Which club do you think is more important?

Is The Putter More Important Than The Driver?

Jeremy Ellwood Says No

“Drive for show, putt for dough,” so the old adage goes. Modern-day driving distances have perhaps led us to believe that it’s truer than ever, with tour pros regularly trotting out the phrase, “it’s just a putting contest, really.” But is that actually the case.

I’m not convinced, for the fact remains that if you can’t keep it on the golf course off the tee, it doesn’t matter how well you putt as you’ll only ever be limiting the damage. I can think of at least two tour pros I’ve interviewed over the past few years who have struggled badly in that respect, including Nick Dougherty, who is now in the studio rather than out on tour.

When I spoke to him in early 2011, his stats for 2010 showed he was top 20 for putting, but fourth last out of 180 for driving accuracy. He would have lost his card that year had he not won in 2009.

Okay, you can always make stats work for you, but what about at club level? In this issue I oversaw our regular ‘Help!’ instruction feature with a reader who was fighting a hook. He played off 14, but when the hook was in town he admitted he could easily play to 25, regardless of how well he was playing on the greens.

From my own experience, there’s no question that the club that has most helped me regain a degree of consistency in recent years is a driver that sees me in play far more often than not. When the rest of my game and the putter behave, it’s pure joy, but sadly, as we all know, it rarely all comes together when it matters.

But on those relatively rare occasions when my driver goes off the boil, I know that no matter how well I putt, it will be almost impossible to play anywhere near my handicap of 6.

Fergus Bisset Says Yes

For the purposes of this debate, I kept stats for five rounds at my home club. In each I used driver nine times. I used putter from a low of 29 times up to a high of 38 times.

And, what do you know, my best score contained the fewest putts, while my worst contained the most. In fact, my high score was nine shots worse than the best. Coincidence? I think not.

A good putter can save themselves from a multitude of predicaments. As long as your last shot is a good one, you’re in with a shout.

A fine drive can set up a good hole, but only a good putt can finish one off. If the putter misbehaves, it puts pressure on the rest of your game.

But if it’s rock solid, you’ll feel you can salvage any situation and play more freely as a result.

I accept a wayward driver can be costly if it results in multiple re-loads but, if it’s that wild, keep it in the bag and tee off with fairway or hybrid. You’ll still be in play and in with a chance, particularly if you’re a good putter!

Let’s consider a couple of examples from the tour. Tiger Woods has always been questionable with driver, even at his peak. But what he did brilliantly in his pomp was hole the clutch putts on top of his killer iron play.

Now Henrik Stenson. He had a mental block with driver for a number of years and didn’t dare use it. Luckily, he had a 3-wood he could stripe 300 yards. He continued to win tournaments and millions of dollars… without a driver… Could he have done that without a putter? Case closed.

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