Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta

Short Game

The importance of speed

By Hank Haney Photos by J.D. Cuban
April 12, 2008

The biggest difference in ability when you go up the ladder from junior golf to college golf to tour golf is in lag putting. One of the things Tiger Woods does best is judge speed on his putts. It's a crucial skill for protecting leads. You can aim for the middle of the green and feel comfortable that you're going to roll the first putt close.

Every player starts a round with a certain amount of energy, and everything you do during the round either adds energy or takes it away. Grinding over a two-putt -- even when you succeed -- takes energy. Tiger has certainly made a ton of gutsy four- and five-footers to save par, but way, way more often, he's within tap-in range.

There's no magic to speed control. If you develop a consistent stroke -- no matter what it looks like technically -- and hit your putts in the middle of the face, you're going to be able to dial in your speed.




The course where they play the Buick Invitational in January and this month's U.S. Open venue share the same name, but that's going to be about the only thing they have in common.

For the Buick, Torrey Pines is always wet and soft, and if the ball hits in the fairway, it tends to stay there. U.S. Open courses usually play hard and fast, so crooked tee shots jump into the rough. Combine hard ground with a persistent wind off the ocean, and Torrey is going to play much different. When you have to keep the ball low in the wind and hit to firm greens, you're really challenging a player's shot-making ability.

And that's as it should be. It's much better than the way the USGA has traditionally done it -- with super-deep rough that forces you to hack and hope. I think people are tired of watching that kind of golf. The setup at Oakmont last year was a huge step in the right direction. Players had a chance to hit out of the rough, but if they missed in the wrong place around the green, it was like hitting into a hazard. I'm really looking forward to watching the action.

Haney runs the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island, and owns four golf schools in Texas. Click here for more tips from Haney.