Watching the action at Torrey Pines, I am continually struck by the importance of putting from the proper position. I watched many players lip out because they were in the wrong position caused by being on the wrong side of the hole. I realized that many approach shots were made with medium irons and that makes a difficult task for any golfer and Torrey Pines just makes it more challenging. But enough of the difficult conditions at the US Open, the lessons I learned from watching golf this weekend is hitting my approach shot the proper side of the hole is as critical for shooting low scores.
The concept of selecting a landing position on approach shots is the cornerstone of any course management strategy. When we focus on the best position to make a putt vice always pin hunting, it offers a better opportunity to sink longer putts because the more challenging breaks are mitigated. I realize it makes sense to most players, but to develop the proper course management strategy, some course knowledge is required to know which is the best place to aim when approaching any green.
Last Wednesday, I played 27 holes at Osprey Links Golf Course. On the 6th hole, the pin was placed on the crest of a gully that runs through the middle of the green. I will not discuss the fairness of the pin placement because at this time it is irrelevant. On our first attempts to hit into the green, we thought the pin was set on the back tier as per normal placements. However, with three of us sitting about 10 to 15 feet from the pin, we realized that we were definitely out of position. After two 3-putts and one 2-putt, we knew that the next time we played this hole, we would have to be on the other side.
Playing the 6th hole again during men’s night we remember the pin placement and all agreed that we needed to be short of the pin. After four approach shots, three of us were below the pin, and all putting for birdie. Only one shot was in the right position. Two of our putts broke about 3 feet on a 12 foot putt and the putt from above the hole finished 12 from the hole because it crested the apex of the gully. The only ball in the right position was directly below the hole about 12 feet away. The player putting lipped out, but by far it was the easiest putt of the group.
Selecting the proper line for your approach shot to be on the proper side of the hole for putting is very important. I think that having some course knowledge makes this important step to low golf scores easier. As demonstrated in my example above, even knowing the course does not always guarantee that I will pick the right aim point for my approach shot. But my intent was there and that shows that I was thinking about where I need to make my next putt from and that is the proper course management strategy.
Moving forward, I suggest that you think about where you want to putt from when making approach shots. When you do, I think you will reap rewards in the form of few putts and lower golf scores.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!
4 thoughts on “Putting From The Right Side Of The Hole”
Jim, good stuff here. Whenever an overly talkative player like Speith or Phil is miked up, I listen in closely. You get a tutorial in course management as they describe the kind of shot they want with their caddies. Inevitably, it leads to, “I want to hit this, but if it doesn’t work, we want to miss it there.” Something of that nature. DeChambeau was saying earlier that if he gets out of position off the tee, he’ll just play for the front of the green to avoid the big number. . .or aim for the bunkers, which obviously have better lies than the greenside rough. These guys are thinking right and it’s a wonder watching them struggle with where to hit it with their skill level.
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I agree that the professional approach to course management is highly evolved. It is like the old saying from pool, “it is not what you make, but what you leave”. Watching the top players navigate a course is great fun and playing at the US Open takes the analysis of each hole to a new level. It is great fun and I enjoy listening to the pros discuss their shots as well. It opens many learning doors for me.
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At your club where you play all the time, it’s easy to get to know every nuance of every green. I have the same advantage playing on our 2 courses here. But when I’m playing away like I was today, I have to give it my best guess. There is no way to tell from the fairway where the right side of the hole is. Oh you might see slope, but you can’t tell a thing about grain and on the greens we played on today, that matters as much or maybe more than the slope. The 20-30 times I’ve been there in the past 20 years isn’t enough to remember much more than the layout of the holes. Certainly not the nuances of the greens.
The grain on these is severe enough it effects speed. It effects how much turn those slopes give to the ball. And it’s something that can’t be seen except from very close examination. Worse, you need to inspect it all along the line of the putt because it effects how much the ball turns too. Those greens just got refreshed last month and looked pristine. There wasn’t any visible major changes in the direction of the grain. But it’s still Bermuda grass and that means it’s got tons of grain no matter how smooth it looks and it’s going to make it far more difficult to get a good read.
A greens book would certainly help. BTW – If you hadn’t yet heard, I read that the PGA players advisory group is talking about voting the greens books illegal when they next meet. I hope they do.
That said, I’d have been happy enough to have one today. I never felt like I was in the wrong spot on the greens really today, but I never got the read/speed matched either. I lipped out a lot. Shot an 81. Not terrible considering the 6400 yards is a little on the long side for me. And this was a links style course, which brings in a lot of side hill lies that we don’t get to practice much elsewhere around here. There were little mounds everywhere. Level lies were a luxury today. And while the greens looked pristine the grain made them tough to read. I know they just refurbished them last month. They really did look great. Not too tricky looking, but that’s very deceptive.
For the other guys in the foursome, the 6400 yards ate them up. No one got within 10 strokes of me though they all at least broke 100. They’ve built up most of the greens, some as high as 30 feet, and there isn’t a downhill approach shot on the course to even things out so that 6400 yards feels even longer. But they weren’t unhappy either. It’s a really fun challenge and this time, we beat the rain. 👍
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Sounds like you had a great round. Your course management approach for elevate greens must have been in overdrive. Greens that elevated are an extreme challenge to any short game and the trick I found was to approach from 100 yards. If I am too close, I cannot control the release of the ball regardless of the grain. I did hear that the professionals voted to lose the green books for next year. I think that is a good decision and it is going to put more emphasis on a player’s / caddy’s ability to read the green. It is going to be fun for sure. Have a great weekend.