How do you take full advantage of your time on the putting green? You start before you get there.
While you are driving or walking to the green, take a moment to look at the terrain of the green. Are you going to putt uphill or downhill? Uphill putts will be slower; downhill putts will be faster. Keep this in mind when judging the speed and making your decision.
The player whose ball is farthest from the hole putts first. If you’re that person, use your time wisely: Mark your ball and walk to the hole and back, looking for any imperfections in the green that you might want to fix, and then visualize the entire line the ball will travel to the hole. You should pick the specific line the ball will travel from a vantage point behind the ball. Choose blemishes or marks on the green that are close to or on the line you have picked to help you visualize the line. Take two or three practice putts, visualize the speed, then trust your line and putt the ball.
If you hit it on the line you wanted and you miss the putt, it was still a good putt—unless you left it short. Leaving the ball short means a wasted stroke, because it never made it to the hole.
If you miss your putt, either mark your ball or putt out. If you are the first to hole out, pick up the flag stick and return it to the hole after everyone has finished.
If someone has the same line as you do and putts first, take advantage of that. You can stand to the side of that person, out of his or her line of sight. You should never stand in the line of sight of the person putting. Right after that person putts the ball, walk behind the ball to see what it does. Is it a straight putt, or does it break to the left or right?
You can always walk around the green to visualize your putt until the person putting starts his stroke. Remember to stand still and stay out of that player’s line of sight. Also, there is no need to mark your ball as long as it is not in anyone’s line of sight or putting line.
To maintain a good pace of play, always park your golf cart or leave your golf bag even with the flag stick and in the direction of the next hole. Make sure you are keeping up with the group in front of you, and don’t worry about the group behind you. If you do fall out of position, the person who putts out first can go to the next tee immediately and tee off to get caught up.
Melissa Stephens, PGA, is an assistant professional at the Navy Golf Course, Seal Beach. She can be reached at (714) 889-1576.