Nicklaus Sinks Putt From Well Off The Green

Aaron Ungvarsky

Aaron Ungvarsky

PGA of America Professional, SwingU Instructor

“Yes Sir!”

The familiar call from Jack Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters victory was heard after he made this incredible putt from off the green at the 16th hole at this year’s PNC Father/Son Challenge. The birdie shows us one creative way to get up and down without the ball actually getting “up.”

Many players default to grabbing a wedge — and often one with too much loft — as soon as they see the ball is not on the putting surface. If your ball comes to rest around the green in the fringe or fairway-length grass, check to see what the terrain is like between your ball and the putting surface.

A uniform and relatively flat surface is a green light for pulling out the flat stick and putting the ball through the fringe and onto the green. For shots that are only a few feet off the green, no calibration is necessary and playing the shot as if one was putting gives great results.

For longer shots — say 15 to 30 yards off the green — the player will need to impart more arm and wrist action to swing the putter with enough force. Watch as Jack plays his putt from off the green, the tempo to of the stroke is quick and punchy, deploying a firm strike into the ball. The goal is much more of a hit versus the smooth stroke normally used on the green.

This shot selection is also a great choice for having to play from tight lies up to an elevated green over a short distance; exactly like Jack does in this clip.

For the specific shot we see played in the video, a putting stroke ensures the ball will be struck solidly and on a trajectory that will traverse the slope instead of taking a wedge and risking a bladed or fatted shot from the tight lie.

A poor shot selection from that lie usually results in the ball rolling back to the feet of the weekend warrior, pride no longer intact. Even if the overall putting motion was not hard enough to make the shot or even put it to tap-in range, there is a high probability it was hard enough to climb the initial obstacle and leave a good look at par.

So, the next time you just miss the green or even happen to come up 20 yards short, check to see if a putter can do the trick. You’ll avoid a big number and almost certainly be playing your next shot from the green — with the right club already in hand.