Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #112

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Last week we talked about ways to keep from having a big number on a hole that could ruin a round. I promised we would focus on putting this week.

One of the first things I was taught when I wanted to learn the game, was the reverse overlapping grip. My dad schooled me on that and that is the grip I still use today. When my putting went south about five years ago I looked into oversize grips, but went back to the standard grip with more of an arm and shoulder stroke. That seems to be the method most of the better putters on tour use. I also was taught to use a pendulum stroke and I practiced with a yard stick. Straight back and straight through over and over again. In this blog though we aren’t going to focus so much on the style as the strategy.

I grew up on small public courses and for the most part, flat greens. They were typically slow as well, requiring a firm stroke, therefore I learned to pop the ball. This served me well in my junior years. I would not say I was the best putter around, but I have two trophies to prove me otherwise. I won both of them in a regional Junior Tournament at age 14 and 15. There was a gentleman walking around and judging kids on their putting. He saw me sink a 20-foot par putt on the second hole and had his young man. My other win was sinking a 4-foot sidehill putt to win the tournament by two shots. I’ve also had my share of 3-putt greens in competition and a few 4-putts, but you learn by your mistakes. The only thing worse than taking 3 putts for a bogie is taking 3 putts for a par.

My best friend growing up had a saying, “Go for the eagles and the birdies will come naturally.” He was a good short putter. He rarely missed putts around four feet so he could aggressively charge his putts, knowing he could make the return putt. I was a little shaky on the short ones. So here are a few things I have learned over nearly 55 years.

First, no matter what your style is, there is no substitute for practice. Second, the speed of the putt is just as important as the line. Sometimes by having perfect speed the putts will fall in on the side. And third, saving the par or bogie or double with a two-putt is all the same. It’s still saving one full stroke.

A beginning golfer quickly learns to hit the uphill putts firm and the downhill putts easy, but most people don’t play enough break on a fast green and play too much break on a slow green. The firmer you hit a putt, the less it will break and vice versa. Ideally you want to leave the putt 12-18 inches past the hole if you miss a putt. That is the speed to give the putt a fair chance to go in but not far enough past where you would have trouble making the two-putt. I believe before you can make more one putts you should practice on eliminating the 3-putts first.

From 30-60 feet practice on leaving the ball in a circle the size of a bushel basket. Remember on a fast sloping green, your ball may be coming into the hole from a 90 degree angle so play plenty of break so the ball trickles down the hill sideways. It’s a myth to always try to miss a putt on the high side. You want to leave yourself a short uphill putt for your second, but everybody has a green light length. Mine is 10-12 feet. I feel like I have a good chance to make a putt of that distance so I will play the least of amount of break possible and strike it firm. We talked about this before, but toe putting on an extremely slick downhill putt can be effective. This deadens the ball because it isn’t hit on the sweet spot of the putter. Also watch the pros on television and notice how many putt from off the green. Its usually easier to take two from just off the green by using your flat stick. Use an iron though if the terrain is bumpy or extremely slow.

So to recap, to avoid 3-putting, get the right speed, play enough break on the fast putts and less break on the fuzzy ones and go for it if the putt is in your green light length. Practice will determine the length.

Hit ’em straight so you have a chance to putt for a low score!

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