We’ve all played courses whose greens were too fast or too slow. Some we’ve liked and played well on. Some we’ve disliked and played poorly on. Regardless of how we we’ve done on them, they reiterate one point about putting that’s critical to remember regardless of your golf handicap. Green speed is a major factor in putting. It may be even be the most important one. Misjudging a green’s speed can cause you to miss a putt, even if you have everything else right. That’s why it’s critical you learn to manage ball roll.
Mastering ball roll cuts strokes. It’s a must if you want to be a great putter. In fact, learning to judge a green’s speed is paramount if you’re serious about improving your putting. It’s also paramount if you want to lower your golf handicap. Remember the putter is a key scoring tool in your bag. So let’s take a look at what green speed is and how you can use it to your advantage.
What is Green Speed?
Technically speaking, green speed is not the measure of velocity. Rather, the term green speed describes the condition of putting as it relates to ball-roll distance. In other words, it measures the distance a golf ball travels when released at a controlled speed on the putting surface. The device that measure ball roll on a green for the USGA is called a Stimpmeter. Using this device, a green that has a long ball roll when measured with the Stimpmeter is fast and vice versa.
Green speed changes all the time on a course. It changes not only from year to year and month-to-month, but also from day to day, and in some cases, hour to hour. A green’s speed will be different if you play it in the morning as opposed to playing it later in the evening. Two factors affect the green’s speed, as I’ve mentioned in my golf tips. One factor is the environment. The other is management practice.
In terms of environment, things like humidity, temperature, soil type, construction materials, the sun, the time of the year, and so on all affect ball roll. As the relative humidity increases on a course, a small decrease in ball roll takes place. As temperature increases, ball roll increases. Most of these environmental influences work subtlety and are almost imperceptible by the average golfer.
In terms of management practices, things like mowing, rolling, irrigation, topdressing, verticutting, aerating, and so on also help determine green speed. Decreasing nitrogen fertility, for example, gradually increases green speed. A decrease of nitrogen fertility by 10 percent increases ball roll anywhere from 8 to 10 percent. These influences are not nearly as subtle as the environmental ones, and are easily perceived by the average golfer when he steps onto the green.
So how do you take advantage of this knowledge. First, try to get a feel for green speed before you play a round. The practice green at a course is ideal for this. Start by hitting several long putts to see how fast and how far they travel. Then compare those to what usually happens on other greens or what you expect to happen. That gives you some idea of how the greens are playing and how you should play the ball. In fact, make determining green speed before each round a priority every time you play.
Also, start assessing the makeup of the green as you approach the green. The best view of the green’s slope (whether it goes to the right or left) is from 20 yards or so away. Now, factor in green speed based on the knowledge you’ve accumulated by assessing how your ball rolled on the practice green and how it rolled on the other holes you’ve played. Remember, you probably hit practice shots and hour or two ago, so the on-course green will have change somewhat since then.
If the green is fast, choke up on the putter. If the green is slow, use your normal grip. Just remember to go back slightly more to compensate for the slowness in the green. It’s easier to widen the arc on your stroke a bit, than trying to hit the ball harder. Make those slight adjustments and you will be able to master the speed of almost any green.
Managing ball roll well cuts strokes by enabling you to sink more putts. Misjudging ball roll can send you well past the hole or prevent the ball from dropping into the cup, if all other factors are equal. Master ball roll and sink more putts. That in turn reduces your golf handicap. If you’re serious about turning your game around, start by learning how to manage ball roll.
Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse
Jack Moorehouse is the author of the best-selling book “How To Break 80 And Shoot Like The Pros”.