5 Jul 2004
The greens at Shinnecock Hills for the recent U.S. Open were treacherously fast and fiercely sloped as well - a challenging combination.
The most important thing to do when playing on fast, sloping greens is to try to keep the ball below the hole.
A long putt that is level or uphill is much easier to two-putt than a short, downhill putt.
A sidehill putt on this kind of green will break much more than usual, because you cannot hit it with much speed. Therefore, the break will start much earlier in the putt.
When faced with this kind of putt, you need nerves of steel and really soft hands. You must stroke the ball, not hit at it.
Gripping the putter too tightly can cause a jerky stroke, and you must really keep it smooth on fast greens.
Using the fall line to feed your ball to the hole is a great strategy, rather than trying to putt firmly and take out the break. The fall line is the point on a hill where water would run straight to the bottom, or on a ski slope where you would ski straight down the hill.
A strategy I sometimes use is to line the ball up and hit it on the toe of the putter. This will cause a loss of energy transfer and a softer-rolling putt. Be careful not to allow the toe of the putter to open at impact if you try this.
Mentally, prepare yourself to have a lot of second putts that are in the 5 to 10 foot range, as even good putts will tend to run that far away from the hole.
Expect some three-putts so you will not react badly when that happens.
Practice by finding a breaking putt and placing 6 to 8 balls in a circle around a hole so you have to adjust the line and speed with each ball. You are not working on mechanics at this point, but on developing a feel for speed and break.
Learn to have a lot of patience, because you will need it during a round of golf on greens like this.
In a stroke-play event, try not to get frustrated at your score, because you do not know what the rest of the field is doing, and it is likely they are having difficulty, too. If you are patient, you might just outlast the other players.
If you practice on fast greens and learn to love them, think what an advantage you will have over the other players.