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Strokes of Genius: Bobby Jones’ Putting Lessons

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Bobby Jones is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers ever. Though he competed as an amateur, he dominated the sport in the 1920s and completed golf’s first Grand Slam in 1930 by winning all four major championships in a single season. In this article from the Sports Illustrated Vault, Jones’ friend Grantland Rice describes the US Open winning putt in 1929 and deems it “Golf’s Greatest Putt.”

In this post, we’ll look at the evolution of Bobby Jones’ technique, learn his philosophy, and go through some drills that can help develop our stroke and touch around the greens. Finally, we’ll look at our favorite new training aid, the Puttlink, and go through some further reading, with some books and audiobooks that can help you dig deeper into Bobby Jones and his legacy.

Mastering putting was a lifelong pursuit for Bobby Jones. He noted that golf is an “inexhaustible subject,” and putting especially involves nuance, feel, and imagination. While equipment and greens may have changed since his era, Jones’ wisdom on the game’s intricacies remains timeless.

jones putting intro

A Putting Lesson From Walter Travis

Jones struggled with his putting early in his career. As a teenager, he went through bouts of the putting “yips,” often missing short putts or sending them well past the hole. In 1924, he sought help from renowned golfer and instructor Walter Travis. The two met at the Augusta Country Club, where Travis gave Jones advice that would change his game forever. Travis told him to putt with his feet together, stand more upright, and hold the putter lightly and freely. This allowed Jones to putt in a relaxed, fluid manner without tension, in a smooth, pendulum-like stroke.

After implementing Travis’s tips, Jones’s putting and overall game dramatically improved. His newfound mastery of the greens was a key factor in his dominant run in the late 1920s, where he won 13 major titles by age 28, including the legendary Grand Slam in 1930. Jones credited Travis’s simple lesson as a major turning point in his illustrious career. Without it, he may never have reached the heights he did or helped popularize Travis’s effective putting techniques.

The lesson also contributed to Jones co-founding the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. In many ways, a single putting lesson from Walter Travis helped unlock Bobby Jones’s world-class talent and catalyze his historic career as one of golf’s greatest icons.

jones putting

Bobby Jones’ Philosophy

  • Emphasized feel, touch, and rhythm over strict mechanics. Avoid tension and overthinking the stroke.
  • Focused on solid contact and getting the ball rolling towards the hole. Speed and line more important than perfect technique.
  • Believed in keeping the stroke natural and simple. Changed his grip and stance frequently.
  • Mastering distance control through lag putting was key.
  • Mental composure was critical. Struggled with pressure putts and yips at times.

The Drills

The “Calamity Jane” Drill

How it helped Jones: Jones’ putter “Calamity Jane” had a cracked, flexible shaft. This shaft naturally returned the clubface squarely to impact, aiding accuracy. If you’re looking to find your own “Calamity Jane,” look at Global Golf’s selection of the latest new and used putters.

How it can help you: A flexible putter shaft improves your stroke’s path and face angle control. It enhances rhythm and reduces tension.

How to execute: Using a whippy putter, make strokes focusing on a smooth tempo. Let the shaft flex and rebound naturally, keeping hands passive. Don’t manipulate the face angle. LagShot Golf has just released the LagShot Putter, designed with a whippy shaft for this explicit purpose.

The Lag Shot Putter’s specialized design, featuring a weighted clubhead and a hyper-flexible shaft, guides you to load the putter perfectly, naturally generate more lag, and execute confident strokes with impeccable tempo and timing.

You’ll transform that rare, once-in-a-round, silky-smooth putt into a frequent occurrence on the greens.

LagShot Golf

Eyeline Drill

How it helped Jones:  Jones emphasized the importance of keeping your eyes focused on the back of the ball when putting. This “eyeline” putting technique helps ensure proper contact and a true roll on the putt. Jones likened the putting stroke to “driving a tack into the back of the ball,” though this may suggest too forceful a stroke on today’s fast greens. The key is still keeping your gaze fixed on the back of the ball during the stroke. See our post on eye dominance for more on this.

How it can help you:  Stay relaxed, trust your read, and commit to the stroke. With practice, the eyeline drill trains your eyes, mind, and stroke to work in unison. You’ll gain a better feel and learn to start the ball on your intended line more often. Combine with routine practice on length putts and bump-and-runs to improve touch and lower scores.

How to execute: 

  • Set up to a straight 5-10 foot putt, drawing a line on your ball to help with alignment.
  • Place an alignment stick outside the putt line to monitor the path. You can use a mat like the Perfect Practice, a tool like the Tour Aim, or even a simple alignment stick.
  • Focus intently on the back of the ball throughout the stroke, keeping your eyes still. Don’t just look at the whole ball.
  • Stroke the putt, keeping the putter low and accelerating through impact.
  • The putting mirror from Eyeline Golf can help with this drill as well, letting you know exactly where your eyes are setup at address and if they move during the stroke.

Puttlink Smart Ball

The PuttLink Smart Ball is a revolutionary putting training aid that connects wirelessly to your mobile device to provide real-time feedback and stats. It calculates true roll distance, green speed, entry pace, make percentage, and more to help you practice smarter, track progress, and lower your scores. With adjustable difficulty levels, multiple ball types, and fun competitions, the PuttLink Smart Ball makes putting practice engaging for golfers of all skill levels. This innovative smart ball takes the guesswork out of becoming a better putter.

The key benefits include:

  • Provides real-time putting stats and feedback
  • Calculates useful metrics like distance, green speed, make percentage
  • Adjustable difficulty and ball types for all skill levels
  • Makes practice more engaging and fun
  • Takes the guesswork out of improving as a putter

Our readers receive a 10% discount by using code PUTTSMART at checkout.

Further Reading – Books and AudioBooks

The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America,
and the Story of Golf

by Mark Frost

Summary: “The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf” is a biography that tells the story of Bobby Jones and his incredible achievement of winning all four major tournaments in the same year, 1930. The book delves into Jones’ background, his introduction to golf at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, and his progress as a junior golfer. It also explores the challenges he faced in adapting his playing style and refining his attitude toward the game to win against the best players of his time consistently. The book provides insights into Jones’ personal life, relationships with fellow golfers, and impact on the sport. Frost’s storytelling captures the excitement of Jones’ historic accomplishment and his lasting legacy in golf.

Bobby Jones on Golf

Summary: Bobby Jones on Golf compiles wisdom from the legendary golfer on grip, stance, swing technique, shot-making, and course management. Jones advocates developing a smooth, rhythmic swing by learning to “swing easy” and not overpower the club. He provides tips on specific shots like the draw, fade, punch, and chip, advising golfers to become shotmakers who can work the ball. Jones also shares his mental approach, stressing patience, carefree confidence, and enjoyment of golf for its own sake. Overall the book focuses on sound fundamentals, clever strategy, and the thoughtful, relaxed mindset that Jones believes leads to peak performance on the course.

The Bobby Jones Way
by John Andrisani

Summary: The Bobby Jones Way, written by acclaimed golf writer John Andrisani, analyzes the powerful, near-perfect swing and flawless execution of legendary golfer Bobby Jones to reveal his unique swing techniques and course management skills. By studying countless hours of footage of Jones and interviewing top instructors, Andrisani breaks down Jones’s driving, pitching, chipping, and putting methods to help golfers at any level improve their games. The book illustrates elements beyond Jones’s swing mechanics, including how to hit creative shots and cure problems. It is a comprehensive guidebook for golfers looking to emulate Jones’s skills. Overall, The Bobby Jones Way is an insightful look into the swing secrets and mastery of one of golf’s all-time greatest players.

Making the Masters
by David Barrett

Summary: Making the Masters by David Barrett provides the origin story of the Masters tournament, detailing how Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts conceived it in the 1930s and quickly established itself as one of golf’s most prestigious events. The book chronicles how Jones and Roberts built the tournament from the ground up despite tough economic times, highlighting key events, winners, and moments that shaped its legacy over the years.  Barrett’s comprehensive history shares little-known stories about the Masters and the many golfers who have defined its prestige as one of America’s greatest sporting events.

Key Takeaways

  • Jones struggled with putting early in his career, even experiencing the “yips,” before getting a lesson from Walter Travis that dramatically improved his stroke.
  • Jones focused on feel, rhythm, and touch rather than strict mechanics when putting. He believed in a pendulum-like stroke and avoiding tension.
  • Lag putting and distance control were critical skills Jones mastered. He also became known for consistently making putts within 10 feet.
  • Jones emphasized keeping the stroke natural and varying his grip/stance to find what worked on a given day based on feel.
  • Jones helped popularize effective putting techniques still used today through his fluid stroke, wisdom captured in books/films, and emphasis on “letting the putter swing.” His advice on feel and touch rings true decades later.

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