which is, of course, a lie.
There are occasions - when the grass is more than ankle deep or a ridiculous bunker is in the way - that I am obliged to attempt something more ambitious even that a 50-yard putt. Although, for me, the percentage shot is probably still a putt, I feel slightly less foolish fluffing a chip than I do wielding a putter through long grass. Consequently, I almost invariably take four to get down. (Incidentally, my autobiography is provisionally entitled “Up and Down in Four” but is not yet available because I haven’t yet progressed beyond the title).
Unlike my playing partners, who chip with the intention of being left with nothing more than a short putt, my principal preoccupation is damage limitation. Instead, therefore, of hitting the ball with conviction, I caress it almost apologetically in the hope that it will appreciate this sympathetic treatment and respond by refraining from doing anything as diabolical as shooting right across the green and into the crap on the far side. In short, my chips are gentle sweeps rather than positive and committed shots.
But to be positive and committed you have at least to believe that you know what you’re doing. It’s no good standing over the ball telling yourself to be confident when every memory you have of that shot going back over the last 30 years is an unhappy one.
The only consolation in having a really dreadful short game is that it’s very unlikely to get worse … I hope.
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As a fellow scribe of some standing I find it hard to believe what you have writtten about your chipping. I have witnessed many a time your protestations of pure confidence wafting across the course and as we all know confivdence is key with most things in life.May I suggest something that might help? Have a lesson. Even you have to admit you need one. Imagine the mirth generated on ranges across the country as you try and find someone to give you advice after a brief assessment of your failings.
Having said that, your main point regarding putting holds water. I challenge you to a putting contest at the course of your choice (no doubt we will be hosted for such a marvellous spectacle). I suspect this event won't happen because as PG Wodehouse so aptly put it "The least thing upsets him on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows" (The Clucking of Cuthbert 1922. Or indeed this other one from the same "Mortimer , you must choose between golf and me" "But darling, I went round in a hundred and one yesterday. you can't expect a fellow to give up golf when he is at the top of his game"
I await your reply with the anticipation of a striking sloth.
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