Putting on the golf course is difficult. Sometimes it feels downright impossible. Undulating slopes on lightning-fast grass can make the most seasoned professional start to sweat. Yet, even the most improbable putts occasionally drop in the cup, right? Or is it possible to have a putt so difficult that it becomes an unmakeable putt?
In the article below, we are going to cover what makes a putt difficult and if there is such a thing as an impossible putt. We have a lot to cover so let’s jump in.
Can A Putt Be Impossible To Make?
We all already know that putting is tough. Green slope and design can make certain putts feel unmakeable, but are there any truly unmakeable putts? In theory, there is not an unmakeable putt.
Applying some logic to tackle this question is our best approach. Given limitless tries with varying speed, trajectory, spin, and force, etc… in theory, any put could be made on a regulation golf course green.
However, this does not mean that every putt can be made with a traditional putting stroke. If we assume we have the ability to try any swing type variation, over enough tries, any putt should be makeable on a standard golf course green.
What Makes A Putt Difficult?
Assuming that any put can be made, what are the elements of a putt that can make them difficult. If you are interested in learning more, keep reading below to find out what features of a putt can make them seem impossible.
It’s no wonder that the length of a putt is number one on our list. Long putts are inherently difficult to make due to their distance to the hole.
The farther a golf ball gets away from the hole, the more variables come into play. Long puts experience many gradient and speeds changes that the golfer needs to consider.
Not to mention anomalies in grass length, the occasional clump of sand or leaf that just stands directly in your line, or any other external factor that the golfer has no control over.
As the list of variables that affect the putt increase, so does the difficulty of the putt. Its no wonder that the length of the putt is our number one factor in the difficulty of a putt.
The second most important factor, after the length of a putt, is the speed of the putt. Green speeds on professional courses can get downright brutal.
Green speeds are determined by the use of a Stimpmeter with score ranging from 7-14, 14 being extremely fast greens.
Per the USGA “The Stimpmeter is a simple, accurate device manufactured by the USGA that allows one to make a standard measurement of, and place a numerical figure on, the speed of a putting green. It does so by measuring ball roll distance.”
In the chart below, we can see how the speed of green intersects with the recommended surrounding slope of the hole.
As the speed of the green increases, the recommended slope for the hole location decreases showing the significant impact of the high slope, high-speed greens on the difficulty of a putt.
A main contributor to green speed is the maintenance of the grass. Coursers with fast putting surfaces incorporation several turf managements practices in their green maintenance.
Grass type, mowing height, mowing frequency, and rolling all play into the speed of a green, and ultimately, the difficulty of a putt.
The slope or gradient of the green relates to how flat versus undulating a green is designed. A greater gradient typically means a more difficult putt.
Many championship level courses will have very large undulating greens forcing players to hone in their approach shots to avoid treacherously long lag putts.
Not surprisingly, weather is a big factor when it comes to the play of the golf course. Bone dry grass soaking up torrential downpours can make putting surfaces unrecognizable in minutes time.
Even small changes such as wind shifts, or the drying of morning dew can make big differences on green speed. None of these factors, outside of gale force wind and rain, should make a putt unmakeable.
There are undoubtable puts where if a professional golfer had all day to hit, they would not make a single putt.
These are extremely difficult putts to make, but no putt is technically impossible to sink. Assuming you are not constrained by the number of attempts or shot type, all puts should be makeable on a regulation golf course green. The key to making these seemingly impossible puts is practice, practice, practice.
Each putt has its own unique characteristics, so it takes time to master the skill. Professional golfers are able to make these putts look makeable because they have the experience on the greens.
Stay diligent in your training and soon you will be draining these seemingly impossible putts.
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