I think most golfers do about the same. Where some differ is in prioritizing the read over everything else. That’s where I emphasize the second-to-last step of the putting process: Matching the putt speed to the break.
For fun I walked to where PGA Tour ShotLink data says is the average miss distance on a shot taken by a Tour player from 260 yards of the target — about the yardage players will face in the Open on No. 2. This miss pattern puts the ball in the deep rough next to the bunker left of the green.
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.
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.
When you miss your putts should end up 17 inches past the hole. If you roll them faster you’ll suffer more lip-outs. Roll them slower and the ball will be knocked off line by imperfections (footprints pitch marks etc.) in the green.
At my schools we preach the importance of the 20-foot putting stroke since 20 feet is the most common putt length in golf. So any student of mine facing a 15-foot putt on the course will preview some small adjustment to that 20-foot reference stroke during their pre-putt routine factoring in the other conditions of the putt that are computed as you read the green such as slope break grain wind etc.
Shinnecock opens with a wide and fairly benign 399-yard par 4 (it played as the fourth-easiest hole during the 2004 U.S. Open). Then it slaps you in the face. Hard. No. 2 is a 250-yard-plus par 3 with sand on both sides of the green and serious rough in play off the left.
Madness! More than any other hole No. 10 rolls all of Shinnecock’s mysteries into one: elevation slope contour wind and firm and fast greens. From the tee box the 11th green looks relatively flat. That’s because you can’t see most of it.
This is the natural position for nearly all golf swings except putting. The only reason you see my right hand in that position in the putting photo is that I’m using a saw grip. If I had started with a conventional grip and allowed my right hand to rotate into position as in the other two pictures my putterface would be dead shut and I probably would have missed the putt.
The two bunkers on the left are much more manageable. From here you’re at least hitting into the slope of the green; unfortunately it’s also tilted severely from right to left. Expect anything but your garden-variety sand shot.
That’s right — I pulled an “o-fer.”I left three of the six shots in the rough and dribbled one into the bunker. The remaining ball? I assume it’s still burrowed somewhere deep in the fescue. I never found it.
Even if a player hits two good shots there’s still the matter of sticking your approach in the right spot. Players better hope they’re not past or above the hole or that the ball hasn’t rolled into the back fringe or over the green because it’s darn near impossible to stop any pitch shot or putt in the opposite direction.