Die or Firm?

By Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

There are two ways to putt:  1) Die the ball into the cup using the curve of the green and 2) Firm the ball into the cup so that every putt strikes the back of the hole. Depending on the circumstances, you should use them both. Following is an explanation of the benefits of dying and firming your putt – with the emphasis on firm for the average player.

One advantage of the “dying” putt is that there are three entrances the slowly moving ball can use to fall into the cup – the front of the cup and the two sides. And, if you miss, your ball always finishes next to the hole ready for an easy tap-in.  But there are some disadvantages to the dying putt method. With only a slight miscalculation, the dying putt won’t reach the cup – especially on Bermuda grass. Greens are usually cut early in the morning and late in the day, and, because the grass has time to grow, it’s tough to judge the speed of a dying putt. Also, because of its slow speed, the ball is easily knocked off line by imperfections in the green. Note: Blades of grass don’t grow at the same speed, and, the later in the day it is, the longer the grass has been growing at its uneven rate; so even though you may not be able to see them with the naked eye, there may be subtle effects due to growing time that alters speed and break.

The advantages of the “firm” putt are that it eliminates/reduces the break, and, because of its speed, the ball holds its line despite green imperfections. The disadvantages are that if you hit it just a tad too hard, the size of the hole is effectively reduced, because the ball is moving too fast to go in the side door, and, if it misses the cup, you’ll have some work left on your next putt.  This type of putt is most effective on uphill putts and poor putting surfaces. Note: If you’re a firm putter you’d better be a good short-putter to convert those come-backers.

Be advised that I’m not advocating you smash your ball 10 feet by the cup trying to be a firm putter. The “optimum speed” putt stops about 15 inches past the hole if you miss. Hunter Mahan is one of the PGA Tour’s most aggressive putters.  Please remember that tour pros who die the ball in the hole play on perfect, very fast greens, while the greens most amateurs play on are much slower, and bumpier. Under these conditions when you hit a “dying” putt, it can easily be knocked off line. Charl Schwartzel is an international player who dies the ball in the hole.


To be a good putter, you should use both the die and firm techniques, so make sure to practice both skills every time you practice your putting. Use the “dying” putt for long putts with a lot of break, downhill putts and when the greens are fast. The rest of the time it’s best to be firm. And here is the Big Concept – whichever approach you choose, stay committed to the stroke.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.