top 3 ways to use your putter off the green 1

With its minuscule loft, short shaft and grooveless face, the putter may seem like the least versatile club in your bag. Granted, it's not much use when you're more than 20 yards or so from the green. But with a little imagination, you can turn the unassuming flat stick into a genuine weapon.

The putter's major limitation – its lack of loft – means you don't have to think about how far to carry the ball as with a chip or pitch. Plus, you can use your regular putting stroke for most any shot played with it, no matter how long.

Add these three specialty shots to your arsenal and your up-and-down percentage is sure to improve:

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1. The Texas wedge

The Lone Star State has produced a bevy of world-class golfers, including Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino – leading practitioners of the “Texas wedge.” It comes in handy for numerous greenside situations, especially when the turf is firm and the grass is short.

Best of all, the Texas wedge is extremely simple to play. Click here to learn the basics.

2. Putt from the chipping area

Many golf courses feature greens surrounded by turf mowed at fairway height (rather than thick rough), called “chipping areas.” But don't let the name fool you – chipping isn't your only option.

Unless there's a bunker or other obstacle between you and the green, putting should always be your first consideration. You'll eliminate the possibility of hitting a chip shot thin or fat and greatly improve your odds of a positive result.

When you've got several yards of fairway-length grass to cover, it's important to hit the ball with a firm, accelerating stroke. A tentative swing will cause the ball to bounce, veer off line and come up well short of the target.

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To execute the shot:

  • Assume your normal putting stance, with the feet slightly wider apart to promote a longer motion.
  • Pick a spot a few feet past the hole and resolve to hit the ball there. This will help you make a firm stroke.
  • Focus intently on the back of the ball and keep your eyes there for a couple of seconds after it has left the blade. Keeping your head still is key to making solid contact.

3. Bunker putt

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It flies in the face of everything you know about playing from bunkers. But sometimes, the putter is the perfect club to get you out of the sand.

Of course, conditions must be right to even think about putting from a bunker. The sand must be smooth and compacted – by heavy rain or irrigation, for example – with no lip to carry and no obstacles (rocks, leaves, unraked footprints) in your path. If the coast is clear, grab your putter and follow these steps:

With its minuscule loft, short shaft and grooveless face, the putter may seem like the least versatile club in your bag. Granted, it's not much use when you're more than 20 yards or so from the green. But with a little imagination, you can turn the unassuming flat stick into a genuine weapon.

The putter's major limitation – its lack of loft – means you don't have to think about how far to carry the ball as with a chip or pitch. Plus, you can use your regular putting stroke for most any shot played with it, no matter how long.

How to putt from a greenside bunker

Top Ways to Use Your Putter from Off the Green

Top Ways to Use Your Putter from Off the Green

One of the great things about finding your ball on the green is getting to skip the club selection part of your pre-shot routine – when the ball is on the green, you just reach for your putter and move on. While putting is still a tremendous challenge, at least you don't have to worry about having the right club in your hands. This is the only time on the course where club selection is not a matter you need to consider, so you should enjoy the break from that often difficult part of the game.

So, you already know that you are going to reach for your putter every time your ball winds up on the green. But is that the only time you can use your putter effectively? Of course not. When your ball is resting elsewhere on the course, you can still consider using your putter to hit a productive shot. There are no rules that govern when and where you can use which clubs, so pulling the putter from the bag is always going to be an option. Obviously, you aren't going to want to use it to hit your drive on a long par five, but there are plenty of situations which will pop up around the course that permit you to use your putter effective.

The smart golfer always keeps an open mind when it comes to club selection (except when on the green, of course). If you limit yourself to only using the same club time and time again on certain kinds of shots, you will be inevitably making the wrong choice in some situations. For example, you are usually going to want to use your sand wedge when playing from a greenside bunker – but not always. If you have a particularly long bunker shot from around the green, you may want to go down to a pitching wedge for reduced loft and extra roll. However, if you are too stubborn to make that change, and you insist on using the sand wedge, your performance will suffer. Keep your mind open to using different clubs based on the challenge in front of you, and your scores will benefit in the end.

In the content below, we are going to take a look at some of the opportunities you will have from off the green to use your putter. Some of these situations will probably be rather obvious, while others might be a little more surprising. Either way, you should take a bit of time to practice using your putter from off the green in order to add this useful play to your repertoire. It is always a good thing to have options at your disposal on the golf course, and learning how to play shots with your putter from a variety of spots is one more way you can become a more versatile player.

All of the instruction contained 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.

Putting from the Fairway Cut

Putting from the Fairway Cut

This is the most obvious, and most common, opportunity you will have to use your putter from off the green. Most golf courses have fairway length grass that is very similar to the grass that you will find on the putting green itself, so there isn't much difference between the two surfaces. Of course, the ball will roll slower on the fairway than it will on the green, but that is something you should be able to account for when deciding how hard you are going to hit the putt.

Why would you putt from off the green? There are a variety of advantages to opting for this kind of shot, including the following –

  • Avoid the risk of chipping. You might not think of it in this manner, but you are taking on at least a small amount of risk each time you choose to chip the ball from off the green. If you hit your chip shot fat or thin, you could miss the green entirely and quickly waste a shot that you are not going to get back. Putting, on the other hand, is the safe play. You are almost certainly going to make clean contact with the ball when you reach for the putter, so the 'worst case' scenario is pretty much taken out of play. You aren't guaranteed to hit a good shot, of course, but it should be relatively easy to roll the ball up to within at least a few feet of the hole (if not closer). Unless you are particularly talented with your wedges, choosing the putter instead of hitting a chip shot is a decision that will likely be to your benefit.
  • Relax your nerves. Golf is full of shots that have the potential to make you nervous. For example, you will probably feel some nerves when hitting a shot across a water hazard, or hitting a tee shot to a fairway that is lined with out of bounds stakes. There is no shortage of opportunities to feel nervous on the course, which is why it is nice to have a break from those nerves from time to time. Hitting a putt from off the green is not a shot that should make you nervous, as there is very little that can go wrong. You will still need to focus on executing the shot to the best of your ability, of course, but you should be able to put away the nerves for at least a minute or two. Pressure has a way of wearing you down over the course of 18 holes, so finding small places to get away from your nerves will have a cumulative effect that will help you make it through the day successfully.
  • Navigate slopes. When there is a significant slope (or two) between your ball and the hole, you might find it difficult to judge a chip shot properly. For example, when chipping up a big ridge, do you bounce the ball on the bottom, or do you try to fly it all the way up top? This is a tough choice, and it isn't always obvious as to which option will be the right one. If you opt to putt, however, you can forget about this concern, as you will only need to hit the ball with the right pace in order to conquer the shot. Playing up or down a significant elevation change around the green will always be tough, but putting can make it a bit more straightforward. Without the matter of having to pick out a landing spot, you can simply pick a line and then focus completely on getting the speed just right.
  • A delicate touch. One of the hardest shots from the amateur golfer to execute properly is the short, downhill chip shot. It is hard to hit a chip shot solidly while also not hitting it very hard, which is exactly what you will need to do if you are going to get the ball close to the hole in this situation. To avoid the difficulty of this kind of chip, you could opt instead to simply roll the ball down toward the hole with your putter. You won't have the advantage of using backspin to help stop the shot when you putt, but you will be able to confidently play the shot without the worry of hitting it fat or thin.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you should consider pulling the putter from the bag when you are in the short grass just off the edge of the green. There really isn't much difference between this kind of shot and a putt that is played from the green itself, outside of the change in speeds that you will have to navigate. Practice putting from the fairway cut during your short game practice sessions and this is a shot that you should quickly find easy to handle out on the course.

Toe It Out of the Rough

Toe It Out of the Rough

Have you ever found your ball sitting down in the rough just a few inches away from the collar of the green? If so, you know what a difficult shot this can be – especially if you are short sided with the hole only a few yards onto the green from where you are standing. The task of chipping the ball out of the rough with a wedge while not hitting it too hard for the distance at hand is extremely difficult. Even professional golfers struggle with this kind of short chip shot from the rough, so you can imagine what kind of a struggle is usually is for amateurs.

When you do find your ball in this sort of position – short sided in the rough with only a foot or two between your ball and the putting surface – you might be able to reach for your putter rather than your wedge in order to handle the shot successfully. Of course, that sounds pretty ridiculous at first – how can you use your putter to play a shot from the rough? Isn't the grass just going to get caught between the club face and the ball at impact? No, it won't, because you aren't going to use the face of the putter. Instead, you are going to use the toe of the club to pop the ball out of the rough and onto the green with ease.

Before trying this shot out for yourself, you are going to need to make sure you have the right kind of putter in your bag. If you use a mallet putter, you will probably need to take a pass on this option, as the mallet is likely to get caught in the grass due to its larger size. You should have a blade-style putter if you are going to attempt this shot, as a blade will cut through the grass and take a mostly clean path to the back of the ball. However, some blade-style putters are going to be too thin to reliably hit this kind of shot, so will want to practice with your specific club to make sure it works out okay.

To give this shot a try during your next practice session, follow the steps below –

  • Find a spot near the practice green where there is some rough you can use to test out this shot. Place a ball down in the rough, only a few inches from the fringe or the putting surface itself.
  • Pick out a target that is as close to you as possible. You are usually going to use this shot only when you are short sided, so practicing with it to a target across the green wouldn't make a lot of sense.
  • With your ball down in the rough and your target selected, go ahead and take your stance. When stepping up to the ball, you are going to want to use your standard putting stance, with one exception – you are going to move the ball back in your stance. It is important to hit down slightly on this shot, and that downward path is only going to happen if you move the ball toward the back of your stance.
  • Now that you are in your stance, the final adjustment you need to make before hitting the shot is to turn the toe of your putter down toward the ball. You should be using the same grip that you use when putting, but the grip of the putter will obviously be turned with the flat side toward the target since the toe is down facing the ball. Since you don't have much margin for error when playing this kind of shot, be sure to carefully line the toe of the club up behind the ball accurately.
  • There is nothing left to do now but hit the shot. You are going to use the same motion you use for your regular putting stroke, which should be a simple rocking of the shoulders back and through. If you allow your hands to get too involved with the stroke while trying to hit this shot, you will run the risk of missing the back of the ball with the toe of the putter – and the shot could go seriously wrong as a result. Keep your hands out of the action to make sure your putter swings on the right path and the ball should come out of the rough easily.

Make no mistake – there is some degree of risk that you take on when hitting this shot. If you miss-hit the ball by just a fraction of an inch, the ball could shoot off to the right or the left and you probably won't be any closer to the hole than when you started. However, there is also some risk that comes with playing this shot with a wedge, so it will be up to do decide which option gives you the most confidence when actually out on the course.

Putting from the Bunker

Putting from the Bunker

You probably had to read the heading above a couple of times to make sure you read it correctly – putting from a bunker? How would that work? Well, it won't work most of the time, but it can actually be a viable option in one specific situation. Using your putter from the bunker is something that you are only maybe going to be able to try once in an entire golfing season – if that – but it can potentially save you a shot if you are ready to go this direction when the opportunity arises.

So what set of circumstances would have to arise for you to actually be able to consider the use of your putter from a greenside bunker? You will need to look for all of the following points.

  • Wet, hard-packed sand. This is the first point that you are going to need to see before you can even consider reaching for the putter. After a heavy rain, or a few days of steady rain, you might find that the bunkers at your local course feature hard-packed, wet sand that has a 'crust' on top. As you likely already know, it is extremely difficult to hit a traditional explosion shot from this kind of sand. The ball comes out quick when sand is hard and wet if you hit a normal bunker shot, so it is hard to control your distance successfully. Also, it can be tough to get the ball high up in the air under these conditions as well. Since hitting a normal blast up toward the hole is tough when the sand is wet and hard, you might want to think about using the putter to get out of this tricky spot.
  • A path out toward the target. Even if you find that the bunker your ball is in has hard sand that you could putt across, you still may not have a path out of the bunker on the ground. If there is any kind of significant lip between your ball and the target, this option will simply be a no-go. You are going to have to be in a bunker that has a low lip where the sand pretty much runs right up to the edge of the grass.
  • No long grass between you and the green. Of course, even if you do manage to putt your ball out of the bunker, the job will not be done just yet. Beyond the sand, you need to take a look to see what kind of grass will be waiting when your ball leaves. If the grass is long outside of the bunker, you will just get your ball caught in the rough even after putting out of the sand – so there will be no point in using this shot in the first place. Only when short grass is found between the bunker and the green should you think about going for it with the putter.

If you do have all of the necessary components in place to try this shot, make sure you hit the ball plenty hard – it is going to take a fair amount of speed to get the ball to roll out of the bunker. You will want to reach for your sand wedge on the vast majority of occasions, but keep this shot in the back of your mind as something of a last resort.

Putter for a Pitch-Out

Putter for a Pitch-Out

When you hit a poor drive that winds up under some trees, you will often be force to pitch-out back to the fairway before playing a shot toward the green. While these pitch-out shots are usually best handled by a long or mid-iron, you may be able to to use your putter from time to time when keeping the ball low is your top priority.

You don't want to have to swing your putter very hard for this kind of shot, as you could potentially break the head off of the shaft if you swing too hard, so only think about this as an option when you have a bare lie and only a short distance to the fairway. Also, make sure there are no significant tree roots around the ball, as those will also hold the potential to break your putter at impact.

The goal of a pitch-out is to get the ball back in the short grass in a single shot, and you might be able to do just that by using your putter when the circumstances are right. Always keep this shot as an option in your mind when you find your ball in the woods – you aren't going to use it often, but you might be able to save a valuable stroke by going this route on occasion.

The putter is a club that is designed to do just one thing very well, but it can actually handle a few different shots around the course as we have highlighted throughout the content above. By thinking about different ways to use your putter – and then practicing those methods before using them out on the course – you can get additional value out of this already crucial piece of equipment.