Toe Your Putt When It’s Short and Slick

Truly great putters strike every ball on the sweet spot, except one—the nasty downhill breaker that needs off-center impact to have any chance.

Here’s some background on the technique we’re talking about:  One of Dave Pelz’s early breakthrough experiments involved putter impact. Pelz studied impact decals affixed to putter faces and found that, as handicaps went up, impact marks spread out across the blade.

Ever-meticulous Tom Kite was Pelz’s sweet-spot champ, while your average 90s-shooter commonly hit toward the heel and toe, leaving the ball way short and piling up double-bogeys along the way. But Kite and other top players also recognized those rare occasions when a sweet-spot hit wasn’t appropriate

Here’s the situation: You’re playing a typical modern golf course—its greens have dramatic contours and they roll at a Stimp speed of 9 or faster. Slick stuff, in other words. Your ball is three to 10 feet from the hole but the putt is downhill with a fair amount of break. And on the far side of the hole things just get quicker. (The joker who just pulled the pin for you offers to lay it down as a backstop.)

You have to impart enough energy into the ball to get it started, but nothing more. The good news: If you break one of the cardinal rules of putting, you’ll be able to pull off the shot. (Tip: Think back to how dead the impact felt last time you mistakenly struck a putt way off-center—and how far short of the hole you ended up.)

Here’s how to toe it properly:

>> Address this putt so the center mark of your putter blade is aligned with the inside one-third of the ball.

>>  Rehearse a short, slow backswing and a deliberate forward swing. Hold the putter firmly enough to prevent your “toe hit” from opening up the blade.

>>  Make the backswing and forward swing you rehearsed. You will experience the deadened feel at impact that offsets the slick conditions.

Why does itt work? Pretty simple.  When the sweet spot of a well-designed putter makes contact with the ball, energy is transferred and stored efficiently. Nothing gets “spilled,” and the ball rolls out a good distance on today’s smooth, low-cut green surfaces

 By making contact way off center, you spill energy instead of store it. The ball will start in motion on the line you selected, but only the slope and slickness of the green will act to keep it in motion. Through friction, gravity and the process of turning with the break, the ball tends to die—safely in or near the hole.

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