Should putts count the same as other golf shots?
Golf Culture

Should putts count the same as other golf shots?

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Putting is obviously a very important part of golf. If you played a statistically flawless even-par round, you'd hit 18 drives, 14 approaches, maybe four lay-ups and 36 putts. Amid the four phases of the game -- driving, approach play, scoring play and putting -- it's putting that is conceivably weighted most in terms of the pure number of shots you'd play in a round.

That makes no sense to top instructor Pete Cowen, who told Golf Digest in a recent interview that he thinks putts shouldn't count as a full stroke. Rather, he thinks each putt should count as a half-stroke.

We'll let him explain.

"I dislike putting. It carries too much weight, scoring-wise. If it were up to me, each putt would count only half a stroke. I give you two golfers. Player A hits a 3-iron over water to a back-right pin. Hits it to 10 feet, then misses the putt. Player B hits a big pull left of the green, pitches it to 6 feet and holes the putt. Under my system, Player A scores a 2 on the hole, while Player B scores 2.5. That's called justice. And it would speed up the game."

Cowen's postulating that a player who is more efficient from tee to green deserves a better score than a player who might lean on their short game to salvage par. However, his example fails to look at a more likely and more common scenario of a player hitting their approach shot into the middle of the green, well away from a hole location, and making a routine two-putt for par. While that's an efficient hole for the player, they may well have never threatened getting to the hole location with their approach, whereas the player in the example that got up-and-down for par just happened to miss the mark on an aggressive shot. Rewarding a player for taking the safe route doesn't seem just or one that would promote much fun.

He's also diminishing the value of the scoring game, which I think we'd define as any shot inside of 125 yards, including chipping, pitching and sand play. Perhaps those three types of shots are particularly unique, but they're certainly no less valuable to the game than the others. Let's apply with a par-5 example.

Say a player smashes their tee shot and has an opportunity to go for the green with their second shot. They miss the green and land in a greenside bunker. After extricating themselves from the bunker, they two-putt for a par -- which, under Cowen's system, would be a 4. Now, take the other player, who chooses to lay up, finds the green in 3 and two-putts for par. They would also score 4 under Cowen's system. If we're weighting shots, you couldn't convince me that those two pars were equal.

So, what do you think? Does putting count too much toward your score?

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]

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