How PGA Championship Players Prepare for Uneven Greens
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth study the 10th green during the first round of the 2022 PGA Championship.(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
The art of putting challenges us in many ways. Slope versus speed, aim and intention are all factors which determine our result. The 104th PGA Championship winner will no doubt have owned their fortune with the flatstick. Southern Hills Country Club is famous for many things, but these Perry Maxwell putting surfaces are truly something special.
John Graham, PGA is a PGA Coach whose primary role is preparing PGA Tour players for the greens. An expert putting coach, Graham’s approach is part science, part flow and 100% about great preparation. I spoke to John about how to prepare for a putting day like Southern Hills presents. Our conversation covered drills and developing a positive mindset. Amateurs, please take notes, this PGA Professional is amazing authority on putting performance.
Graham begins the conversation by comparing his Southern Hills player prep to that of Augusta National. There are many parallels between the two courses and certainly the green complexes are almost connected. Maxwell renovated eleven of the eighteen greens at Augusta over his timeline. The biggest difference between the two is in size. The greens at Southern Hills are approximately 1,200 square feet smaller than Augusta National.
There’s a couple items John had me consider throughout our conversation. It’s very cool talking to a very thoughtful coach and person like John. When your primary role is helping people perform putting; life can be very demanding as a coach. His patience for preparation is legendary and these items he shared are certain to help you improve your flatstick control on challenging surfaces.
Speed drills are important to aid successful performance. Graham suggests a great drill where you select an eight-foot putt. The position you choose should have an uphill and downhill version. They can be to different target holes. Hit the uphill putt. Then alternate to the downhill putt. Feel the difference in speed between the two extremes. Amateurs consistently practice the same putt repetitively. Change your feel from putt to putt and you will be closely simulating your actual experience on the course.
The second suggestion builds upon the first. Adaptability is a such an important skill to enhance. Change the practice putt and select one with a decent amount of break. Start hitting the putt with different speeds. Find a soft speed line and a faster speed line. Go back and forth between the two. On the course, conditions challenge us to adapt all the time. Practicing the ability pivot in practice is very important.
His third preparation best practice is so simple. Pick a short three-foot putt. Select one with enough break where you must aim outside the hole. Then take a tee and place it in front of the hole directly in line with your ball. This will force you to make the short putt by using the break and rolling the ball around the tee. Sometimes our biggest challenge on short putts is believing in our line. Hitting the putt around the tee blocking the hole will cement our ability to confidently trust our line choice.
John’s ability to breakdown the sublime and make it simple is truly a gift. Try these green techniques the next time you get to the course. Start to sense how John’s drills really help your mind as much as your stroke. We all want to putt like a PGA Tour player. With these PGA Coaching keys you’ll better prepared to perform.