Putting is one of golf’s great challenges. We have found the green, but that is only half the job done. Good putting can make a good hole great, and save us from a disaster with a rescue putt. Bad putting has the opposite effect. A potential par or birdie turns into a bogey and a bad hole becomes a truly horrible one. Often, bad play on the green spills over onto the tee at the following hole, when filled with negative thoughts, we compound a mistake with the short stick into an error with the big stick.
For those of you keen enough to keep playing at this time of year, congratulations you hardy souls! But if we are ging to play, we may as well try to play as well as possible. And at this time of year, one of the biggest challenges is putting as it requires different skills to when we are playing at the height of summer.
Putting in winter in the UK and Ireland is not the same as seeing the pros in California or the Middle East holing them on super slick greens. So here at AMERICAN GOLF, we have put together a few tips and tricks to make sure the putter in winter remains hot when the air is cold.
How To Put in The Winter?
Create the gate:
The chances are if we are playing in winter, we will be putting on very soft regular greens or even temporary ones which are basically extended parts of the fairway. To putt well on these, our stroke needs to be working. And that means striking the ball right out of the centre of the putter.
As a simple drill on the practice putting green, put one tee in the ground, somewhere around five to eight feet from the hole. Put the head of the putter immediately behind the tee, square on to the hole. Then place a second tee at the back of the putter, but with a finger’s width distance between the tee and the putter. This creates the gate.
Now we should be able to practice putting through the gate. The challenge is not to hit either tee with our putter at any point in our stroke. If we concentrate hard, our putts should be coming out of the middle of the putter face. That is crucial for getting the right ‘hit’ for putting in winter. We do not want our putts to come off the heel or the toe as they will decelerate rapidly on soft and slow greens.
Worth the weight:
Sometimes when we purchase a putter, they come with different weights that can be added to make it heavier. Now that is not really necessary when we are putting in lovely conditions in high summer. But putting in winter is the perfect time to dig those weights out and put them onto our putters, especially if our putter feels quite light in our hands.
When winter greens are soft and wet, we need a good, firm stroke to ensure the ball goes the appropriate distance to the hole. A heavier putter head gives us a better chance of achieving that.
Move the ball forward:
One of the hardest challenges for putting in winter is generating enough force when we are on the greens. How often have we come off on winter golf days saying, ‘I just couldn’t get the ball up to the hole.’ Rather than bemoan our luck and see it happen to us time and again, let’s do something about it.
A simple adjustment is to move the ball forward in our stance. If we have the ball in the middle of our stance for putting in summer, move it more towards our front foot for putting in winter. This is an effortless way to generate more speed as the new position naturally creates topspin. That allows the ball to run better over the damp and wet putting surfaces. The ball rolls better and is less likely to jump up or bobble or do those things that cost vital distance. That is especially important when we are faced with long putts where we are more than happy to get down in two.
Adjust our eyeline:
Now we know the greens are slower in the winter. They play differently to how they do in the summer, but if we don’t make any adjustments to what we do, how can we expect to putt well?
One of the biggest faults a mid-to-high handicap golfer makes in winter is try to adjust their putting from the same set-up. If we putt in winter as we normally would in summer, we will probably keep coming up short of the hole. But if we try to generate more force from that same position, we can develop inconsistencies in direction, strike and even distance control.
Therefore, we have to alter something. One way of doing this is to adjust our eyeline, by moving it inside the ball. That simple switch will give our arms more room to move and generate the necessary force on our stroke without sacrificing control.
Play for less break:
We have all watched The Masters countless times down the years with those sloping greens and treacherous breaking putts. First of all, very few of us will NEVER putt on greens as slippery as those at Augusta. The other key thing to remember is that speed accentuates borrow on a putt. So it’s easy for a ball to almost travel at right angles on a super, slick green.
For putting in winter, let’s forget the idea we are at Augusta. The woolly hats and waterproofs should have done that for us anyway and we need to forget that mindset when we are on the greens, too.
However much borrow we think is on a putt at this time of year, play for less. We have to factor in that the greens are likely to have longer grass and more surface moisture. We have to weave that in when we are deciding how to hit our putts. If we think our putt has three feet of borrow, play for no more than two feet. Or if it is two feet of break, aim just a foot outside the hole. For putting in winter, the speed is much more important than the amount of break.
Putting in winter Champion!
Now we know this blog is about putting in winter in winter conditions, but there is also a way of working on our putting for when the better weather arrives. I’m sure we can find a space in our house when the children have gone to bed or our partners are in another room watching TV, to get our putters out.
My old trick was to grab a couple of old mugs out of the cupboard and put them down on the carpet. We may be indoors, but the same principles apply. We need a good stroke and a good measure of the distance required. But one of the keys is to keep moving the cup (the hole) around the room, so that we are practicing different lengths of putt, just like we would out on the course. We can even do that with golf on TV from warmer climes on in the background to provide our inspiration!
By doing this, hopefully we can be razor sharp by the time the real greens have dried out and we can make a head start over our friends and family when the summer competitions begin!
About the Author
Adam Lanigan - Golf Writer
Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.