How to Prepare for a Golf Tournament (Tip #5) – Learning the Speed of the Greens
Everyone says you drive for show and putt for dough. Ultimately, a golf tournament is won on the greens. Hence, you need to become very familiar with the greens at your tournament location, especially the speed of those greens. Ask yourself the following questions when you’re playing your practice round:
How much undulation or break does each green have?
How far do I need to take the putter back to hit different length putts?
How much extra speed does your putt get when you’re putting downhill?
How much distance do you lose when you’re putting uphill?
Find some of the sharper breaks on the greens so you can use the largest slopes to calibrate your findings. If a 20 foot downhill putt on a steep slope only requires you to hit a 10 foot putt, then you’ve essentially found the max compensation you’ll have to make on the golf course. Everything else will be something less dramatic.
Finally, ask yourself – how do these greens compare to others you’ve played recently. Green speed can vary dramatically from course to course. It’s important to find some common understanding of how fast the tournament course’s greens will be compared to the last course you played. I find it helpful to have a few calibration putting strokes that help me assess the overall speed of the greens.
Backstroke equals the length of my putter head (from toe to head) – about 3 inches
Backstroke equals the tip of my right foot
Backstroke equals about an inch outside my right foot
Typically, on fast greens, my 3 inch backswing will result in a 6-7 foot putt (on even ground). My second backstroke will roll the ball 10-11 feet. The third stroke will putt the ball 16-17 feet. However, on very slow greens, this could be as short as 3 feet, 6 feet and 9 feet, respectively.
Doing this calibration technique on the putting green before a practice round helps me get confident that I know the green speed. Then, when I face a 12 footer on the course, I know that I should take the club back a certain distance to putt the ball 1 foot past the hole.
I’ve used this technique to help me quickly adjust to new green speeds when moving from tournament to tournament on a regular basis. You can even practice your stroke in the comfort of your own home. Take the putter back to your desired length and then, using the same tempo, swing through. It’s all about rhythm.
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