The name reminds of the new television show “WipeOut!” that features an obstacle called “big balls” but this particular big ball may help golfers gain an improved feel around the pin and make for better scoring rounds.
After watching Tiger Woods repeatedly miss some makeable putts in the final holes of this past weekend’s U.S. Open I couldn’t help but think that maybe he could use a little big ball practice. It might not be a coincidence that eventual champion, Lucas Glover, from Greenville, South Carolina is a pitchman for the product.
The website touts the usual impetus that should make all of us weekend duffers go for the product – “40% of your golf shots are hit ON THE PUTTING GREEN during a typical round of golf”. The website also correctly claims that most of us spend nearly all of our time at the driving range and nearly NO TIME practicing putting.
The “rocket science” behind the putting aid is simple. “The Big Putt” is a nearly two inch ball, compared to the 1.68″ normal-sized golf ball. Putting with that ball into a cup would be akin to practicing your jump shots in basketball with a larger, beach ball. The cool thing about “The Big Putt” is that the ball weighs and performs precisely the same as a normal golf ball so the stroke and feel of it are the same as putting with the smaller ball. Since “The Big Putt” is 35% larger than a regulation golf ball, mis-hits are magnified and provide immediate feedback as to what you need to do to perfect your putting stroke.
Among the developers of “The Big Putt” is PGA Tour caddie Mike Hicks. He has seen plenty of big putts in his two-decade career as a caddie on the PGA Tour, most notably the 15-footer that Payne Stewart made on the final green of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 to edge Phil Mickelson by one shot. (Seems like Mike also had a hand in Glover’s win on Monday that cause Phil Mickelson to finish second for a record 5th time in the U.S. Open.)
“Putting’s the name of the game,” Hicks says. “Think of any great player in the game and you can remember a big putt he made to win a major – whether it’s Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Jack Nicklaus or any of them.”
“The putting green is the fastest way to lower scores,” says Hicks, who caddied 12 years for Stewart prior to the golfer’s tragic death in 1999. “Anyone can improve their putting. Someone might not be physically capable of hitting it 10 more yards. But they can make more putts.”
One instructor adds, “You can buy a new wedge, but how many times will you use it?” He further explained, “You putt on every green, usually at least two times a hole. That’s where lower scores are.”
The product touts that by practicing putts from two to eight feet with the oversize ball, a golfer develops confidence that carries over to the golf course when using the smaller regulation ball.
“Golf is all about repetition,” Hicks says, noting that one PGA Tour player he has caddied for always makes an 18-inch putt on the practice green as his last action before going to the first tee. “He wants to see that short putt go into the hole. He wants to carry that positive thought and feel and image to the golf course. That’s what you get from The Big Putt.”
Former U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk is among top professionals who have added The Big Putt to their practice regimens. Furyk can remember as a junior golfer a drill where he used a tennis ball on the putting green. The idea was that if you can develop precision with an oversize ball, then the hole appears to have increased in size when you return to a regulation ball.
“It’s great practice,” Furyk says. “The hole shrinks down and it makes you concentrate more. I think it’s a good tool. If you use it for five or 10 minutes a day I think it’s going to really help your putting.”
The Big Putt is being distributed by Big Golf Ball Inc., a North Carolina corporation headed by Hicks, who lives in Mebane, and Gurley, who lives in Chapel Hill, and will be promoted with a 30-second commercial to run on the Golf Channel. A sleeve of three balls will sell for $29.95; included is series of practice drills.
Hicks caddied on the PGA Tour in recent years for Jonathan Byrd before moving to the Champions Tour to pick up Scott Hoch’s bag. He’s used his time on both tours to introduce The Big Putt to the professionals and has gotten excellent feedback. Billy Andrade and Peter Jacobsen are among golfers now using the oversized balls in their practice routines.
“I like to give myself an extra 10 minutes now and head straight to the putting green and hit a bunch of putts with The Big Putt around the hole-three, four and 10-footers-and get a feel for it,” says Andrade, a 20-year veteran of the PGA Tour. “Then I hit a couple with my normal golf ball. I just think it’s fabulous. It’s a fabulous, fabulous product.”
“This might be one of the most unique inventions I have seen in golf in the last 20 years,” says Jacobsen, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour. “It feels the same as a regular golf ball, it looks the same, it rolls the same. But it changes the illusion and makes the hole look smaller. It really focuses your attention on rolling the ball right for the hole.”
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