The putter can be a valuable tool for shots from off the green, but only if you know when to use it. The “how” is relatively simple.
Choosing to putt rather than chip from off the green greatly reduces the potential for a bad mishit, which is why the old axiom, “Your worst putt usually beats your best chip” still rings true. There’s no need to worry about variables, either, such as how high or far to chip the ball, where to land it, and what effect spin may have once it hits the green.
The most obvious off-the-green situation where the putter is preferred is when your ball lies on the fringe or collar, no more than a few feet from the green. The putter should be considered in other instances as well, such as closely cropped fairway or collection areas. Keep these factors in mind when choosing a club:
- If the ground is especially firm or the grass mowed extra-tight, the putter is a great option from well off the green – sometimes several yards.
- Before deciding to putt, make sure there are no obstacles in your line that could slow or re-route the ball, such as divots, sprinkler heads, patches of rough or sand that’s been blasted from a nearby bunker.
- If you’re playing into a severe grain in the grass (growing toward you), putting may cause the ball to bounce or skip and lose speed. Chipping may be a safer option.
- If you’re playing down-grain (growing in the direction of the shot), a putt will typically roll nice and true.
When putting from fringe or fairway, simply use your normal putting address and stroke. Make sure your hands remain slightly ahead of the ball; if they’re behind it you’ll add loft to the putter, causing the ball to go airborne, bounce and lose speed or veer off line.
You’ll need to hit the ball a little harder to account for the longer grass, so make several practice strokes while looking at the hole – not the ground – to get a feel for the length of stroke needed.