Don’t let breaking putts on Maui break you

In the 1989 fantasy-drama, Field of Dreams, the prophetic phrase, “If you build it, he will come.” was born.

And for the last dozen years, it  has been bastardized into many forms.  In my product marketing world, I am reminded of this adage far too often.  Software engineers often believe, “If we build it, they will come” (“They” being customers).  If that were true, I’d be out of a job 😉

I can’t really blame them, however, for thinking like that.  I’m just as guilty.  In my weekend-warrior golf world, I believe, “If I will it, it will drop.”  I know that I’m living a fantasy when I think this, but I also have experienced that rare feeling of looking at a putt and knowing it’s going to go in.  I’m willing it to go in and I just know it will.  Have you had those feelings before?  Don’t you wish we could call upon those wills at will?

Watching the Aloha-ha-ha-ha season kick off in Maui last weekend and seeing Snedeker miss a two-footer, I was reminded about how putting on Maui is nothing to laugh about.  Kapalua may be one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour from tee to green, but those greens make up for any gimme-birdies the pros are already thinking about from the fairways.  Maui greens are brutal, no doubt about it.

Par 3 8th hole at Kapalua

But…there is hope for those who follow a few basic tips…

Start reading your putts long before you approach the green.  

The slope you’ll see from afar will seem to disappear when you get up on the putting surface.  It’s amazing how often I see people walk up to the green, look down and around to figure out which way the ball will break.

5th green at Kapalua looks pretty flat when you are close to it.

But don’t forget what it looked like from down there.

And invariably they will be completely flabbergasted when their ball wizzes past the hole, or doesn’t get even close to it, or breaks opposite to what they expected. 

When you get up to your ball on the green, mark it and walk up to the hole and look straight down.  The hole will tell you exactly how the ball will roll.

Look for the roughest edge on the hole and you will see how the grain runs. 

Putts coursing towards the rough edge from the other side of the hole will be lightening speed! Those moving towards the smooth edge will be as slow as Kevin Na’s pre-shot routine.

Once you know the way the grain runs, stand at the hole and look up at the mountain to the east and the water to the west.  Your ball will always run with the grain and the grain always runs towards the ocean.

It’s very easy to get misinformation by just looking down and around the contours of the dance floor.  Myopic golfers beware; those little hills and valleys you perceive are there to reek havoc with your decision making.  Remember, they are optical illusions.  Have faith in the big picture to see how your putts with roll.

Now you know the pace and the line.  So forget everything else and hit your ball the way Mother Nature intended.

This is the hardest part.  Your mind is battling with conflicting information, but when you step up to your ball, there can be no doubt in your stroke.  Just like a pilot trusts his instruments, you must hit your putt with conviction based on “just the facts maam!”.

The great part about putting at Kapalua, and Ka’anapali or any of the other great golf courses on Maui, is that if you putt on the line determined by the grain, at a pace dictated by the world around you, not the boundaries of the green, the ball will go in.

It takes a lot of trust and practice to putt well on Maui, so don’t beat yourself up if you suddenly find yourself lining up your 3rd or 4th putt.

And, when you walk off a green on the Valley Isle, don’t trudge towards the golf cart with your head down, chastising yourself for yet another bogey. 

Instead, hold your head high and look back from whence you came. 

Often the best views on Maui golf courses are the ones behind you.

Look back from the 11th green before heading to 12 at Kapalua.

If you do that, soon your golf score won’t seem so important and you’ll remember why you’re there in the first…to PLAY with a PURPOSE.  And that purpose is PURE PLEASURE!


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