Downhill Putts -- Easy as Pie
by Geoff Mangum
All downhill putts share the same targeting problem -- if the ball rolls too far across the hill, it will miss high; and if it fails to roll far enough across the hill, it will miss low. The best way to handle downhill putts is to aim for the pie.
DOWNHILL PUTTS ARE ALL SPEED PUTTS
The "fall line" is the line thru the middle of the hole that indicates the direction straight uphill or downhill thru the center of the cup. The axis of tilt of the flat-but-tilted surface around the hole is perpendicular to the fall line. As a ball slows down in a breaking putt, the tug of gravity draws its direction of roll closer and closer to that of the fall line, but the direction of roll never curls back more than the fall line. This basic fact has a straightforward consequence for all downhill putts: If the hole is bracketed by a shaft paralleling the fall line but only touching the far edge of the hole, NO DOWNHILL PUTT CAN TOUCH THIS SHAFT AND STILL FIND THE HOLE. Any ball that rolls far enough across the hill to reach the shaft will necessarily miss on the high side. The curvature of the ball as it nears the shaft has to conform to the fall line before it reaches the shaft. That's how a putt "feeds" into the cup from uphill.
So what about missing low? If you translated the shaft to the near side of the hole, but still parallel to the fall line, it stands to reason that no ball that fails to roll far enough across the hill to reach this shaft could possibly find the hole, and it won't. It will miss low. These two shafts on either side of the hole form a gateway into the hole, and the curling putt must feed properly down this channel. But as an insurance policy against missing low, consider the near-side shaft as not along the hole's edge, but closer in to the fall line thru the hole's center.
The RED TRIANGLE is the target that all downhill putts must cross -- preferably close to the fall line thru the center of the cup, but at least not past the far edge.
MAKE THIS PART OF YOUR GAME
Whenever your ball is above the axis of tilt, you have a downhill putt and gravity needs to be used to feed the ball into the hole. Identify the fall line thru the cup and lay a club down the far edge of the hole parallel to the fall line. This arrangement will show you the PIECE OF PIE for your target, and also show you the outer boudary of the shaft. This approach encourages you to avoid babying downhillers too much (resulting in low-side misses) without blowing the ball thru the break (resulting in high-side misses). Ultimately, getting the speed right so the downhill putt feeds into the cup is as easy as pie!
For more tips and information on putting, including a free 10,000+ database of putting lore and the Web's only newsletter on putting (also free), visit Geoff's website at http://www.puttingzone.com, or email him directly at email@example.com.