Dr. Putt has been getting many emails recently and seems to be answering questions to individuals every day. Fun to do, but this has slowed down newsletter creation! Nevertheless, keep those questions coming!
Here are the three things Dr. Putt settled upon to discuss in this newsletter.
1) Today's Fairways Are Yesterday's Greens
1) Today's Fairways Are Yesterday's Greens
Dr. Putt reads many golfing magazines, including "Carolinasgolf," the magazine sent to members of the Carolinas Golf Association. Agronomist Dr. Leon Lucas wrote an article in the Spring 2006 issue (p. 7) that really caught Dr. Putt's attention.
Dr. Lucas noted that fairways of today are commonly cut at lengths of 1/4 to 3/8 inch. That was the height of grass on greens in the 1950s and 60s. Today's greens are at about 1/8 inch or shorter. And that makes today's greens, well, very very fast. Green speeds in that period were 4-5 on the Stimpmeter compared to 8-10 today. Fairways of yesterday were at about 1 inch.
The implications of these changes are profound and wide ranging. Maintenance costs are higher--water demands have increased greatly. All but the most wealthy clubs find they are unable to keep greens and fairways up to the standard of what we all see on television--what Dr. Lucas calls "the Augusta National syndrome. Play is slower. That is because putting on fast greens is much harder because small errors in judgment or execution produce larger errors in putting. And that results in longer second putts. The ball rolls farther in the fairway and reaches the side of the fairway at a faster pace. So we not only have more difficulty keeping balls in the fairway, we need longer fairways for the longer hitters (and that does not include the better equipment and ball factors). Tighter lies in fairways make for more mishits by those of us who are unable to play or practice every day.
Dr. Putt could go on, but you get the idea. Setting aside expenses and environmental concerns, our modern courses have made the game harder for the average player. Perhaps this is one important reason hy we do not see much improvement in average scores by average players, despite modern teaching techniques and vastly superior equipment.
Dr. Putt sometimes wishes he could roll the clock back to the courses he played as a youth. Greens felt like a plush well padded carpet under his feet. A long putt required a real swing with some hand and wrist action to get the ball to the hole. Shots held greens without the kind of spin that average players can rarely produce.
Of course this wish will be unfulfilled. One cannot roll the clock back. Modern courses are magnificently green and require a lot of green to keep them that way--hence higher green fees.
Lessons from this observation? For oldsters, if you do not putt as well as you remember from decades ago, the reason may be that putting is just more difficult today. And putting will not get easier in the future as modern grasses and maintenance techniques allow shorter and shorter grasses. Dr. Putt's home course, as do many others today, lets greens go dormant in the winter and applies green paint rather than overseed. They are almost like putting on pavement! Some greens on this classic old course had to be flattened because the the original slopes did not allow enough usable pin positions with the higher green speeds.
2) The New Classic Putter
Not too long ago Dr. Putt received a letter from a reader asking advice about switching from his "classic" heel and toe weighted cavity backed putter to one of the modern putters, in this case an Odyssey 2-ball putter. Dr. Putt has some definite opinions on this specific putter (see the letter on this at the "Dear Dr. Putt" link above under "Odyssey 2-ball putter."
Those opinions aside, what Dr. Putt found interesting is that for younger players, the heel and toe weighted cavity backed putter engineered by Ping a couple decades ago are now regarded as the "classic." Perhaps this dates Dr. Putt, but for him and most other players who are not under 50, the classic putter was the Bull's Eye or blade putter. About the only notable player using this old style today is Phil Mickleson.
Perhaps the reader is correct. We now have a new classic. And for good reason. The heel and toe weighted cavity backed styles and their many variations are clean in look and have advantages of heel and toe weighting. Moreover, the cavity space allows various alignment aiding markings or lightweight inserts--such as the EOB device. And many of the best players in the world still utilize a putter with this basic design.
Will this design be replaced some day? Most certainly, but as of yet Dr. Putt has seen no design that seems a likely successor.
3) Best Putting Drill of the Year
Nearly all issues of all the many golf magazines have drills or techniques to improve putting. Of course Dr. Putt attempts to give all the drills a try and see which reinforce basic "best practices" in putting.
This year Dr. Putt saw a drill that helps with the putt that gives most player the most heartache--the short putt just outside tap-in range. Most players miss these putts because they decellerate and do not follow-through along the intended line of the putt.
Here is a little drill that gives you the feel you should have for such putts. Dr. Putt tried it and it really worked well.
Lay the ball about three feet from the hole on a flat portion of the practice green. Address the ball with your putter blade touching the ball. Then "sweep" the ball along the line of the putt without taking a backswing. Pose at the end and try to watch the results with only periphas vision--DO NOT move your head to get a better look! Make several putts this way and then try the same putt with a tiny backswing while keeping the feeling of a sweeping motion.
Note how different the putt now feels. You feel you only need a little backswing and the ball will follow the intended line much better with the longer feling of sewwping the ball into the hole. The problem of decelleration is solved!
You might want to add this drill to the things you do on the green just before you head for the first tee. It will give you the right feeling to take with you to the course.