Golf involves more variables than any other sport. Wind, weather and turf conditions – to name just a few things – change from round to round, and sometimes hole to hole.
Good players are able to accept different conditions (rather than complaining and succumbing) and adapt accordingly. They size up the situation early on, then adjust their strategies and tactics to meet the day’s demands.
Green conditioning is one of golf’s most unpredictable variables. The greens are affected not only by rain, wind and dry weather, but by maintenance practices such as aerification and overseeding. If you find the greens on your golf course playing softer and slower than usual, you’ll have to do more than hit your putts harder. Your entire short game will need a temporary overhaul.
The bad news is, adapting from fast greens to slow ones can be mentally challenging. The good news is, you’ll enjoy more scoring opportunities if you’re able to adjust.
First and foremost, you must adopt a more aggressive mentality. On soft, slow greens, chips, pitches and bunker shots will stop more quickly and roll a shorter distance. If you have trouble assuming an aggressive mindset, consider this:
On slow greens, the penalty for over-aggressiveness is greatly diminished. For one thing, the ball won’t roll too far past the hole. And if you leave yourself a downhill putt, no worries – in fact, putting downhill is often preferable on slower greens, when getting the ball to the cup is the biggest challenge.
Here are some tips to help you stick chips, pitches and bunker shots within gimme range on soft, slow greens:
- Use more loft, fly the ball farther: Normally, it’s best to get the ball rolling as soon as possible when playing a greenside chip. The opposite is true when greens are slow and soggy. Instead of playing a chip-and-run with, say, a 7-iron, grab a pitching wedge and aim for a spot within 5-10 feet of the hole. The ball will fly higher and stop after a bounce or two.
- Take dead aim: Slow greens break less sharply than fast ones. Plus, you’re less likely to get a hard sideways bounce on a soft surface vs. a firm one. Aim directly at the flag and reduce your margin of error.
- Play offense, not defense: The hardest part of adjusting to slow greens is switching from a defensive approach to attack mode. Manage this trick and a big payoff awaits. Rather than trying to cozy up every chip or pitch next to the flag, your last thought before pulling the trigger should be, “Knock it in.”
Remember, a well-struck shot won’t get away from you when the greens are soft and slow. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be five feet past the hole than five feet short?