Ever wanted to know what it is like to putt on a U.S. Open green on Sunday? Next time you are in the kitchen, jump up on your granite countertops and take a couple putts. Or putt in your bathtub or on your concrete driveway (assuming it is downhill).
OK, you get it, the greens at a U.S. Open are fast. However, I believe fast is relative. Tour event to Tour event, players see greens that run 11 to 12 on the Stimpmeter (with exceptions of course). However, by the weekend of the Masters or the U.S. Open, players will face green speeds in excess of 13 or 14 on the Stimpmeter.
Consider our hypothetical amateur player, let’s call him Cory. Every Saturday, Cory plays the same municipal golf course where the greens run 7-7.5 on the Stimpmeter. Cory’s putting stroke is solid and he makes his share of putts. Now, Cory’s boss invites him out to play his country club, where the greens will run at 10 on the Stimpmeter. What do you think? Is the change in speed from 11 to 13.5 for a professional golfer more severe than the speed change from 7.5 to 10 for the average hacker? (Please tell me what you think in the comments section below.)
If you ignore other external factors such as the pressure the Tour pro is feeling from playing on the Sunday afternoon of a major, I believe the experience is very similar for both our Tour player and Cory. So how would you prepare if you were Cory and were going to play on those super-fast greens?
First, you can get ready for playing fast greens several days before your round. At your house find a spot where you can take a couple practice strokes. Take your normal stance over the ball but loosen your grip and slowly roll your hands down the grip until your bottom hand is at the end of your putter grip. To aid this change, bend more from your hips than normal and add a little knee flex. Take a couple strokes in that position. You should feel like you are in more control of the putter head. Think about how many more fairways you hit when you hit 3-wood instead of driver. The shorter the club, the more control and less distance. **Note: Gripping down on the putter is a last resort. Attempt the instruction in the following paragraph first and if you are still firing the ball past the hole on the greens revert to choking down on the club. The second part of your preparation involves getting to your boss’s golf course at least 10 minutes earlier than you planned. Find a spot on the green that is flat and hit a couple putts with the same tempo and swing length that you would at your home course to roll a 12-footer. Since the greens are significantly faster at your boss’s course, your ball will roll out much farther. To adjust the distance the ball is traveling, simply lighten your grip pressure and slow your tempo down until you have the ball rolling the desired 12 feet. Pay extra attention to the tempo required to make that putt roll that distance because you will need to recall that tempo once you get on the golf course.
If you have any questions you want me to address, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also watch video on downhill-putting tips from the July Issue of Golf Magazine here.
Lastly, I wanted to thank Bethesda CC and Woodmont CC who are hosting me this week in the DC area. Both clubs (and several members) have been long-time supporters of my work. I am very appreciative of them both.
Until next time…cheers! (Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)