One of the first pearls of wisdom that every new golfer acquires is that on the putting green there is a “pro” side of the hole and an “amateur” side. Professional golfers always miss the hole on the uphill side, so the wisdom goes, and amateurs continually miss on the downhill side. So to have at least something in their game that looks like they’ve been around the block, these golfers will start trying to miss putts on the high side, and every now and then accomplish it.
The reason for preferring the high-side miss is not hard to understand. A putt that approaches the hole from above might curl in or catch the lip on the way past and fall in. At least there’s a chance, which is not the case with putts that pass by on the downhill side. The only way the ball would then go in the hole would be to stop and head back uphill. I’ve never seen that happen and I doubt I ever will.
Miss on the high side, not the low side. Case closed. Or is it?
Remember that all this makes a difference when our object is to have the ball fall into the hole. While we would like every putt to do that, most golfers distinguish between putts that are makable and ones they lag up to the hole for an easy second. How long is a sidehill putt that most recreational golfers would consider makable? Eight feet? Ten? After a point, the goal becomes leaving the ball close. For those putts, the pro side and amateur side change places.
The purpose of a lag putt is to leave the ball close to the hole, AND in a spot where the next putt is as easy as possible. If you miss on the high side and leave it on the high side, or leave yourself with a sidehill comebacker, you haven’t helped yourself out. A putt that goes straight uphill, which you earn by missing on the low side of the hole, would be much easier. Depending on the slope, three feet straight uphill could be a more inviting play than a downhill slider of half that length. Then again it might not be, but thought needs to be given.
The point of any golf shot, from tee to green, is to leave the ball in the best place for the next shot. Indeed, we might not even be talking about putting. If you have a greenside chip of about 50 feet, you aren’t thinking of holing out, but of leaving yourself with an easy putt for the up and down. If there is a downhill side near the hole, that’s where you would want to leave your chip.
Guidelines are only guidelines. Wisdom is not a command. The fine points of playing golf serve merely to lead our thinking along relevant lines. We must never forget the primary rule of course management: look at the course and adjust to what is there.