pre putt line up address

Ask any golfer to name the most important quality in course conditions and most will answer, “smooth greens.” We all want the confidence of knowing that a well-struck putt will hold its line and fall in the hole.

Sometimes, though, even the finest putting surfaces become bumpy due to heavy traffic, unfavorable growing conditions, or seasonal aerification by the maintenance staff. Also, some grass types tend to get bumpy during certain times of day or year, particularly poa annua (common on the West Coast) and Bermuda (found across the Sunbelt).

To a large degree, you're at the mercy of the bounce when greens get sketchy. But there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of holing putts, or at least getting them close. Try these tips next time you encounter less than perfect surfaces:

  • Focus on making solid contact: A ball that's hit weakly, with a decelerating stroke, is more susceptible to green impurities. A well-struck putt will hug the ground better, giving it a better chance of staying on line. Play the ball slightly forward of the center of your stance and make a firm, accelerating stroke
  • Play less break: When the greens are bumpy, they're usually slow, too. Play less break than your eyes tell you and give the ball a good rap. For example, if you believe a putt will break 8 inches, play 5 inches instead. Adjust based on your results as the round progresses.
  • Use a heavier putter: If you know beforehand that the greens will be less than ideal, a heavier putter works best on slow, poorly rolling greens. If you've got just one putter, apply lead tape or magnets to the head before the round. (You're not allowed to alter a club after teeing off.)

Don't get frustrated or alter your stroke: When the greens are in disrepair, accept that you're not going to make many putts beyond a couple of feet. Try your best to hole out, but expect the ball to wander off line more often than not. And don't fret too much over subpar results – the green, not your stroke, is likely the culprit.

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Tips for Putting Bumpy Greens

Tips for Putting Bumpy Greens

Ideally, every course you play would have perfectly smooth greens. Of course, that is simply not reality in this game. Some courses have beautiful putting surfaces – usually the more expensive courses – while municipal layouts and other less-expensive options have greens which may fall into the 'bumpy' category. So do you have to give up on shooting a good score when you face bumpy greens? Of course not. You can still play well under these conditions, but you will need a solid approach from both a physical and mental standpoint.

One of the tricky things about being a golfer is the fact that course conditions change so dramatically from day to day. You could be rolling the ball across beautiful greens one day, only to find them slightly bumpy the next. This is true if you playing two different golf courses on consecutive days, and it can even be true when playing the same course, depending on weather, maintenance practices, etc. As a golfer, you need to do your best to be prepared for everything that the course can throw your way. Consistency is hard to come by in golf, but one of the best ways to be consistent is to be flexible. Develop as many skills as you can throughout your game and you will be better able to adapt on the fly.

In this article, we are going to address both physical and mental concerns with regard to putting on bumpy greens. When you notice that the putting surfaces aren't quite at their best, you should immediately adapt by making slight changes to your stroke, and a few changes to your mindset as well. Nothing you do is going to be dramatically different from how you putt on good greens, as someone watching from the outside probably wouldn't even be able to tell the difference. However, you will notice the difference, and you will hopefully make a few more putts as a result of your adjustments.

When playing a round on a course with bumpy greens, it is important to remember that there is much more to the game than just putting. Sure, it is important to putt well in golf, of course, but there are many other skills you need to execute in order to play at a high level. Don't get so wrapped up in your putting performance that you let your ball striking and course management slip. A good score at the end of the round only comes when you put in a well-rounded effort from tee to green. Make the necessary adjustments to putt well on bumpy surfaces, but also keep the rest of your game on track as well.

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.

Getting in the Right Frame of Mind

Getting in the Right Frame of Mind

The first thing you need to do when facing bumpy greens is to get your mind in a good place. Plenty of golfers have a poor attitude about putting on bumpy surfaces, and they allow that attitude to affect their performance. You have enough to worry about on the course when trying to play well – you can't afford to waste time thinking about things that you don't control. Unless you plan on performing some maintenance on the greens before you play, it is best to just accept the conditions for what they are and do your best to play well regardless of what you face.

You can compare playing a round of golf on bumpy greens in many ways to playing on a windy day. Would you have a better chance of posting a good score if the wind would stop blowing? Sure – of course you would. But there is nothing you can do to change the force of the wind, so it is a waste of time to concern yourself with such things. Instead, you should be focused only on your swing, your strategy, etc. If you do your best to perform at a high level, the conditions usually won't have as much of an impact on your score as you might expect.

Finding the right frame of mind is going to start on the putting green. The practice green near the clubhouse will usually feature the same conditions as the greens you find on the course, so you can use this area to get ready for the day. As you warm up by hitting a few putts, notice how your ball is affected – and notice that you are probably still able to make plenty of your putts from short range. Bumpy greens don't typically make it impossible to putt well. Instead, they add a bit of challenge to the process, and they make things a little less predictable. By giving yourself a chance to make a series of short putts on the practice green before starting, you can prove to yourself that it is still possible to succeed.

In addition to seeing a few putts drop in before you start, another step you can take is to avoid the temptation to complain about the greens to others. If you stand around before you tee off and do nothing but complain about the greens, the conditions will have already gotten in your head. Again, there is nothing you can do about it, so what is the point in rehashing the topic over and over again? Leave it alone, move on, and focus your mind in a more positive direction.

Keeping yourself in the right frame of mind with regard to the greens should help you stay in the right frame of mind for your round as a whole. Positive thinking is important in golf, as there are plenty of negative things to focus on if you allow yourself to go down that road. For instance, away from the greens you could worry about things like hazards, bad lies in the fairway, the wind, long rough, and on and on. If you spend too much time worrying about the trouble that waits all around the course, you will be taken away from your main job of focusing on the swings you are making. You can simplify this game by being positive and worrying only about that which you can control.

The Physical Adjustments

The Physical Adjustments

While thinking properly is going to help you in this situation, you will want to adjust your physical stroke as well. None of the physical adjustments we recommend will be a dramatic departure from what you do normally, but making these subtle changes will help give you a chance to hole as many putts as possible. The points below highlight some of the ways in which you may want to tweak your stroke on bumpy greens.

  • Shorter backstroke. Generally speaking, you want to 'tighten' everything up when putting on bumpy greens. You need to give the ball a firm hit at the moment of impact in order to get it started on line over and over again. A long, flowing stroke is just not the right method for this job. Instead, shorten up your backstroke slightly and pop the ball at the point of contact. You will need to practice this adjustment on the putting green before you start your round (unless you already use this kind of stroke on a day to day basis). Even though you will be using a shorter backstroke, you still don't need to rush through the motion – let the stroke build speed naturally and do your best to maintain a smooth tempo. You can use a shorter backstroke for all of your putts, but this technique will be especially helpful from short range.
  • Use a gentle speed. This might be a surprising tip, as many golf instructors will tell you to putt the ball firmly when the greens are less-than-perfect. We don't agree with that concept. On bumpy greens, you want to use speed that will just barely get the ball to the hole in most cases. If you were to be aggressive with your speed, one bounce could send your ball dramatically off line without any trouble at all. By using less speed, those bounces won't be as significant, and the ball still may fall in. Also, when you do miss a putt, that miss is going to leave you with a longer comeback putt when you are aggressive with your speed. Rolling the ball gently up to the cup will give you the best possible chance for a make, as the putt may fall in even if it only catches an edge. Since a ball that catches and edge with firm speed will likely spin out, playing carefully is the way to go. Feel free to putt more aggressively smooth greens – if you so choose – but use caution speed in this circumstance.
  • Wider stance. It is always important to hit your target line when putting. It becomes even more important on bumpy greens, however, as you can't afford to make any mistakes if you hope to send the ball to the bottom of the cup. A putt which slightly misses its line on smooth greens may 'hang in there' and still grab the edge. Such a putt will have less of a chance on bumpy greens, so dialing in your ability to nail that target line time after time is crucial. One way to improve your ability to hit the target line is by widening your stance slightly. You don't want to move your feet all the way outside your shoulders, but you can widen a bit to make sure you stay on balance. In fact, you might find that you like this wider stance enough to continue using it even when playing on good greens.

It isn't necessary to completely change your putting stroke just because you happen to be playing a course with bumpy greens. However, you do want to make some minor adjustments such as those listed above. A good golfer is one who can adapt to his or her surroundings on a given day, so it would be a mistake to completely ignore the fact that the greens aren't in great shape. Assess the putting surfaces, make the adjustments you need to make during your warmup, and then hit the links with a great attitude.

The Mental Adjustments

The Mental Adjustments

For most players, the mental adjustments that need to be made when putting bumpy greens are going to be more important than the physical changes. We have already talked about the importance of your attitude earlier in this article, be we are now going to get into some specific points of how you can keep your mind in the right place. Not only will this section deal with having the right attitude and overall mental approach, but there will also be some strategic tips as well.

Please review the list below to give yourself the best chance to have an appropriate mental game response to bumpy greens.

  • Accept the outcome of your putts. When playing on bumpy greens, the outcome of your putts is not as predictable as when playing on smooth surfaces. You might hit some great putts which hit a bump and are sent off line. Also, you might hit some poor putts which get lucky and catch a bump in just the right spot to fall in. None of these good or bad breaks have anything to do with you or your performance. You need to accept the fact that you are done with your role in the putt once the ball leaves the face of the club. Do your best to make a great stroke and hit your target line. After that, you are simply a spectator. As long as you are making solid strokes throughout the day, you should see your fair share of success in the long run.
  • Prioritize the low side of the hole. It is usually better to putt from the low side of the hole on any golf course – but it is even more important when you are playing on bumpy greens. Getting a quick downhill putt to hold its line on a bumpy putting surface is nearly impossible. To avoid that scenario, you should work on positioning your ball below the hole as often as possible. Even if that means setting up a slightly longer putt in the process, you should be willing to make that trade. Putting uphill will let you be a little more aggressive, and you won't have to worry about the putt getting away from you after it misses. You aren't going to be able to get under the hole in all circumstances, but do your best to maximize the frequency with which you can find the low side.
  • Play more break. There is no easy way to read bumpy greens. While reading the slope, you will always be keeping in the back of your mind the fact that the surface is bumpy, and the ball may veer off line at any given time. One thing you can do to tilt the odds slightly in your favor is to play more break. Why? Simple – you will be putting gravity on your side. When your putt hits a bump on the green, it is going to hop up into the air. When it lands, gravity is naturally going to take it slightly in the direction of the slope. This is not a perfect science, of course, as you can't accurately predict the outcome of all the bounces your ball may take long the way to the hole. However, you can give yourself a bit of an edge by playing more break and using gravity in your favor. Even if this strategy only results in a single extra made putt during the course of a round, that saved stroke alone will be worth it.
  • Dial in your iron game. Want to know how to make your putts easier on bumpy greens? Make them shorter. If you can hit the ball closer to the hole during a round like this, it will be far more likely that you will roll in a few extra putts – and you may be able to avoid three-putting completely. Playing more aggressively with both your driver and your irons makes sense during a round where the greens are questionable. Since you probably can't rely on your putter to carry the day, put the pressure on your full swing clubs and make life easier on the flat stick.

You don't want to get caught off guard by heading out to the course before even checking on the condition of the greens. Spend some time practicing before you tee off, and use this time to adjust your mindset and your game plan as necessary. There are only 18 holes to work with in a standard round, and you want to be able to take advantage of those holes as completely as possible. Get your mind ready to play this kind of round and hit the ground running from the first tee on.

Other Challenging Conditions

Other Challenging Conditions

Bumpy greens are not the only possibility when it comes to difficult playing conditions. As golf is an outdoor game played over many acres of land, it is inevitable that you are going to find tough spots from time to time. Even the nicest golf courses have their rough patches, especially during certain times of the year which present poor weather. To get the most from your game, you need to know how to overcome bad conditions when they do arise.

In addition to bumpy greens, the following list includes some of the poor conditions you may find on the course.

  • Soggy fairways. After a period of extended rain, it is likely that the fairways of your local course will be soggy. Instead of getting a nice bounce and roll, you will see the ball simply stick into the ground when it lands. To get around this issue, plan on using your driver more aggressively. You won't be tacking on extra yardage after your ball lands, so clubbing down from the tee may not be the best choice. Also, since bounce and roll is taken out of the equation, it will be easier to hold the fairway, even if you use a driver.
  • Rock hard greens. During the middle of a hot summer, the greens at some of your favorite local courses may be as hard as a rock. They will usually roll nicely when that is the case, but you will have to get your ball to stop on the green first in order to enjoy the smooth roll. In this scenario, you need to do your best to keep the ball in the short grass. It can be nearly impossible to hold hard greens from the rough, as your approach shots will not have as much spin as they would usually possess. By playing in from the fairway, you will be able to put more spin on the ball, and you will be able to hold more greens as a result.
  • Uneven tee boxes. The tee box you use to start each hole should be perfectly flat – but that is not always the case. When you find that you are going to have to play from an uneven tee, consider using less club to improve your chances of keeping the ball in play. Rather than swinging away at a driver, try hitting a shorter club to prioritize accuracy. It will be frustrating to have to club down, but doing so is going to be best for your total score at the end of the day.

Nobody likes to play on bumpy greens, but they are part of life in this game from time to time. Even professional golfers encounter bumpy putting surfaces on occasion, as weather conditions will periodically make proper greens keeping impossible. When you do find yourself on a course with poor greens, use the advice provided in this article to make it through the round with the best possible score. Good luck!