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In Review: Stan Utley’s Art of Putting

Stan Utley has been declared the “hottest instructor in golf” by Sports Illustrated. He works with Peter Jacobsen, Rocco Mediate, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Craig Stadler and other touring pros. Utley himself is a PGA Tour professional who has won more than $1 million while setting records for fewest putts per round.

Now, in his book The Art of Putting: The Revolutionary Feel-Based System for Improving Your Score ($25, published by Gotham Books), Utley reveals his putting secrets to the rest of us.

The View from PutterZone.com
The Art of Putting succeeds by keeping a complex topic simple—but without dumbing it down, either.

Too many golf instruction books bury you with so much information that it’s impossible to sift the wheat from the chaff. Others leave you feeling like you’re only getting half of the story.

The Art of Putting, however, covers all of the bases quickly yet thoroughly: technique, equipment, mental approach, green reading, faults and fixes, and drills.

Utley teaches what I would call the modern putting stroke: the arcing stroke. While this stroke is nothing new, many recreational golfers have been taught to use a “straight-back, straight-through” stroke—despite the fact that most PGA Tour pros follow an arc in their strokes.

Among the highlights of the book are Utley’s magnificent tips on how to grip the putter; his emphasis on how attitude affects putting; and his relevant insights into the putting games of specific PGA Tour pros. The term “feel-based system” in the title may sound a bit mystical, but the book is, in fact, very practical and precise. Utley does, however, impart the importance of feel in the putting stroke, and what you can do to achieve it.

In keeping with the spirit of the book itself, Utley’s drills are simple, practical and effective—just the way I like them, no bamboo sticks, flashlights or duct tape required.

Utley also earns kudos for addressing the issue of equipment, which is often the elephant in the room of instructional books. Not that he gets too specific regarding putter brands or styles. But at least he enlightens the reader about crucial factors such as length, loft and lie.

The book isn’t perfect. Utley spends too much time talking about himself in the 11-page first chapter, which is entitled “What Do I Know?” and which follows a foreword by Jay Haas and a three-page introduction by Utley. It’s not that Utley sounds arrogant or boastful, he just truly seems to want to let us know what he knows in order to genuinely establish his credibility before telling us how to putt.

Hey, Stan: Golf Digest calls you “Golf’s latest superstar guru” on the cover of the book, and Sports Illustrated calls you the “hottest instructor in golf” on the back. That’s all I need to know, so let’s get down to business.

I am also mystified by Utley’s statement that “most off-the-rack putters are too short (thirty-two inches instead of thirty-four or thirty-six).” Nearly every putter in my local golf shop is 35-inches long, with a few 34-inch and 33-inch putters thrown into the mix. If you go to the putters page of top online golf retailer TGW.com, 32 inches isn’t even an option you can select when sorting through the major putter brands.

The Bottom Line
The Art of Putting is one of those rare instructional books that appeals to golfers of all skill levels. It doesn’t talk over the novice’s head, yet it offers the veteran golfer substantial food for thought. As a practical guide to the modern approach to putting, The Art of Putting succeeds like no other book before it.

About Sean Weir

Sean Weir is the founder and editor of PutterZone.com, and the author of Putter Perfection, the definitive guide to putter fitting. Profile: Google+

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