A putt can be thrown off course by the slightest of perturbations, something the women’s golf team learned all too well this weekend.

The Bulldogs finished third out of 14 teams at Columbia’s Roar-EE Invitational with a score of 988 over 54 holes. Brigham Young took first place while Harvard finished second, 23 strokes ahead of the Elis. The Bulldogs, however, did finish ahead of Princeton, Columbia and Brown, who finished in sixth, seventh and 13th places, respectively.

Ellie Brophy ’08 led the Bulldogs individually, finishing in ninth place with a score of 242. Taylor Lee ’10 and Natasha Spackey ’09 also played well, tying for 22nd place, 10 strokes behind Brophy.

The story of the tournament was the poor greens conditions, which challenged players so much that only two players finished in the 70s on the par-71 course during the first round on Saturday. Lindsay Hong ’08, one of Yale’s top two golfers, finished a whopping 27-over during the first round before coming back to post solid scores the next two days.

The problem with the greens stemmed from the aeration method used at the course, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Greens are aerated in order to loosen compacted soil resulting from golfers’ walking over them, allowing room for roots to grow, oxygen to enter the soil and the grass to remain alive. The Yale Golf Course and most other courses around the nation aerate greens by coring, creating little holes seen by golfers on the green.

“Most courses normally just punch holes out of the greens, but this course makes lines in the green,” Brophy said.

These lines are made through a process called “verticutting” during which lateral growth in the grass is removed, allowing grass to grow better. For golfers, this process creates ridges across the entire green and nightmares in deciphering how a ball will break over the ridge.

“The long ridges made reading the greens and judging the breaks difficult,” Hong said.

The Bulldogs and the rest of the field discovered as much immediately on the first day as the putting struggles mounted.

“I had two four-putts on the first day,” Cassie Boles ’11 said. “Poor putting cost me at least five strokes on the second day as well.”

Eli players described the way the ball often took unexpected turns on its path to the hole, or even increased in speed, resulting in missed putts.

“On a long putt, the ball would break left two feet [as expected] and then hit a ridge and break right two feet,” Brophy explained. “On downhill putts, the ridges could make our ball take off like a roller coaster.”

The putting struggles often came at the end of otherwise solid driving and irons performances by the Elis.

“When you are hitting solid iron shots and getting onto greens, it’s tough to end the hole in a three- or four-putt,” Boles said.

Overall, players said they thought the unique challenges the greens presented skewed the scoring of the tournament not only away from par but also among the players themselves.

“The course was not a good indication of the skills of the players,” Hong said. “Talented players played poorly while less skilled players had better rounds.”

Despite the big numbers posted by the team, the Elis remain positive about their performance over the weekend and consider the tournament to be a fluke on the record of an otherwise self-described good putting team.

“Everyone has forgotten about the problem and has stayed true to their putting stroke,” Boles said.

With the Ivy League Championships looming this weekend, the Bulldogs turn to studying Atlantic City Country Club, a course they think will work in their favor, Brophy said. She said the course’s length will play to the advantage of the long-hitting Elis.

Of course, the greens should also be in better shape as well.

“You spend all season long working for [the Ivy League Championships],” Brophy said. “You have 54 holes of golf and you have to bring it.”