Danny Willett demonstrated great distance control on Augusta National’s difficult greens to win his first major. Master yours by using the hole’s ideal capture speed.
By James Kinney
Television coverage of the Masters does a great job portraying what it’s like to be at Augusta National Golf Club. But no matter how high the resolution is on your TV, nothing can aptly reflect how fast the greens actually are, and how proficient the players are controlling their speed.
Whether at Augusta National or your local muni, many golfers struggle with distance control so let’s discuss how using the hole’s ideal “capture speed” can create your own mastery of distance on any green.
What is capture speed?
Golfers often gravitate toward putting with varying approach speeds to the hole. Some prefer to hit it firmly and mitigate the effects of break, while others prefer to hit it softly and avoid those knee-knocking comebackers at any cost.
In any case, golf is a game of inches and no more is this true than with putting. The hole itself is 4.25 inches wide, but a ball rolling to it changes the effective “opening” of the hole and varies upon speed. This opening can be measured.
For example, a putt rolling 6 inches past the hole has an effective hole opening of 3.9 inches, but a ball rolling 3 feet past only has an opening of 1.4 inches. The larger the opening, the more chance the ball has to go in.
To make sense of this, picture a putt barely trickling to the hole that falls into the side door, compared to one with too much speed that lips out, even though it hits the cup nearly dead center. The trickling putt takes more advantage of the hole’s full diameter than the lipped-out putt which rolls over the edge, meaning the hole’s effective size is bigger with the slower putt.
Revisiting the idea that some golfers like to knock it in the back of the cup and others like to die it in the hole, I believe a capture speed of the ball rolling 6 to 9 inches by is ideal.
If you’re one who likes to hit putts firmly, this could seem strange at first because you’ll have to adjust the amount of break you read and may leave the occasional putt short, which likely rarely happened before. But you’ll be amazed how many more putts will drop in instead of lip out, and wonder why you never approached putting this way before.
Use the String Drill to help
A great drill to practice this is to place a string on the ground and hit putts to it from 5, 10 and 15 feet away.
Your goal is simply to have the ball come to rest on the string, focusing solely on distance and not worrying about aim. This will ultimately help you control your pace with consistency and promote a confident, die-the-ball approach to putting in no time.