Most of us don't face golf greens of PGA Tour speed very often. When we do, it's important to make a few adjustments to our putting technique.
First, a word about green speed. A Stimpmeter is a device that measures how far a ball will roll (in feet) on a flat surface. Most courses feature Stimpmeter readings of 8-8.5 feet. On tour, however, the number is typically 11-12 feet – and sometimes upward of 14.
If you find yourself on faster-than-usual golf greens, try these tips:
• Lighten your grip: This will give you better feel, a lighter touch, and improved control. Sam Snead advised holding the putter like a small bird – just firm enough to keep it from escaping, but not firm enough to hurt it.
• Play more break: The faster the green, the more a putt will break.
• Contact the ball toward the toe on downhill putts: Hitting the ball slightly off-center has a deadening effect, so ultra-fast putts won't get away from you.
• Don't get tentative: The natural tendency on fast greens is to slow down the stroke, which causes deceleration and off-line putts. Focus on making a shorter stroke with your normal pace, accelerating through impact.
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Traditional, Mid-Length/Belly & Long Putters
Master Fast Golf Greens with Minor Adjustments
The speed of the greens is one of the biggest variables in the game of golf. Even if you play the same course day after day, all year long, you are still likely to experience changes in green speeds based on a number of factors. Maintenance schedules affect green speeds, as does the weather, the time of day that you choose to play, and more. If you hope to shoot low scores on a consistent basis on all of the courses that you play, adjusting quickly to the green speeds for the day is going to be one of your biggest challenges.
In this article, we are going to talk about some strategies you can use when the greens are fast. Most golfers enjoy fast greens because fast putting surfaces are typically smooth putting surfaces. The course that is able to bring their greens up to a quick speed is usually one that invests the time and money in their maintenance efforts to care for the course properly as a whole. Most likely, you already know which courses in your area have a reputation for fast greens, and which offer putting surfaces that are a bit on the slow side.
Generally speaking, it will be more difficult to post a low score on a course with fast greens as compared to playing the same course when the greens are slower. Fast greens make it more difficult to lag long putts up close to the hole, and they make your short putts scarier as well. There is a reason that most of the professional golf tournaments you see on TV feature fast greens – they are the right way to test the skills of the players, and they also help to test those players nerves under pressure. Even though you probably aren't going to be playing in a big pro tournament anytime soon, you still need to know how to handle fast greens in order to take your personal game to a new level.
One of the first things you can do to improve your performance on fast greens is simply to find fast greens to practice on more frequently. If there is a course within your area that usually keeps their greens at a high speed, do your best to practice on their putting green as often as possible. There is no replacement for repetition when learning how to roll the ball properly on fast surfaces, so finding a good place to practice is paramount to your development. Also, try to play actual rounds of golf on courses with fast greens every once in a while as well, even if you aren't able to do so all the time. With plenty of practice under your belt and at least an occasional round on quick surfaces, you should find that your confidence will quickly grow with regard to handling fast greens successfully.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Checking on Your Basic Putting Technique
Slow greens have a way of covering up for poor putting technique. You can get away with making some minor mistakes in your stroke when you play on slow greens, but that is not the case when the green speeds pick up. On fast surfaces, you need to be nearly perfect with your stroke hole after hole if you are going to see good results. So, before getting into any strategic points on how to deal with fast greens, we need to first make sure that your stroke is ready to meet this challenge. Take a look at the points below as a reminder of the key fundamentals that you need to be using on the greens.
- Steady head position. This is a point that takes on even more importance when you putt on fast greens. You are only going to need to make a small stroke in most cases when the greens are fast, as it won't take much energy to roll the ball from its starting point all the way to the hole. So, with that in mind, you need to make sure you are holding perfectly still in order to allow the putter to swing down the target line properly. Any small movement in your head during the stroke can change the path of the putter, and cause your putt to miss its target. It will be easier to keep your head still if you keep your eyes still as well during the stroke, so pick out a spot on your ball and lock your vision on that spot until the ball is gone.
- Relaxed grip pressure. Here again, we find a point that is extremely important when the greens get fast. While you should always putt with light grip pressure in your hands, it is crucial to hit on this point when putting fast greens because you need to have maximum feel in order to manage you distance control. It will be hard to feel the speed of your stroke with a tight grip, meaning you will be likely to hit the ball too hard – especially on your longer putts. Allow the putter to hang freely from your hands and simply rock your shoulders back and through to send the ball on its way.
- Quiet hands and wrists. There is no reason for your hands or wrists to get actively involved in the putting stroke when playing on fast greens. Since you don't need much speed or energy to roll the ball to the hole, keep your small muscles quiet and trust your shoulders to do the job of moving the putter. This technique will stabilize the face angle of your putter during the stroke, making it far easier to hit your target line. You do need to engage your hands and wrists from time to time when facing a long putt on slow greens, just to add enough speed to your stroke to reach the target. That shouldn't be the case on fast surfaces, however, so take your hands out of the picture to experience improved consistency.
- Slow tempo. It is extremely difficult to control your speed properly on fast greens when you use a quick tempo in your putting stroke. During practice, work on making a stroke that features a slow tempo, with the putter moving very methodically back and through. Even if this isn't your natural tempo on the greens (or with your full swing), you should at least give it a try in practice. If you manage to get comfortable with this style of putting stroke, you will likely notice that your distance control quickly improves when playing on fast greens. Of course, you don't want to fight against yourself too much in terms of the tempo that you use, so stick with what is more comfortable if the slower rhythm just isn't working out for you.
Proper putting technique really doesn't change much based on green speeds, but the points above do become even more important as the greens get faster. Be sure to focus on each of these points individually during your upcoming practice sessions to round your stroke into good form. You will need more than technique alone to make putts on fast greens, but starting from this foundation should give you confidence moving forward.
Putting Strategy for Fast Greens
Putting is a challenge that is far more mental than it is physical. Sure, you need to have solid technique in place if you wish to putt well, but the way your mind works while you are putting will have an even greater influence on the outcome of your putts. Most amateur golfers make a number of mental mistakes while putting, which is why missed short putts and three putt greens are so common in the amateur game.
Specific to this article, there are a few strategy points that you need to keep in mind when putting on fast greens. Those important points are listed below.
- Use caution on short putts. When putting on slow greens, you can take an aggressive approach to your short putts. You can aim for the back of the cup, hit the ball with plenty of pace, and watch it rattle in time after time. Such a strategy is not a great idea on fast greens, however. When putting on fast greens, you are going to need to do a better job of controlling your speed on putts from inside five feet. Why? Simple – the threat of a long comeback putt. If you happen to miss your first attempt, and you send the ball zooming past the hole, you could easily face a comeback putt that is longer than the original. Needless to say, you can't afford to three putt (or worse) from just a few feet away if you want to post a good score. Be cautious with your short putts and use just enough speed to drop them in gently over the edge of the cup.
- Play more break. This is perhaps the single-biggest key to putting well on fast greens. When you are facing fast putting surfaces, you need to read more break into your putts than when facing the same kind of putt on a slower green. Since you have to hit the ball softer on fast greens, the ball is actually going to be rolling toward the hole more slowly – giving it more time to follow the slope of the ground. Therefore, the ball is going to wind up breaking more on a fast green than it would on a slow green, even if the terrain is exactly the same. This is a principle that applies on all of your putts, but it is particularly important to remember when putting from long range. Play more break than you think you need from long range to give your ball space to curve right in toward the hole.
- Use the toe on quick downhill putts. When you are facing an extremely fast, downhill putt from relatively short range, consider intentionally hitting the ball out toward the toe of your putter to take away some initial speed. If you hit the sweet spot on this kind of putt, the ball just may 'jump' off the face and you might struggle to control the speed properly. To take away the risk of hitting the putt way too hard, aim for a spot that is an inch or so away from the sweet spot out toward the toe. Line the ball up on that spot at address, and stroke through the putt just as you would normally. The ball should contact the putter near the toe, you should lose some speed due to the intentional miss-hit, and that scary downhill putt will no longer seem so impossible to manage.
Putting on fast greens is a challenge to be sure, but the tips above can help to take a bit of the challenge out of this task. When you have a clear plan in mind for how you are going to approach putting on a day where you encounter fast greens, you stand a much better chance for success. There is no reason you can't find plenty of your putts falling into the center of the cup if you take the tips above to heart.
Other Strategy Points
The tips included in the list above address things you can do while actually putting on fast greens. But what about when your ball is not yet on the green? There are course management tips that you can keep in mind which will help you to avoid difficult situations on a course with fast greens. By keeping your ball out of tough spots in the first place, you will leave yourself with the easiest possible putts on those fast greens – and your results will almost certainly improve in the end.
During your next round on a course with fast greens, keep the following course management tips in mind.
- Play to the low side. This is something that you should be doing anyway, but it is absolutely imperative when you play a course with fast greens. On your approach shots, look carefully at the green and determine which part of the putting surface is going to offer you an uphill putt to the cup. This is the part of the green that should be your target for the shot at hand. Putting uphill is the only way to 'slow down' fast greens, as you will be able to be more aggressive when you place your ball below the hole. If you fail to pay attention to this point, you will constantly be putting downhill and the greens will feel even faster. While you aren't going to execute successfully 100% of the time when trying to find the low side, even hitting on this point more often than not will leave you with plenty of realistic birdie opportunities.
- Stay away from the short side. Here again, we see a point that you should be paying attention to regardless of the speed of the greens. In this case, we are talking about avoiding a miss on the short side of the green. The short side is the side where the hole is cut on a given day. For instance, if the hole is cut on the left side of the green, missing the green to the left with your approach shot would be considered a 'short side miss'. This is a problem when playing fast greens because it will be hard to stop your chip shot in time to keep the ball close to the hole. Fast greens are almost always firm greens, so getting up and down from the short side will be a tremendous challenge. When you keep your ball on the wide side, you will always have a chance to get down in two for your par.
- Bunkers can be your friend. Most of the time, you want to keep your ball out of the bunkers – that should go without saying. However, from time to time, you might be able to use a bunker to your advantage. If you are playing a course with a combination of fast greens and long rough, your best chance to get up and down may be from a bunker rather than the rough. You can't spin your chip shots from long rough, meaning those chips are going to race away from you on fast greens. On the other hand, you can spin the ball from the sand, giving you a chance to stop the ball before it runs off the other side of the green. If you are facing a long approach shot that you will struggle to knock on to the putting surface, intentionally hitting the ball into a bunker that leaves you a doable up-and-down is not a bad choice.
You should always be thinking ahead in golf. Even when you are getting ready to hit your tee shot on a par four or par five, you should already be thinking about the shots that you are going to play later to complete the hole. By thinking strategically, and then executing on that strategy, you can keep your ball in spots that give you the best chance for success.
Letting the Ball Roll
A big part of your success or failure when facing fast greens is going to come down to the mindset that you have when you stand over the ball. Unlike on slow greens, where you can 'force' the ball into the hole with an aggressive attitude and stroke, you are going to need to be more passive when putting on quick surfaces. If you try to force the action on fast greens, you are quickly going to get yourself into trouble.
It is important to remember when putting on fast surfaces that much of what happens on the greens is out of your control. Once the ball leaves the face of your putter, there is nothing more you can do to affect the outcome of the putt. With that in mind, you need to relax and simply do your best to roll the ball toward the target properly time after time. Some of your putts are going to fall in, and some of them won't – that's just how the game works. If you get too caught up in trying to make every single putt you ever face, you are going to wind up getting tight and your performance will suffer. By accepting that some of your putts are going to miss, you can actually wind up making more of them in the end.
You might think that it is a bit odd to accept missing putts when you are standing on the green. After all, isn't the goal to make every putt you look at? Yes, of course that is the goal, but it simply isn't going to happen. No professional golfers make all of their putts, and you aren't going to either. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to perform at an unrealistic level, you can actually take comfort in knowing that it is okay to miss from time to time. With that attitude, you will be free to simply pick out a good line, make a great stroke, and hope to see the ball fall in when it reaches the hole.
Most golfers would agree that putting on fast greens is a fun experience. Most would also agree that it is a significant challenge. If you are going to score well on courses that feature fast greens, you are going to have to be prepared to rise to the occasion using some of the instruction provided throughout this article. Whether you play on fast greens on a regular basis, or you only see them a few times a year, the information we have offered up should help raise your level of play. Good luck and have fun!