The 4-Putt (Four-Putt) in Golf

What is a 4-putt in golf? Something you want to avoid, because it is 33-percent worse than a 3-putt — but feels about 100-percent worse.

If it takes you four putts to get your ball into the hole after reaching the green, you just four-putted. You missed your first putt, hit your second one and missed again, stroked your third and missed again, then finally, on your fourth attempt, you got the ball in the hole. That's a four-putt.

Three-putts are considered one of the bogeymans of golf, so, obviously, a four-putt is even worse. And virtually all recreational golfers will, in fact, four-putt. But don't despair, because even the world's best golfers still occasionally four-putt in tour events. The video above shows a handful of them doing it.

Not all four-putts (also called four-jacks) have to kill a competitor's chances in a tournament or even a good score for a round, though. It depends on the talent level of the player (obviously!), but also how well he or she is at controlling anger and emotion and moving on from bad scores. Jon Rahm began the 2023 Masters Tournament by 4-putting the very first green. He wound up winning the tournament.

In the Foreward to Ben Hogan's classic golf instruction book, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf (affiliate link), the writer tells a tale familiar to most golfers: How we have a rough day at the course and swear off the game, only to hit a great shot near the end that keeps us coming back. Then, we'll have a great round and believe we've learned the secret. That's when golf brings us back down to earth, humbling us again:

"He will slice his drive, he will blunder his way back onto the fairway and into a trap, he will four-putt the green. He will be chastened. He will know humility again."
In her autobiography, This Life I've Led (affiliate link), Babe Didrikson Zaharias told the story of her first full round of golf. She partnered the famous sportswriter Grantland (Granny) Rice against two opponents. And while she estimated her score at around 100, Zaharias and Rice were all square after 17 holes. On the 18th hole, Rice suggested to Zaharias that she challenge one of the men in the other pairing to a race to the 18th green. The man accepted, and he lost. That's not all he lost, Zaharias wrote: "He was so winded he had to lie down on the grass and catch his breath. When he finally got up, he four-putted the green. Granny and I won the hole and the match."

Related articles:

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Davies, Peter. The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms, 1993, Robson Books.
Hogan, Ben, and Wind, Herbert Warren. Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, 1957, Simon and Schuster.
Zaharias, Babe Didrikson. This Life I've Led, 1955, A.S. Barnes.

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