After recently writing about the bump and run and how it is an underused shot for most golfers, I realised that most of us should probably take this a step further. If a shot that gets the ball running sooner with less loft and a more consistent swing is good, surely more of the same is even better? Actually, this is pretty much bang on the money and putting from off the green should be a shot every golfer has in his or her locker.
It isn’t All About the Flop Shot
As always, the reason why most of us don’t really think about putting from anywhere off the green is what we see on TV and “common knowledge.” Professional golfers certainly putt from off the green, especially on links courses, but these shots aren’t the ones that we see most often. They certainly aren’t the shots that stick in the mind. Everyone remembers a Phil Mickelson flop, but can you name a golfer who putted from ten yards off the putting surface? Off course not.
It isn’t just the pros. I have had guys who would be delighted to break 90 looking down their nose at me for choosing the putter rather than a wedge. Never mind the fact that almost of these golfers would be better served by putting their wedges back in the bag pretty much forever! And yet they will regularly say that we should be attempting something ranging from improbable to an outright miracle with a lob wedge.
I have said this before and it bears repeating: An average putt will be better than an average wedge. A poor wedge shot will be far, far worse than a poor putt. You are never going to see a complete duff leaving the ball at your feet with the flat stick, nor will you see anyone thinning it over the green. A mishit with a wedge could be anything from a shank to a fat. A mishit with a putter is going to affect distance but not to any dramatic lengths.
I would go so far as to say that the first club to pull out of the bag by the green should be the putter and you should only try something else if the putt isn’t possible.
For example if you are in thick rough or you have to travel over thick rough, putter might not be the best choice, at least if you have more than a yard or two to get through/over. Most people would add the bunker to this list. I wouldn’t necessarily agree. Unless there is a lip or the ball is sat down in fluffy sand, putting out of the bunker might be one of the easiest ways to play from a sand trap.
Getting the right Dosage on a Putt
The beauty of a putt is that it takes out a lot of variables. For example, with a wedge we really have quite a lot going on. We need to pick a line and a landing point for starters. Then we might have to worry about swing and contact. We don’t want to thin or fat and certainly not shank! Are we going to open the club up a little bit? This is a lot of variables for one short shot.
With a putter, all we are really worrying about is how hard. Direction is easy. Even a poor golfer will hit a putt in more or less the right direction. Likewise, even a beginner is going to make semi-solid contact with the ball. Of course, it isn’t quite as easy to get the strength of a putt right when part of it is on fairway or rough and the rest on the green.
This doesn’t matter as much as you would think though. If we are putting, we are trying to take the complete disaster shot out of the equation. Leaving it close is a bonus but won’t happen every time even with the flat stick. Generally, you are going to want to hit it a little harder than if you were on the green, but not smash it. The aim should be to get it on the putting surface, preferably with a decent chance on making it.
A Truly Modern Golf Shot
Happily, I do see attitudes to this type of shot changing. In the same way that people are happy hitting hybrids even in mid or short irons, or using a chipper, I find that most golfers are far more open to less traditional methods on the course. In fact, putting from the fairway is a very traditional method given than golfers were doing it over a century ago in Scotland. For me, there are only really two criteria for choosing which shot to play: enjoyment and score. I enjoy playing minimalist golf and sometimes this means playing all my short game shots with a lofted wedge, because it is fun. I will try to hit flops and low runners and get a lot of pleasure out of trying to pull these shots off.
If score is on the line, the putter from off the green becomes a much better percentage option. In fact, even if you don’t care about the scorecard but are fed up of not being able to get it close or even on the green with a wedge, you really want to make the putter your short game tool of choice.