How do your putts fall? When it comes to putting, speed kills. This new concept will help you pace them right – Brief Article
Two factors come into play on every putt: speed and break. Obviously you need a deft combination of the two to putt well. Most golfers, however, devote the lion’s share of attention to break. They crouch behind the line, plumb-bob and consult with their partner, trying to figure out which way the putt will bend. Speed, meanwhile, is left to intuition, almost as an afterthought.
Speed deserves more attention, especially on the fast, tricky surfaces we’re seeing more of today. More precise mowing equipment, hardier grasses developed to withstand shorter mowing heights, and a desire among golfers for quicker greens have sent Stimpmeter ratings soaring. Consequently, gauging the correct blend of speed and break is more challenging than ever.
Most players discern the line first, then impart the speed necessary to make the ball follow the path to the hole. I recommend you reverse the procedure: First visualize the ball falling into the hole at a speed suited to the type of putt. If it’s downhill and fast, for example, you want the ball to topple gently over the front edge, to avoid zooming too far past if you miss. Having determined the speed, you then imagine the line the ball must travel to arrive at the hole with just the right pace.
You can choose from three speeds, shown here. This visualization technique, combined with a sound stroke (I’ll offer a mechanical tip, too), will improve your putting on every surface. You’ll one-putt more often and three-putt a lot less.
Do they topple?
Perfect for scary-fast greens
The chief advantage of the Topple is that the hole becomes effectively larger. Because the ball is traveling so slowly, it can catch the side of the hole and still fall, and on breaking putts can even fall in the rear of the hole. Some players–conservative ones–favor the Topple style on all putts, and they are rewarded with very few three-putts. The downside is that some soft putts don’t reach the hole, or can be knocked off line, and thus have no chance of falling.
Use the Topple when . . .
* The greens are smooth, slick and fast.
* The putt is downhill.
* You face a long putt, and two-putting is an achievement.
* You’re putting with the grain (in the direction the grass is growing).
* It’s a big-breaking putt.
Do they rattle?
No downside to ‘tour speed’ roll
With the Rattle, the ball dives over the front edge of the hole and strikes the liner on the opposite side of the cup. This is the optimum speed for most putts; most players’ initial read for break is subconsciously determined with this speed in mind. Rattle speed is achieved when the ball “hugs” the line to the hole. The best putters often obtain the Rattle when they are trying to achieve the Topple–the roll is so pure, the ball goes farther than normal.
The Rattle is perfect for . . .
* Flat, straight putts from medium range.
* Any putt where you trust your stroke.
* Pressure putts you feel you have to make.
* Fast putts, when you don’t fear the possibility of a three-foot comebacker.
Do they slam?
If greens are slow, give it a go
The Slam is the hallmark of bold, confident putters such as Tiger Woods. The ball is struck so firmly it crashes against the dirt on the far side of the hole, sometimes popping into the air before diving into the cup. The Slam diminishes the amount of break and therefore simplifies your reads. But it is fraught with all sorts of peril–vicious lip-outs, putts that careen past the hole, and uncertain feel when you’re forced to gear back to the other two speeds.
Try the Slam when . . .
* The putt is short, with minimal break.
* You’re putting uphill and need to make it.
* The surface is slow.
* You’re putting into the grain.
* The greens are wet, haven’t been mowed or have recently been top-dressed.
Handsy stroke means no control
Poor speed control results from accelerating the club with your wrists instead of your arms and shoulders. The putterhead passes your hands through impact, adding loft to the face, causing the ball to hop and skid before rolling. How far the ball rolls is anybody’s guess.
Try this drill: Turn putter upside down
The culprit in unwanted wrist movement is the weight of the putterhead. It makes you sense the need to apply a little extra boost with your hands, and that’s where the trouble starts. Try this: Turn your putter upside down and make a practice stroke. You won’t use your wrists, because you’re not responding to weight at the end of the shaft. That’s the stroke you want.
Wrist-free stroke imparts pure roll
As you make the practice stroke with the putter turned upside down, use your arms and shoulders only. Your left wrist shouldn’t hinge. See how the right wrist angle has remained constant? Now hold the putter normally and try to duplicate that action. You’ll eliminate unwanted hand action and impart the pure roll necessary to make your putts rain into the hole.
John Elliott is one of Golf Digest’s 50 Greatest Teachers.
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