How to Putt on Florida Golf Courses

    By Tim McDonald

    We're getting into the time of year when Florida golf courses will soon be flooded with snowbirds. You veteran snowbirds probably know all about how playing Florida golf courses can be very different from playing those in the cold, cold north.

    The primary difference is the greens. Down here in the Deep South, most courses use Bermuda grass on the greens. Bentgrass, traditionally known as the Cadillac of putting surfaces, doesn't do well in a warm, humid climate.

    The difference between the two is bentgrass grows vertically. You essentially putt on its tips, which makes for smooth, true rolls.

    Bermuda, on the other hand, tends to follow the sun. What this means is that in addition to reading the slope and undulation of the greens, you now have to read the grain. Are you putting into the grain, which will be slower, or with the grain, which will be faster? And if you're putting across the grain, how much will it affect your putt?

    Look for light and dark areas. The light areas, sometimes appearing shiny in the sun, means you're seeing the back of the grass blades. Your putt will be faster.

    The dark areas are where the grain is sloping toward you; you're seeing the front of the blades. Your putt will be slower.

    If you're putting across the grain, assume your putt will be affected 10-30 percent, depending on the slope of the green.

    Another way to read the grain is to look at the grass growing at the lip of the cup. You will probably see an area with a brownish tint and an area with healthy, green grass. This means the grain is growing from the green part of the cup to the brown part. That's the direction of the grain.

    Or, as a more general rule, just be aware of the position of the sun.

    All this has changed somewhat over the past decade or so, with the introduction of various Bermuda hybrids, but you will still have to read Bermuda if you want to sink more putts.

    There's your Florida putting primer. No charge.