9 Steps to Adjust to Green Speeds the First Time You Play a Course
By Keith Stewart, PGA
The PGA Tour will be playing on brand new greens for the next two weeks. This week at The Memorial, players will be treated to a complete renovation to all 18 putting surfaces. Even though players have familiarity with most of the layout, every single one of them are starting fresh on the greens. Next week the PGA Tour travels to South Carolina and will compete at the much-heralded Congaree Golf Club. A brand-new tour stop designed and developed in 2018.
Ever wonder how the best players in the world get a feel for the roll and speed of the greens when they visit a course they haven’t played before?
The process to quickly adapt is quite easy when you use this successful PGA Coaching strategy. The next time you visit a new course, employ the following simple and specific steps and you’ll be confident just like you’re putting on a course you’re very comfortable with.
1. The first step is to make sure you leave extra time during your warmup to prepare properly on the practice putting green.
2. Then once you get to that moment in your warm-up, go find the flattest area of the green surface.
3. Now place a tee in the ground at one end of the area you selected.
You use a tee for two reasons. First, it is great practice putting to a target that is smaller than the hole. Trying to hit a target that small while practicing will make the hole look like the Grand Canyon on the course. Second, there may not be a flat area on the practice green with a hole cut. With a tee, you can find your own practice place.
4. Take four full steps in a straight line away from the tee.
5. Hit two putts from that spot. Get a feel for how hard you have to hit the putt to reach the tee.
This is the most important part of the learning process. You should repeat this step a couple times in a row. After you have done multiple reps, try to do it with your eyes open for the first ball and then closed for the second.
6. Go back to the tee and take eight full steps away in a straight line.
7. Hit two putts from the new spot. Repeat.
You will need to hit the second putt twice as hard. Get a feel for the difference between the two. Repeat the drill again a couple of times until you get comfortable with the distance.
8. Go back to the tee and take two steps away.
9. Hit two putts from this distance. Repeat again and make sure you hit the tee with both on your final repetition.
The experience you have just gained in 10 minutes of practice will immediately assist you throughout your round and here’s how. You get to the first green and walk up to your ball. As you prepare for your putt, walk from your ball to the hole. How many steps? It’s six steps. Take the two feelings you had from four steps and eight steps and focus on a speed halfway between the two. Hit the putt and chances are you’ll come close to the hole with a decent read.
Play hole two and find your ball nine steps from the hole. Focus on striking the ball a little harder than eight steps. From here you get the picture. Each putt becomes a feeling based upon the distances you practiced while warming up. As you encounter the remaining holes of your day, use your speed strategy. Measure, recall and relate to your situation. Hit the putt and believe it or not your game will adjust!
Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.