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How to Use Finesse Putting

The 50th Secret

It is a difficult thing to make the muscles do something they are not trained to do. A common experience of the spectators banked around the 18th green at the Masters is to watch player after player run past the cup on the downhill putts. On the other hand, let the greens be slowed by rain, and many of the golfers will putt short. At the end of the round they can be heard to say, "I just couldn't make myself hit the putts hard enough, after remembering how fast these greens have always been."
Muscles seem to have a brain of their own. They want to do what they want to do even if you are trying to tell them the opposite. This is particularly true in the short game. In such cases, it is best to finesse the muscles.
Clarence Mobley, one of the very good putters at the Augusta Country Club, finesses his muscles on fast downhill putts by striking the ball with the toe of the club rather than with the "sweet spot." He then strokes the ball as firmly as he would otherwise. He is very accurate in judging speed on these putts.
Another method of finessing is to use a different stroke for different types of putts. On the difficult downhill putt on a fast green, one of our scratch players hits the ball on the down¬swing. This apparently gives the ball "drag" and counteracts the green speed. He is very good at this putt.
On an uphill putt against the grain, most of us cannot force ourselves to hit the ball hard enough. One professional golfer who handles this problem very well tells me that he changes from a shoulder stroke to a wrist stroke, one that he normally uses when chipping. By this means, he achieves the finesse. We do not yet know enough about putting to indicate what strokes are best for various shots. It will take experimentation. If golfers would begin to pool their knowledge about specialized putts, we could have a genuine improvement in this area.
Finessing is generally indicated when we know what the shot requires but cannot force ourselves to do it. On the greens, such situations occur when we habitually do not allow enough break, run past the hole or fall short of the hole. The general principle to use when finessing is to substitute a mechanical method for a psychological one. Changes in stance, grip, putter, or stroke should be considered.
There are some occasions when the finesse can be psychological. A change in attitude by the use of the imagination, such as I indicated for jinx holes, is sometimes effective. On a fast green, for instance, it is difficult to combine the two ideas of hitting the ball with authority and not hitting it too far. This generally causes confusion, and the shot is apt to wind up short because of the indecision, and may the next time be hit too hard. I have found that I can handle this situation if I imagine that the hole is closer to me than it really is. Then I putt firmly to this imaginary hole. The faster the green, the closer I imagine the hole to be. I do the reverse of this when the greens are unusually slow. In general, however, it is safer to trust to mechanical rather than psychological finesses. Each golfer should search for those that suit him best. The finesse principle can also be applied to shots other than putts, particularly when course conditions are unusual.