In most parts of the United States, if you don’t put your clubs away in the winter, you have to make some adjustments to how you play the game. One acclimation is coping with slower, bumpier greens. First thing you should do to adjust? Smile. You’re playing golf in February, and your superintendent doesn’t have you putting on a big circle in the fairway in front of the green. Second, you’ve got to forget whatever you do for your pre-putt routine and stroke in mid-July. It’s a different game when you go to pull the flag and there’s frozen water at the bottom of the cup.
Let’s start with how to read a slower green. You know how you have to practically line up with your back to the target to play enough break on 14? Don’t do that now. It’s OK to visualize that mid-summer break, but gravity has less of an impact on a slower, fuzzier surface. So along with picturing the most amount of break your putt could have, picture the least amount, too. That’s the one you’re going to play for. The reason the ball is going to break less is because you have to hit the putt harder to get it to roll the same distance it normally would roll. The speed will keep the putt rolling straight longer.
Now comes the stroke. And this might take a little getting used to, but at setup play the ball forward in your stance and then lean the shaft toward the target. The ball position, which should be a little closer to the target than your left eye (right eye for left-handers), will promote a stroke that’s moving upward. And pressing your hands forward will reduce loft at impact, which optimizes forward roll. You don’t want the ball to skid too much in the initial part of the putt, or it probably won’t get to the hole.
So when you’re out there freezing your tail off, and you run one up a patch of tundra onto the green within striking distance of a birdie, just remember: ball forward, hands forward. Then ram one into the back of the cup. —with Ron Kaspriske
Kolloff, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, is located at Pure Drive Golf in Woburn, Mass.