Chip Dwyer's Golf Tip: Putting
Posted July 2, 2012
Earlier this summer at our Memorial Tournament, I heard Jack Nicklaus say “putting should be fun; it’s like a game within a game.” He was referring to designing greens and was asked the following, “How do you decide to use slopes and undulations to make the greens interesting, but not too challenging?”
You finish almost every hole by putting the ball, so doing well in this area can make putting fun. All greens are made to drain water off the surface and most are tilted (high in the back and low in the front) to help stop the golf ball from running off the back. To be a good putter, you must read the tilt of the green.
To read the putting greens, simply look at the big picture and ask yourself, “How would the water drain around the green and on it?” Most of the time, greens do not fight Mother Nature and drain differently than their surroundings, but sometimes it can (the first hole is an example of this). The third green is an example of a combination of the green being high in the back and low in the front. The water drains towards the stream that is on the right side of the green. It pays to look for the closest water source as a clue to how a green might be tilted.
Now that the overall slope has been estimated, it’s time to do your homework for the most important part of putting, the final one-third or the section of putting where the ball slows down. Reading this deceleration zone is crucial; look for what the grain of the grass is doing, looking closely at the tilt and grain in the area. Grass does not grow straight up, instead it leans in one direction (called grain). At the Killington Golf Course, the secret for reading the grain lies in reading the tilt. The majority of Killington’s greens have a decent amount of tilt (11 out of 18 greens) and finding that tilt will clue you into the grains direction which is the same as the tilt.
Let’s take the fourth or fifth hole as an example, the green is high in the back and low in the front so the tilt and grain goes from back to front. If your ball is below the cup plan on the ball rolling straight, it will be slower than you think and conversely, if your ball is above the cup it will be straight and fast. I call these the south and north putts. It gets more interesting for balls that are to the east or west of the cup. Aim to the high side of the hole, but how much?
These putts take a commitment to speed when deciding where to aim, so practice this drill to acquire the feel for these putts.
Take three balls to the practice green and from 4-5 feet away on a breaking putt (east and west putts) hit the balls from the same spot in at three different speeds. Hit the first one in firmly, the second in with medium speed and the third with a pace that has the ball dying into the hole. You will learn that each has a different aiming point and with practice you will teach yourself which of the three methods works best for you. When faced with breaking putts, you must commit to the speed first and then pick your aiming point.
Luckily for us, the practice putting green has this same characteristic, grain and tilt in the same direction, and I have been known to call it “double trouble,” but maybe it should be looked at as a chance to double our fun.