When Mark Brooks was interviewed after his second round at the Principal Charity Classic he said he would stay off the practice putting green before his final round. He thought he left a lot of putts short because the practice green was faster than the greens on the course.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d never be able to use a practice green if I required it to be the same speed as the greens on the course. I’d love it if they were the same speed, but my world doesn’t include that level of consistency. If I hit the practice green it’s to groove my stroke a bit and see if I’m hitting it generally in the direction of my target. I usually don’t even putt at a cup. That seems to keep me focussed on the stroke rather than the hole, and getting close to the hole means speed counts.
It’s kind of the same way I use the range before a round, if I use one at all. Try to find my swing; see if I’m hitting it right, left or straight today; try to end with a good drive so I can go to the first tee with that as my last mental image.
It’s pointless to try to judge how long I’m hitting it based on the range. Leaving aside trying to judge where they’ve moved the range tees today in relation to the distance markers, my courses don’t give me a bucket of fresh Pro-V1’s. They give me what I’m sure most of you get, and it’s anybody’s guess whether I’ll get rocks or marshmallows. Every now and then I can tell I’ve lucked into a new crop of range balls, and I’m in heaven.
And what’s to be learned from hitting off those mats some places use? Irons bounce and the little rubber tees may or may not have anything to do with how I tee the ball. (Apparently the problem is universal. The photo below is from a driving range in Zurich, Switzerland. The guy is either hitting off of concrete or rubber mats, as near as I can tell.)
So I often stick to a simple warm-up routine. It involves a little coffee (or something colder for a later round), some jokes, some stretches, and a practice swing or two on the tee. It may not be ideal, but at least I’m not confused by the speed of the first green. I may be surprised, but I’m not confused. Surprise is better than confusion.
At least that’s what I tell myself. It beats telling myself I’m lazy. And it’s awful to go to the first tee expecting to hit it or putt as poorly as I did in that last few minutes of practice. Surprise is better than dread, too.