Golf Green SpeedReader: Calculating distance


The Goal: Adjusting for different distances

Distance of the putt is the next variable to adjust for after establishing a backswing length for an average green speed and average distance.

Distance is very important. The longer the putt travels on a specified green speed, the longer it is affected by that speed. Thus, more precise adjustments are required for longer putts than for shorter putts.

How to do it: Calculating in distance

Since successful putters have a backswing and follow-through of equal length, during the drills, note the length of the backswing you used to create a putt that rolls 12 feet.  

Using this knowledge, it is possible to determine how far the length of the backswing must be for a given distance and how much it should be adjusted to putt another distance.

For example, if the backswing length we used in our putting drills to develop our standardized putting stroke for a 12 foot putt is 9 inches back, and we have an 18 foot putt on a green that is the same speed, the required backswing has to be more than 9 inches (probably closer to 14 inches) to accurately match that distance.

NOTE: The length of each backswing varies between individuals and personal styles. You need to DETERMINE YOUR PERSONAL PUTTING TEMPO (how quick you swing the putter back and through the ball) before learning different green speeds.


Putting it together: Combining speed and distance adjustments

First calculate the speed and note the difference from the "average" green speed.

Next, note your personal putting tempo. Learn your personal "tick-tock" pace you use when swinging the putter and use it consistently every time you putt, only adjusting the backswing length for different distances and green speeds.

Third, note the backswing length listed on your Backswing Card for the standard 12-foot putt.

Finally, combine the calculations to estimate a backswing length to use that compensates for both the current lie (distance) and green speed. Practice and adjust until you have determined the backswing length for the new speed and distance.

The final adjustment to learn how to compensate for is the slope of a golf green.

The professional opinion: Exerpts from Golf Publications

Defining perfect putting pace - Brief Article

Dave Pelz, an expert on the scientific aspects of putting, says the perfect pace is one in which the ball would travel 17 inches past the hole if the hole didn't exist. I believe the average player would benefit from Pelz' advice, as the 17-inch strategy ensures that the ball will drop if it catches a meaty part of the hole and will prevent the player from coming up short.

The Golf Digest School: how to build distance control into your putting stroke


Speed and short putts

On slow greens, speed doesn't matter much on short putts. But on really fast greens, you need to be aware that there are three variations to speed on short breakers: The "inside the hole and firm," the "hang it out a little" and the "die it in on the last roll or else it's off the green." Base your decision on pace depending on what will happen to the ball after the hole.

'Tick-tock' your way to the target

Like many new golfers, Heather had a tendency to swing too far going back, then to decelerate on the forward stroke. As a result, one putt would fall way short--then she'd speed up through impact and knock the next ball way past the hole. Switching to a practice station marked with bigger, beginner-friendly targets, I asked her to look at the hole and say "tick-tock" as she swung back and through, trying to match the tick with the tock. If your tick is too loud, your pace won't be even. Then I put a ball down, reminding her not to focus on hitting the ball, just on making nice, even "tick-tocks."

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