ball against collar putt with toe 1

The 2001 Players Championship is best remembered for Tiger Woods miraculous, “better than most” putt on the 17th hole, which sparked Woods to victory. But runner-up Vijay Singh conjured his own bit of final-round magic on the par-5 16th using a highly unorthodox method.

With his ball resting on the fringe but against a collar of longer grass, Singh turned his putter sideways to place the toe directly behind the ball. He stroked it perfectly and the ball found the cup for an eagle 3.

ball against collar putt with toe 2

What would possess Singh to try such an unusual shot under that kind of pressure? For one thing, Singh is one of the most diligent workers in golfer history and had likely practiced it thousands of times. For another, it's a great alternative in this situation – and surprisingly easy to execute.

Turning the putter on its toe raises the heel end so that it travels upward, above the level of the collar, on the backstroke. This prevents the grass from grabbing the blade, which is the primary concern on these delicate shots.

Give it a try on the practice green and you may just discover a new weapon.

In fact, set aside a few minutes of each practice session to hit regular putts this way. Because of the small surface you've got to strike, you'll have to stroke the ball smoothly to make solid contact. Your tempo and consistency will improve.

Top Option Ball Against Collar - Putt with the Toe?

Top Option Ball Against Collar - Putt with the Toe?

There is a lot of luck involved with the game of golf. You will get good breaks from time to time on the course, and you will get some bad breaks as well. When your ball comes to rest up against the collar around the green, you can consider this a bad break. It is hard to play a clean shot from such a position, meaning you will have to improvise in order to move the ball up close to the hole.

While this can be considered a bad break, you don't have to resign yourself to giving up a stroke just because of some poor luck. The good breaks largely balance out the bad breaks in this game – the key is to keep a positive attitude and to do your best to hit quality shots from every position. Don't spend any time feeling bad for yourself just because the ball stopped against the collar. Instead, look for solutions and plan on hitting a good shot which will leave you an easy tap-in putt for your next stroke.

In this article, we are going to highlight one specific option that you can use to deal with this shot – hitting the ball with the toe of your putter. That might sound like a ridiculous idea, but it is actually a lot easier than it sounds. Pro golfers will use this method from time to time when the situation comes about, and you can do the same. As long as you are willing to spend a little bit of time practicing this play before you put it into action on the course, it can be considered a viable option to get the ball away from the collar with ease.

Before getting too far into this discussion, we should explain what is meant by the 'collar'. This is the part of the course where the fringe cut around the green meets the rough. Most golf courses have a fringe cut around the greens which is a couple feet wide or so. Beyond that cut is the rough, in most cases. Where the fringe meets the rough, you have the collar. If your ball rolls up against the rough and then stops, you will have trouble playing a 'regular' shot with your next stroke. This is when the putt with the toe option can be a useful alternative.

All of the content 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.

The Problem

The Problem

So why can't you just hit a standard type of shot when your ball is up against the collar? It comes down to the long grass which is sitting behind the ball. Unless the rough on the course you are playing is particularly thin, you probably can't get your club through that rough clean enough to strike the ball properly. The grass will catch your club head on the way forward, your swing will lose speed and the club head will be twisted, and the shot will be a failure.

To test this out for yourself, head to your local golf course and find the short game practice area. Find the collar around the practice green and roll a few golf balls up against it. Then, take your pitching wedge from your bag and try to hit a solid chip shot. Most likely, this is going to be pretty difficult. You might hit the ball thin, or you might chunk it as a result of catching so much grass prior to impact. Either way, the result isn't going to be pretty.

Next, take your putter from the bag and try to use the face of the club like normal to hit a putt from this position. Again, the results aren't going to be worth much. The wide face of your putter will have to move through a lot of grass, some of which is going to take speed out of your stroke and cause the putter to twist at the same time. Unless you happen to have a very thin patch of rough behind the ball, this plan isn't going to work either.

Quickly, you can see that this situation leaves you with a very tricky problem. None of your usual methods for playing the ball up onto the green are going to work very well in this spot. The standard chip shot isn't going to be a viable choice, and neither is a standard putting stroke. Clearly, you are going to have to come up with a rather unusual shot in order to get up and down. Being in such a challenging spot demands some creativity, which is where putting the ball off the toe comes into the picture.

The advantage of using this technique is that when you turn the toe toward the ball, you significantly reduce the profile of the putter as it moves through the grass. Instead of having to plow the entire face of the putter through the rough on the way into impact, you only have to carve through with the toe. Depending on the specific design of your putter, the toe may be thin enough to cut through the rough without almost no resistance whatsoever. When executed correctly, the club will move through the rough, into the back of the ball, and the ball will be sent nicely on its way.

Of course, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds in a golf instruction article. In reality, this shot can be fairly difficult to pull off – at least at first. With practice, you can build confidence and get to the point where you are able to execute it time after time with little trouble. The challenge here is the fact that you need to strike the ball squarely with the toe of the putter. The toe is only a fraction of the size of the club face, so your margin for error is greatly reduced with this plan. If you are off just a bit in either direction, you can miss-hit the shot and be left with an ugly result.

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. You would never play the ball off the toe unless you had to, but in this case, you almost have no choice. There are a couple of other options you can use in this spot – and we will mention those at the end of the article – but playing the ball off the toe of your putter just might be the best choice.

A Simple Technique

A Simple Technique

This shot can be difficult at first, but there is nothing difficult or complicated about the technique required. Basically, you are going to use the same technique you use when hitting a regular putt. You are going to use the same stance, you are going to use the same grip, and you are going to do your best to keep your head steady throughout the stroke.

There are, however, three key differences between the stroke you make on the greens and the one you are going to use up against the collar. Review the points below to understand these three adjustments.

  • Turn the toe down toward the ball at address. This one should be obvious. If you are going to hit the ball with the toe of the putter, you need to turn the putter at address so that the toe is directly behind the middle of the golf ball. You don't want to be manipulating the putter during the actual stroke, so the best thing to do is turn the putter head before the swing even starts. Even if you usually ground your putter behind the ball when on the green, it is best to 'hover' the putter head in this situation. Let the toe of the club hang right behind the ball, with the toe perfectly positioned for an accurate strike. Once you are set up properly with the club head in the right spot, the swing can begin.
  • Move the ball back in your stance. The other pre-shot adjustment you need to make is to move the ball back in your stance. The primary issue you have to deal with on this shot is the fact that the rough behind the ball is in your way. By turning the toe down toward the ball, you have taken one step toward dealing with this issue. That will not be enough, however. By also moving the ball back in your stance, you can hit down on the shot slightly – which is going to help you miss as much of that longer grass as possible. Most players putt with the golf ball roughly in the center of their stance, if not a bit forward of that point. For this shot, you want to place the ball slightly behind the center of your stance. This won't look like a big adjustment as you stand at address, but it is going to make it easier to avoid the grass and catch the ball as cleanly as possible.
  • Hinge your wrists slightly. This is the biggest change from your normal putting stroke. When on the greens, it is best to keep your wrists completely steady and stable while you move the putter back and through with your shoulders. In this situation, on the other hand, you need to engage your wrists a bit. By adding a slight wrist hinge to the equation, you will again make it easier to avoid the rough behind the ball. As the putter starts back, allow your right wrist to fold back on itself very slightly. Then, on the way through, undo that hinge to propel the club through the grass and into the back of the ball. In addition to helping you hit down on the ball, this little bit of a wrist hinge is going to provide some extra 'pop' to your stroke. Where a smooth putting stroke may get caught up in the grass, this stroke with added wrist action should make it through with relative ease.

If you have a solid putting stroke already in place in your game, you will be off to a good start with regard to this technique. Instead of trying to learn a totally new motion, all you are doing is taking your basic putting method and adapting it for this unique shot. Keep the tips listed above in mind as you practice and it shouldn't take long for you to get this figured out.

Practice Tips

Practice Tips

You want to have as much confidence as possible in this shot before you pull it out on the course. If you don't trust it, you might as well try something else. Of course, the only way to build up trust and confidence is to spend some quality time practicing this method. Take a few minutes during each practice session to set yourself up in this situation and hit a few shots off the toe of your putter. You may be surprised to see just how much progress you can make by only hitting a few of these shots during each practice session.

To make sure your practice is as productive as possible, we wanted to offer up a few practice tips specific to this unique shot.

  • Focus on distance control. You might think that the hardest part of this shot would be hitting the ball in the right direction, but that is not actually the case. The trickiest part of this shot, by far, is judging your distance correctly. When you strike the ball cleanly with the toe of the putter, the shot is going to come out hot – and it will often have some top spin as well. For most golfers, it is a surprise to see just how far the ball can go even with a relatively small stroke. As you practice, make distance control your number one focus. Pick out a specific target for each shot and then pay attention to your results. Are you regularly running the ball past the target, or do you keep coming up short? Notice any patterns that develop in your results and respond as necessary. Over time, you will gradually get better and better at sending the ball the proper distance when using this technique.
  • Learn how to read break on these shots. Reading the break of the green with this kind of shot is a little bit different than when hitting a normal putt. Since the ball is likely to bounce a couple of times before it settles down and rolls the rest of the way, the slope of the ground early in the shot isn't going to make much difference. For the purposes of your read, you are going to want to pay attention only to the terrain up by the hole. This is the slope that will have the most effect, as the ball will be slowing down and gravity will be able to move it more significantly to one side or the other.
  • Give yourself a variety of lies. No two collar lies are exactly the same out on the course, so you should try to replicate that fact during your practice session. Place some of the golf balls up against thick patches of rough, while other shots are hit from the collar where the rough is pretty thin. By racking up as much experience as possible from a wide variety of lies, you will be well-prepared to pull this shot out of your bag on the course.

By even practicing this shot at all, you will be well ahead of most other people on the golf course. Most players don't have the forethought to work on something as specific as this, and they wind up wasting a shot or two on the course as a result. Golf is a game which is all about the little details. If you can prepare yourself for as many different situations as possible – even ones as unique as this – you will have a better chance of getting around without any major problems. It is often the odd shots that will throw you off track, but that isn't going to happen if you are well-prepared for everything that may come your way.

Not only is preparing to play this shot a good idea in case your ball comes up against the collar, but it will simply help you feel more confident about your game overall. The average amateur is low on confidence when on the course, and some of the problem is the fact that most players don't have very many shots in the bag. They know that there are going to be problems when they stray from the middle of the fairway or center of the green. If you go a different route, however, and you are prepared to handle just about anything you may encounter, your confidence will be sky high. You won't be worried about any unexpected challenges, and you will be looking forward to whatever the round may bring.

Other Options

Other Options

As mentioned above, we believe playing the ball off the toe of your putter may be the best way to deal with a collar shot. It is not the only way, however. Specifically, there are two other options that you may wish to consider. We have listed those two options below, along with some tips on how to use them correctly.

  • Blade a wedge. This is probably the most popular option, other than using the toe of your putter. With this shot, you are going to set up just as you would for a putt, except you are going to be holding a sand wedge. You will be hovering the head of the club slightly above the level of the grass in order to line up the leading edge of your wedge with the equator of the ball. With this setup complete, the only thing left to do is swing the club back and through, just as if you were putting. A bladed shot is usually a mistake, but this time it is going to be on purpose. The leading edge of the wedge should cut through the rough relatively cleanly, and the ball will come out quickly (just as with the previous option). You are going to have to practice your distance control carefully with this method as well, as that is again the hardest part of the shot.
  • Bump the ball with a fairway wood. Using this technique is probably not a great option when the course has deep rough, but it can work nicely when the rough is just medium height. Using one of your fairway woods – or even a hybrid club – you can make a putting motion and bump the ball away from the collar and onto the green. The size of the club head you will be using here will help you to swing through the rough cleanly, and you will also have more margin for error than you have on the other shots. The downside here is that it can be difficult to actually hit the sweet spot, which means some of your shots may come up short. This is a shot you can also use from the fringe when there is no long grass behind your ball, so learning this play would be able to benefit you in a variety of ways.

You never want to see your golf ball wind up against the collar around the green. This situation is better than hitting your ball into a water hazard, of course, but it is still a spot which can quickly cost you a stroke if you aren't careful. Use the advice we have provided in this article to work on playing the ball off the toe of your putter when you wind up in this situation. While it sounds a bit intimidating at first, you should be able to get a pretty good hold on this shot after only a short period of time. Good luck!