I’ve worked with a lot of Tour professionals over the years and they all use preview strokes. When dollars and self-esteem are on the line on every putt you go with any performance edge you can find. Believe me a preview stroke is a big one.
The green is the second-largest on the course with a consistent elevation drop of four feet from back to front (though mild undulations help channel shots toward the center of the green). Depending on the wind direction don’t be surprised to see some players swing driver here. It’s an absolute beast.
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.
Regardless of skill level putting accounts for approximately 43 percent of your total strokes taking into account your good putting days and the ones where you’re ready to snap your flatstick over your knee. Lower this percentage and your scores will go down. Allocate at least one-third of your practice time to becoming the best putter you can be.
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.
If you currently don’t use a preview stroke try it — and give it a least a month. Always make your preview strokes while focusing on your aim line and visualizing the putt’s roll from start to finish.
The 16th green is the third-smallest at Shinnecock and falls nearly five feet as it slopes continuously from back to front. Its gentle contouring will yield birdies and you can expect many of the bigger hitters to go for the green in two.
You can solve the problem in two easy steps: When your front foot is below your back foot take a normal stance with a “centered” ball position then move your lead foot down the hill and tilt your shoulders with the slope (see the photo below). Setting up this way delofts the club so use a higher-lofted wedge.
To launch a good wedge shot it’s important to strike the little white ball (with the dimples) before you hit the big green one (the earth). And since every swing has a bottom to its arc you need to position the white orb just behind it so that your contact goes “white-then-green”—not vice versa.
This change in grip position effectively shortens the clubshaft and takes a slight amount of power out of the swing making it a little easier to keep greenside shots under control.
Adding this grip-down motion to your arsenal isn’t a difficult change to make. As you can see in the photo above I’ve choked down about six inches and the only other changes I’ve made are to stand slightly closer to the ball and use a little more knee bend.
When I think of Shinnecock Hills two words come to mind: “national treasure.” As a researcher and golfer who has dedicated nearly four decades of his life to developing swing- and course-management strategies to help players shoot better scores it remains the ultimate test — if you can outthink this place you can outthink anyplace. I paid a visit to the William Flynn masterpiece last fall walking the fairways with my son Eddie and even playing a few shots. It was as vexing as ever.