Like it or not green speeds have continued to increase over the last few years. With better grass better mowers and improved maintenance greens have become smoother and healthier nationwide — it’s not uncommon these days to find green speeds of 11 to 12 on high-end courses all over America.
You need two things to make breaking putts: 1) a stroke that starts the ball on your chosen line and 2) the correct amount of speed so the ball can hold that line all the way to the cup. Good line good speed—nailing one isn’t enough.
One of the things that separates Tour players from the rest of us is that the former are intimately familiar with their games. They know how different shots will unfold regardless of where the ball is sitting especially around the green (where difficult lies abound). Not surprisingly that’s where weekend players tend to cough up strokes.
But hey don’t just take my word for it. Keep a written record of how many times you use each club over the next couple of rounds. That way you’ll know for sure what you should be focusing your practice efforts on. I can assure you that the more time you spend on the most frequent shots in your game the more they’ll improve and the faster your scores will drop.
Have you ever taken a snapshot of one of your rounds? Say for example you just finished posting a 96. Have you ever actually taken the time to write down the clubs you used and how often you used them? You may not realize it but you can learn a lot about your game — and how to practice — from this information.
Which brings me to another of my deep-rooted tenets: you don’t have to use the same grip on all putts. Run your own test on the practice green. If the saw feels good on short and medium-length putts commit to it for 10 straight rounds.
Again you don’t have to read the break or aim perfectly or even start your putts perfectly on line to make putts. But you do have to be close on both. You have to stroke your putts to roll at a close enough speed to match the break you played.
Don’t just drop a few balls and putt without a plan: Do a few long putting drills to help you figure out the green speed and always include a short putting drill to keep that part of your game sharp. For wedge practice spend time grooving your wedge distances—you’ll be amazed at how quickly you start knocking down pins when you know exactly how far you can carry each wedge.
The shot from the fairway stopped short of the first even though it landed in the same spot. That’s because you generated much more backspin due to the cleaner lie. And for the teed-up third ball which had zero grass on the clubface to interfere with contact you created max backspin and stopped the ball almost immediately after it hit the green.
From my testing over the last 10 years with amateurs in my schools and professionals on the PGA Tour the saw grip consistently provides superior results for putts inside 10 feet and good results for putts from 12 to 20 feet. But performance on long putts tends to be worse than with conventional grips.
While it’s true that you need to pay attention to both the read and the speed neither one has to be perfect. You can make putts at any number of speeds as long as they’re reasonably matched to the appropriate line. The illustration at the top of the page proves why.
Of course you never get to tee up your wedge shots but that’s not the point. What this exercise teaches is how lie effects spin and that controlling spin is the trick to hitting short shots close. It’s an invaluable lesson. Try it from different distances using different wedges. The experience will turn you into a cagey vet in no time.