Playing and coaching golfers for nearly twenty years, I can tell you that without a doubt, one of the most frustrating things about the game is leaving your putts short. You hit the putt perfectly, it’s tracking on line, and it falls agonizingly short; or, as we say in golf, “the right bus but the wrong stop.”
Generally speaking, more often than not, players leave their putts short because the greens are running slow on the stimpmeter. Maybe the golf club has let the greens grow out a bit, or it could be “overseed” season, but whatever the reason, slow greens are just part of the game.
Luckily for golfers of all levels, there are several changes and adjustments that you can make to help master the art of putting on slow greens.
Some of the tips I’ll outline are common, while others you might hear for the first time. Regardless, these tips come from my 20 years of experience working with pros and helping them overcome the technical and mental challenges of learning to putt on slow greens.
Let’s get started.
5 Tips To Master Slow Putting Greens
Golf putting greens are funny things; one day they are slow, the next they are like putting on glass; as a matter of fact, the weather can play a big part in the speed of the greens and as you can imagine, later in the day, the greens are much slower then they were when you first teed off early in the morning.
Learning to putt on slow greens is as much about conquering your mental demons as it is about adjusting your putting setup. Many golfers, particularly low handicappers, dread slow greens, and they convince themselves that no matter what, they just can’t putt on slow greens.
Below I will take you through 5 tips that will have you putting better than ever on slower greens and, more importantly, lowering your score and your handicap.
- Never skip your warm-up
- Take out the break
- Make adjustments to your setup
- Never use the claw
- Adjusting your mindset
1. Never Skip Your Warm-Up
Planning to get to the course early is one of the most critical things you can do to help you master the slow greens. The chances are that if the greens on the course are as “slow as a wet rag,” then the practice greens will be the same. Getting to the course early to get 10 to 15 minutes of practice putting on the greens will go a long way in helping you putt better out on the course.
It’s funny because my dad always turns up, gets out of his car, heads straight to the first tee, and then wonders why he 4-putted the first three holes.
Most golfers, my dad included, will spend hours and hours on the practice range hitting balls, but when it comes to practicing their putting or short game, all of a sudden, they have no time. Putting is all about “feel,” and you’ll be amazed that no matter what level of golfer you are, just a few minutes on the practice greens can be enough to help you make the necessary adjustments.
When on the practice green, you need to take notice of how slow the greens actually are. Your primary goal should be to get the ball 30cm “past” the cup. Remember, the last thing you want when putting on slow greens is your putt on the right bus but getting off at the wrong stop.
2. Take Out The Break
If you’re an experienced golfer, then you know that slow greens break much less than those that are faster. Because of this, you need to take the break out of your putt as much as possible and take a direct line to the hole.
Adjusting to the different speeds of the greens is one of the most challenging aspects of the game, and at times it can even baffle the best of the PGA Tour pros. Fast greens break viciously compared to slow greens, and because of this, you need to make some technical adjustments and mental ones too.
On fast greens, usually, you would have a target line of maybe two or even three cups outside the hole, but on slow greens, you can generally aim inside the cup and take a more direct line, effectively taking the break out of the putt.
The amount of break will obviously vary on each green and is dependent on the speed and distance of your putt, but generally speaking, your best bet is to hit your putt firmer and more aggressively. Some golfers struggle to putt aggressively, myself included, which is a mental adjustment that needs to be made, not a technical one.
Getting to the course early and putting on the practice green coupled with an aggressive mindset will positively impact your score on the course.
3. Make Adjustments To Your Set-Up
Adjusting your putting stance is one of the first things you’ll need to change to ensure you’re getting your putts past the hole. Now luckily, the changes and adjustments that need to be made are not major, so there is no need to worry about having to make any significant changes that could affect your putting stroke dynamics.
First, you’ll need to widen your putting stance. The wider base allows you to hit your putts with a little more power and improves your balance which helps you make consistent contact with the ball.
Secondly, I highly recommend changing the position of the ball in relation to your stance. Typically your ball should be in the center of your stance when putting, but when it comes to putting on slow greens, the ball should be further toward your front foot. When your weight is distributed on the front foot, it helps to create the extra power needed to combat the slow greens.
Lastly, you should have a slight “forward press” with your putter head to help give the putt a bit more “oomph.” Forward pressing imparts topspin, allowing your ball to “run out” to the cup and stopping it from coming up agonizingly short.
4. Never Use The Claw-Grip
In golf, there are many weird and wonderful putting grips going around, some of them which work, and some that don’t. One such grip that definitely should NOT be used on slower greens is the “claw-grip.” The claw-grip was specifically designed for lightning-quick greens because of the soft-touch required to perform the grip correctly.
On slow greens, however, you want to keep your regular grip and hit the putt with more power. Steer clear of making any drastic changes to your stroke when putting on slower greens. It makes no sense whatsoever to change your putting stroke just for one round, then revert back to your regular grip; this will do much more harm than good.
Putting is all about “feel,” Subsequently, it’s much easier to change and adjust your power rather than start to play around with grips that you’ve never used before.
Too many club-level golfers look for the “quick fix.” Rather, you should look to do the hard word work on the practice greens. This is the only genuine way improvements happen; slow and steady. It may take longer to master, but when it happens, you’ve got a solid-putting stroke you can use on slow greens forever.
5 Adjusting Your Mindset
Putting on slower greens can be downright frustrating, but as with most things in life, it’s the perspective in which you view something that makes all the difference. Learning to putt on slow greens is more of a mindset issue than it is technical; granted, there are technical changes to be made, but they can’t be done without a change in mindset first.
Just as many club-level golfers struggle with putting on fast greens, the same can be said for slow greens. Fast greens require a delicate and soft touch that starts with, you guessed it, a calm and relaxed mindset. Slower greens, on the other hand, require golfers to be much more aggressive, which for many can be difficult, myself included.
The easiest way to combat this is by practicing. The more comfortable and acclimatized you become to putting on slower greens, the better you’ll handle the situation when it arises out on the course.
When you’re practicing on the putting green, you’re not just practicing your stroke but also your mind to be more aggressive on slower greens. More often than not, it’s the mind that needs training; after all, it’s the mind that sends the message to the body to hit the putt with more power. Without that aggressive signal coming from your brain, your putts will continually come up short.
Slow Greens Are Soft Greens
You might have guessed that it goes to chance that if the greens are slow, they’re probably going to be softer right? Correct, slow greens are soft greens, and with that comes several other challenges, such as a bumpy roll and ball marks the size of Alaska.
Far too many golfers either forget or simply neglect to fix their divots or ball marks and make things even more challenging for the greenskeepers than they already are. Not to mention that when golfers don’t repair their ball marks, other players have to putt on bumpy greens, which is less than ideal and, quite frankly, bad golfing etiquette.
Please take the time to support the greenskeepers by ensuring you fix and repair all your divots and ball marks. No golfer wants to pay exorbitant membership fees to putt on bumpy greens all-year-round simply because a select few players won’t take a few seconds to fix their ball marks.
Softer greens are generally found in North America, while countries like Australia are renowned for their hard and fast greens. Many PGA Tour pros struggle to make the adjustments from playing on slower greens all year in the US to playing 3 or 4 tournaments in Australia on hard and fast greens.
Slow Greens FAQs
It’s possible, however, unlikely that I haven’t answered all your questions regarding how to putt on slow greens, but just in case I haven’t, here are three frequently asked questions that beginner golfers often ask.
How are slower greens measured?
Just as with any golf course putting greens, the speeds of the greens are determined using what greenskeepers call a “stimpmeter.” Typically speaking, fast greens on the PGA Tour run at between 13 and 14, with the Major tournaments such as the US Open, setting their greens up to run at 15 or higher.
Slower greens run around 8 to 10 on the stimpmeter. They are generally found on public or municipal courses with limited budgets to employ greenkeeping staff and purchase the latest in course maintenance technology.
For example, at my home club, which is private, greenskeepers set the greens consistently to run between 12 and 14 on the stimpmeter; lightning-fast compared to most other courses, hence, why I struggle to putt on slower greens.
Do slow greens break as much as fast ones?
Surprisingly this is a question I get a lot from beginner golfers, but it’s only because they haven’t had enough experience out on the putting greens yet. Slower putting greens break much less than fast greens, and because of this, several adjustments need to be made.
Firstly on slower greens, you need to hit your putt with an aggressive mindset; this will help get your putt past the hole and not constantly coming up short, which is incredibly frustrating. Because slower greens don’t break as much, you can take a lot of the break out of the putt and attack the inside of the cup.
Most high-handicappers enjoy putting on slower greens because they tend to be much easier to putt on than greens that are hard and fast. Fast greens take a fair amount of soft-touch and skill to master and are notoriously difficult to read.
Should I use a heavy putter on slower greens?
I’ve heard this theory for years, and while it sounds like a good one, in my opinion, it’s far from ideal. Some coaches recommend using lighter putters for fast greens and heavy putters for slow greens; the trouble is that constantly changing your putter plays havoc with the dynamic of your putting stroke.
Then there’s the question of how do you know if the greens will be slow or fast? What’s slow for some golfers might seem like putting on glass to others. You’re better off sticking with one putter and making the technical and mental adjustments needed to putt well on slow greens.
It goes back to what I mentioned earlier on about too many club-level golfers looking for quick fixes; put in the practice time and learn to master slow greens. It’s these reasons mentioned above why choosing the right putter is paramount to your success on the greens.
The 18th Hole
Well, there you have it, a comprehensive guide to conquering slow putting greens. As you’ve seen, the speeds of greens are constantly changing; whether it’s from morning to afternoon or club to club, gauging the speed of the greens is one of the most challenging aspects of putting.
Let’s recap the 5 tips outlined above that will help improve your putting on slow greens.
- Plan on getting to the course early and taking the time to practice on the putting green before starting your round.
- Don’t allow for as much break as you would on faster greens. Remember, you can be much more aggressive with your line, starting most putts inside the cup.
- Making minor adjustments to your set-up like taking a wider stance, playing the ball off your front foot, and utilizing the forward press are essential.
- Never use the claw-grip; leave it for the faster greens.
- Finally, putting with a more aggressive mindset is critical if you want to start making putts on slower greens.