The two keys to achieving this goal are to a) make sure your clubhead makes clean contact with the ball and b) select a safe escape route to your target that’s ahead of where you would have been with a better swing.
It’s not all purgatory. Many of Shinnecock’s greens are downright friendly with raised edges that funnel shots toward the center of the putting surface. Most however are shaped to repel shots away from the flagstick and in some cases off the green entirely. Be advised: every green features serious undulation. A few are so sloped that it’s impossible to imagine the ball stopping on its own.
Even among its major-venue brethren Shinnecock stands alone in its ability to squeeze every ounce of shotmaking savvy and heart from players’ games — a test hardwired into the course’s layout the slope and contour of the greens and the ever-present wind. When these elements combine — and you can bet they will — watch out.
And it can be — under normal circumstances. It’s not too difficult if the course is playing soft and slow despite the fact that the green is seriously sloped elevated in relation to its surroundings and crowned at two-thirds of the way from the front. Its reputation as a monster stems from the fact that in 2004 the winds completely dried out the green and made it play extremely firm and fast.
This isn’t a figment of my imagination. I see it every day on the pro tours and in my short-game and putting schools. Pitches and chips are harder to stop putts break more and roll farther and the difficulty of the scoring game around the greens continues to increase.
My advice? Develop a reliable punch shot. This requires you to play the ball two inches back of center in your stance and make a half- or three-quarter swing. The overall feeling should be “together and compact” with solid lower-body control. Because the punch swing is compact the odds of producing clean contact go through the roof and that’s the first—and toughest—half of the battle!
For this “Backspin vs. Lie” experiment you’ll need your lob wedge a tee and three balls. Select a 20- to 30-yard shot around a green that forces you to carry a bunker but that provides plenty of room between the apron and the pin.
Add it all up and players are left with a miniscule effective landing area to stop shots near the flagstick. In 2004 No. 13 — the shortest par 4 on the course — surrendered only 54 birdies in 442 attempts.
Of course my personal answer to the original question is “Yes I listened.” I obeyed what the slopes crowns contours wind green firmness and speed asked of me. I’ve been around the game a long time yet Shinnecock always teaches me something new.
Once you’re successful from all three lies check the results which should look something like what’s pictured in the photo at right. What you’ll notice is that the shot from the rough rolled out the farthest — the mass of grass that wedged its way between the ball and the clubface at impact killed most of the backspin.
Now I know that some golfers like to take practice strokes (which can become good preview strokes) behind the ball while others take them right next to the ball (while in their setup position).
At our schools we incorporate rhythm into pre-putt rituals then carry that same rhythm through the stroke. Rhythm is the harbinger of consistency. You’ve got to find your own and groove it.