Oftentimes a tucked pin or seemingly unapproachable quadrant of a green has a hidden secret. That’s right, architects like to fool players into being visually intimidated or even bait them into making critical mistakes.
The good players observe the entire landscape of the shot and reserve the right the get creative to work a ball into a tight spot — not every shot needs to be a go-for-broke high flop to carry trouble. And to that, trouble can be more than a bunker or area that needs to be carried, trouble is often a big slope or undulation on a putting surface.
In the video of Justin’s great pitch, we can see that the back pin had almost no green to work with beyond the hole and the slope behind the green would leave a very difficult chip. Thomas drew a lie that was unfavorable given the direction of the grass and the ball being below his feet meant a high flop was out of the question.
Almost any shot from this lie would hit and release, making the outcome difficult to control and predict. BUT, there was a characteristic that made the shot almost foolproof for a touring pro.
The large uphill slope on the back of the green, seemingly well left of the flag was perfect. This allowed Justin to play a low, aggressive pitch with a punch-like trajectory into the hill. The hill absorbed the energy and then gravity took the ball down the slope towards the flag.
If you only saw the last three feet of the shot you would guess it came off of a perfectly stroked putt.
The key to taking advantage of banks and slopes on and around the green is to ensure you can get the ball, without much or any risk, to a point where gravity can control the rest of the shot. That area is called the zero point.
We call it that because the ball should have zero energy left when it arrives there. From that spot, the ball is moved by an outside force that is constant, gravity. Be sure to imagine and visualize the speed the ball will pick up as it falls back down the slope; this will help you gauge how far up a slope you need to make the ball travel.
NOTE: many players do not realize the easier par putt will come from getting the ball below the hole, which means don’t be shy when pitching into a bank. The last thing we want to do is barely get the ball high enough and we are left with a lengthy downhill putt.