Are you a bad putter? This alarming stat could explain why.

Welcome to The Putting Issue!

How much would you pay to make every six-footer for the rest of your life? It’s a rhetorical question, really, because if you could make every six-footer for the rest of your life, you wouldn’t be doing the paying. 

If Brian Harman’s Open Championship victory in July taught us anything, it’s that the key to playing your best golf is not splitting every fairway or hitting every green in regulation or draining every 40-foot bomb in your path. No, it’s making the putts that really matter. And, of course, the bedrock of all good putting isn’t what happens from long range, it’s what happens from closer to the hole.

As our own Cam Smith – arguably the best exponent of the flatstick on planet Earth right now – preaches, “If you really want to make more putts from inside six to 10 feet, don’t focus on the result. If you’re trying to hole it, it becomes more difficult. Instead, focus on making a good stroke and let the ball get in the way – and hopefully go in the hole.”

When it comes to putting, as my American-based colleague Luke Kerr-Dineen pointed out recently, Harman did something truly astonishing at Royal Liverpool. The no-frills lefty didn’t just win the claret jug but did so with a whopping 11.57 Strokes Gained: Putting stat. To put that in context, it means Harman gained nearly 12 shots more on the greens than the average player in the field, and almost double the next-best putter at The Open.

When you think of a number like that, you’d expect Harman to be dropping in monster putts from all over the place. But interestingly, it was actually the opposite. The longest putt Harman made all week was from 40 feet. Instead, Harman arrived at that number by running up the margins from inside 10 feet. He had 60 putts from inside 10 feet all week — and he only missed one. ONE!

Which brings us to the statistic we’re highlighting in this graphic. The amateur-golfer data you see above is courtesy of our friends at Arccos and, as you can see, there’s a huge dropoff between pros and the rest of us: about 20 percent, from the PGA Tour average to the average scratch golfer. 

There’s a slightly smaller dropoff between scratch and single digits, and then it stays pretty stable. The key takeaway from this? You’re missing too many six-to-nine-foot putts.

“The reason pros are so good from this range is because, basically, pros obsess over it,” says Kerr-Dineen, who speaks with the world’s best players to produce best-in-class instruction for Golf Digest. “The rest of us don’t spend the same amount of time practising them, and the time we do have is usually spent on the driving range, hitting 7-irons. But the pros realise this is one of the precious few areas where you can feasibly gain an edge on your peers.” Here’s why, says Kerr-Dineen: statistically, pros are more likely to make a putt than miss it starting at about seven feet. Then, from seven feet to about 10 feet, it’s a coin toss. From outside that range, you’re in an ocean of two-putt territory.

Simply put, six-to-nine footers are the putts that – if you’re good at them – you can feasibly make a lot of. If you’re bad, you can also miss a lot of them. There’s no in-between. And to raise the stakes even more, they also tend to be the really important ones. The birdie opportunities and the par savers. The putts to win the hole that your opponent isn’t going to give you.

With each one you do make, the farther you’ll pull away from your peers. So, get practising those mid-range short putts!

To help you on your way, we’ve listed the best tools for making those knee-jerkers in our Hot List ranking of the best blade and mallet putters for 2023

If that’s not enough, Aussie young gun Lucas Herbert, the best putter on the PGA Tour last season, declassifies the secrets of the tour’s best on the greens. And we get some of Australia’s leading golf-course architects to rank the best greens in the country, all for your playing pleasure.

Remember, as our man Cam said: “I’m not trying to make the putt. I’m trying to stroke a good putt and hopefully it goes in.”

Here’s hoping, after you peruse this issue, we’ve played our part in making that task just a little bit easier.