Big Breaking Approach Putts
In our Survey of The Short Game, we found that lag putts were the primary cause of your three putts, and the last post dealt with the distance part of that equation. Now let’s address the other part. . . that is handling the break of a long putt.
If you find yourself on a course with undulating greens, the failure to accurately play the break on your approach putts can cause three putts. The key to success on big-breaking putts is to divide the putt into two or three sections. My idea is to work from the hole backward to the ball.
The first thing you want to do is look carefully at the last 8-10 feet of the putt. Typically on a big breaking putt, it will either be downhill where the ball will be moving by dying “gravity” speed, or it will be the flat section of the putt after you’ve negotiated a big slope in the first part of the ball’s travel. I like to find the spot where the last 4-6 feet of roll will be essentially straight, whether flat or downhill. That may be at 90 degrees from the hole from where your ball is, but that shows me the severity of the slope and gives me an idea of the spot where the ball has to essentially “die” or come out of it’s breaking trajectory and begin rolling in a straight line.
From there, I move back half way to the ball and analyze what kind of roll the ball will have to have so that it can cross that spot I’ve picked out where the straight putt begins. Then I can look at the last section of the putt, that 1/3 or so where the ball will be moving the fastest. I’ve essentially broken the big breaking approach into three putts:
1) The last 4-6 feet, a straight putt where the ball will be losing its speed
2) The middle section, where the ball will arrive at that spot I picked out for gravity to take over, and
3) The starting section, where the ball will be less affected by break because it has just left the putter and will have its peak speed.
Once I get these three pieces of the putt put together, I can rehearse and feel the stroke that is required to get the ball on the right starting line at the right speed. Then my natural eye-hand coordination can take over and roll it.
Now, here’s the key. In the last post we talked about “soaking in” the distance the ball has to travel and the starting line, so that your eye-hand coordination can work to its fullest capability. But on a big breaking putt, the hole is no longer the target. You’ve dissected the putt into pieces and you have to find some spot on the starting line of the putt, at a distance that you believe will give you the proper force to the ball, and that becomes your target – FORGET THE HOLE! On a fast or downhill putt, this target spot will be well short of the hole. On an uphill putt, it may be a spot well right or left but past the hole.
There are all kinds of theories as to why golfers miss most putts on the low side of the hole, but in my opinion, the real truth is that if you look at the hole on a breaking putt of any length, rather than a spot left or right of the hole that marks the correct line upon which the ball should start out, your natural eye-hand coordination will force your hands to go toward where you are looking – the hole – which will make the putt finish low.
And the same goes for distance. If you look “at the hole” on a fast downhill putt, you’re almost sure to go long. Pick a spot short of the hole, on the starting line as your “new target”. Conversely, if you are putting uphill or on a slow green, pick out a spot on the starting line but well past the hole to “trick” your eye hand coordination into giving it a little more “oomph”.
I hope this makes sense to you and I promise to write more about the topic, as well as to stay engaged in the dialog I trust you guys will get going about this subject.
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[ comments ]
William Charles Ni says:
I've heard the advice about picking a spot on the line you want to start, but the focusing on a spot that is the right distance as well make a lot of sense. I can't wait for all the snow to go so I can practice this. Thanks Wedge Guy.
Tim Horan says:
Terry - I find that I do not envisage the "end target" when assessing a putt but "see" the whole curve when reading a breaking putt. At address this means I am aiming at the apex of the break. Breaking the putt up and applying something you fed in about thinking of speed rather than how hard to hit it I have had some success with both breaking and straight putts envisaging sections and assessing the speed through each section. This has actually resulted in a slight over hitting of longer putts. But at least they have a better chance of dropping. I hit my first par round at the weekend and still felt that I left a few out there (one three putt, missing a two footer! and one wayward drive needing a right angled escape from the undergrowth).
Very brave of the wedge guy to try to simplify such a task. A little like explaining how to lead a fast moving receiver with a long rainbow pass. Of course, the hole doesn't run over to meet your ball.
I putt these pretty well... I think by thinking in gross terms. I pick a sample target line and speed and visualize or pretend to putt it - and then "watch" where it goes in my mind. Tossing a frisbee starts out firm out of the hand, but wind and gravity fight for the eventual path and landing area.
Wedge guy paints a nice picture of the dying zone where, alas, the putt peters out its last vital gasps - long past the vigor and intentions of youth.
Anyway, the point was to imagine the sample line and "see" where it ends up, then make adjustments. Often times there are numerous lines - with regard to speed and direction - that can get you there. Sometimes taking all of the break requires a slow bender that risks stopping on a ridge. A more direct line is more reliable, but may not get closer than a certain margin. Are there rules of thumb about general approaches when multiple options arise?
Why do breaking putts miss on the low side of the hole? Because they weren't hit high enough. Why? Because people think the track is an arc, like a rainbow. It's not an arc, it's a hook, like the Nike swoosh, traveling straightish in the beginning, bending more severely as it looses momentum. Hit it further up the hill and visualize the hook.
I visualize a Red Hook at the top of the hill - which keeps me walking.
It worked for me twice today, birdied 17 & 18 from 25 feet each time. One of them was worth $18.
Do we rush our putting? Everyone seemed to list "slow play" as a pet peeve. It seems rude to take too long putting, right? How long does the average pro take?
My preparation is very basic visualiuzation. I'm pretty economical on putting time. I should probably spend more time, but....
Say you have a foursome with four balls on the green:
1. Closest guy marks his ball, goes and grabs the flag and offers to hold it for the away guy.
2. Away guy was already cleaning his ball and lining up his putt, perhaps
3. Others guys have either marked their balls, moved their bags, or are lining up their putts from unobtrusive angles. Otherwise everyone is basically still or chatting quietly.
4. Away guys putts, and when the ball is still rolling guy #2 preps for his putt, away guy shouts at his ball.
5. Reapeat... first guy in grabs flag and waits to put in in after last putt.
Q: Does this structure work for adequate putting prep?
Shouting at the ball doesn't work, because the balls are made in China, They don't understand English.
Some are made in New Bedford, MA (Titleist? Not sure what they do there exactly), but the local accent there is uncommonly thick, like the "chow-duh".
Say: Bobby from Brockton bought more scallops = "Bawbby from Brawktin bawt maw skawllups"
Or... "drauw duh bauwl akrauws the wauwduh Pawlee! uupsee, Faw! Faw!"
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