U.S. Open 2020: How pros make putting really fast greens look incredibly easy


Gregory Shamus

The putting surfaces at Winged Foot this week are a little different than the greens most of us are used to playing regularly. These lightning fast, undulating greens have led to pros taking insane lines over massive swales and dips in these genius Tillinghast surfaces.

While these putts take finesse and skill, with a little practice and strategy work, you can start curling them in too, or at least leaving them close enough for a two-putt. We spoke with Best Young Teacher Erika Larkin, who shared a few rules for hitting long putts on quick, breaking greens.

Fast greens break more than slow greens

Whatever break you’re used to playing at your normal course, you’re going to want to double it for greens rolling at a 12 or higher. “Super fast greens that are also very undulating means that you could have upwards of 15 or 20 feet of break,” Larkin explained, “and when your line gets that wide, all of a sudden, you might be dealing with a tier or secondary slope that wasn’t even on your radar.” The best way to approach these “circus putts”—as Larkin calls them—is to be open-minded and get creative. “There’s more than one way to get it close to the hole, and remember that putting it close—while giving your putt a chance to go in—is your main priority.”

Add more break for downhill putts

Downhill putts with lightning quick greens will magnify the breaks, so you’ll need to account for it to turn even more when reading the putt. “Try to visualize the ball rolling down the slope and the exact pace you’ll need for it to trickle in the cup.” Once you’ve figured out your stroke’s tempo and length—slower and shorter is always better—line up to the ball a little on the toe of your putter. Setting up slightly on the toe, softens the blow and helps you roll the ball more slowly.

Aim high, miss high

“On super fast greens, there’s a big difference with how close you’ll leave it to the hole if you miss it on the low-side vs. the high side.” Larkin explained. When you miss it low, the ball breaks earlier, and you leave yourself a longer second putt. However, if you miss it high, you’re playing more break further into the slope that helps slow it down, and the ball comes to rest closer to the hole. 

“Aim to miss on the high side with a die-in pace, and you’ll leave yourself more tap-in par putts,” Larkin says.

If you roll it by, keep watching

If you’re playing quick greens with a lot of curve, expect to have a couple of lengthier second putts. “Instead of looking away in frustration, watch the ball go by the hole, and pay attention to its path. You just got a preview of what it’s going to do on the way back,” Larkin says.

You'll notice every pro doing that on the PGA Tour—one of the subtle things we can borrow to make our putting better.