Leaning on putter can damage putting greens


Dear Frank,
For years I have seen the pros lean on their putter when getting the ball out of the cup!
After a full day of 'leaners,' I would think that the putting surface around each hole would have a 'doughnut depression.'
Do the pros have any idea that they might be causing harm to the green?
' Ken

I have for some time been very concerned about the unintentional and almost invisible damage caused to the green when we drop the flag or lean on our putters. Leaning on your putter to take the ball out of the hole can apply a force as much as 200 psi (pounds per square inch) to the putting surface, and this causes quite a bit of damage ' not quite as much as walking near the hole wearing high heels, but bad enough.
In the etiquette section of the Rules of Golf under Preventing Unnecessary Damage, it states that players should avoid inflicting damage to the green when setting down their bag or the flagstick. They should not stand too close to the hole when tending the flag or removing the ball. It also specifically states that, Players should not lean on their putters when on the putting green, particularly when removing the ball from the hole.
How many times have we dropped the flag on the green, instead of gently placing it on the putting surface?
Depending on the moisture content and type of soil, the dropping of the flag will leave a slightly indented furrow on the green which may not recover for hours. This could cause a ball to be diverted from its intended path, depending on how this furrow ' not often visible ' lines up with line of the putt.
When we stand on the green ' depending on the size of our feet and our weight ' we are exerting a force on the green of approximately three to four pounds per square inch (psi) under both feet, which is not enough to cause any damage. When we take a step the heel of our leading foot can exert a force of about 60 psi or more when contacting the surface. Most of us have noticed a heel print on a soft wet green, especially in the evening when the sun is low and casting a long shadow. This indentation will recover in a relatively short period of time, but could still affect the putts of the next several groups if the steps were on the putting line.
When removing the ball from the hole you can put 40 to 50 pounds on the putter in trying to keep your balance. Most of the time during this ballet-like pose, only the putter toe is in contact with the green, and if it's a blade putter you could be applying as much as 200 psi to the green surface. Even half of this force will cause damage, which will definitely affect the direction of a rolling ball as it slows down around the hole.
It could mean the difference between winning or second place in the U.S. Open or your club championship.
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Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to helping golfers. Frank is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
Frank Thomas