I’ve noticed that most PGA and LPGA players seem to hit short putts very hard. I guess they do that to overcome any subtle breaks near the hole that might cause them to lip out. It seems counterintuitive to me because if they do lip out, they are likely to have a much longer return putt.
Is there any science behind this practice of drilling short putts into the cup, or is it just some kind of image issue where they don’t want to appear too weak-willed?
John in Ohio
John, thank you for your interesting question.
There is some science behind “drilling” short putts into the hole. This is not the place for pros to develop a macho image which would be more effective and less consequential in places other than in competition on the green.
The speed of a putt, where the ball hits the back wall of the cup, an inch or so below the lip is about 1.5 mph. This speed may have to be tempered based on other factors such as the green speed and conditions around the hole to ensure that a return missed putt remains in the sinkable range.
Another phenomenon to contend with is that for breaking putts the last twelve inches the putt will break the most due to the precession of the rolling ball as it slows down and the sideway torque. This suggests that to prevent the ball from breaking at its maximum rate get it into the hole before it slows to a dead stop. You can read more about this in The Fundamentals of Putting.
John, “drilling” is a relative term but hitting a breaking putt firmly is better and less consequential than letting it die in the hole.