Mastering the Skill of Reading Putting Greens
Reading putting greens is one of the hardest skills in golf to master
Even if you have perfected your putting stroke and distance control, you will end up missing the target most of the time if you are having problems reading greens. The ability to effectively read greens is more of an art then a science. Sure, it involves the laws of physics, but without instruments available to take accurate measurements, we're back to the art of guessing.
Reading putting greens can be broken up into the following components:
Slope of the Green
During your approach survey the entire area of the green along with the immediate surrounding areas. This perspective allows you get a great idea on the general slope of the green. Take note of what the overall contours are like. Is the green basically flat or does it have ridges, valleys or multiple tiers? Once on the green, you can identify the more subtle contours of the green itself.
The slope and contours on a green determine the path a ball will take while obeying the laws of gravity. On a side slope the ball with always turn towards the lowest point. On a downhill putt the ball needs to be struck with less momentum. This causes gravity to act upon the ball sooner along its path towards the hole. So for downhill putts we need to allow for more break. Uphill putts are much easier because they have less break. This is due to the increase in momentum of the strike required to hit the ball up the hill. With the increase in momentum, the ball will roll through much of the break.
You can get a good indication regarding the condition of the green while walking on it. If the green feels wet and soft it tells you that the pace of the green is going to be slow, so you will need to hit your putts a little firmer. If the green is dry and hard it tells you that the green will be faster and you will not have to strike the ball as firm. Remember for a faster green, you need to account for more borrow.
''The faster the green (downhill) = less momentum = more break' and
'The slower the green (uphill) = more momentum = less break.'
Grain refers to the direction in which the blades of grass grow. The way the grain runs on the putting green can have a significant impact on the speed and borrow of your putts. One method in determining the grain of the green is by looking at the sheen or color of the grass. A shiny sheen or light color indicates the grain is with you (putting down grain). A dull sheen or darker color indicates the grain is against you.
The grain dictates the amount of resistance placed on the ball as it rolls. Speed will increase going down grain but the amount of break will lessen. Speed will decrease going into the grain but increase the amount of break.
Check the line from all Angles
It is a good idea to look at the putt from at least three sides: behind the ball, behind the hole, and the low side of the hole. These three looks give your mind the best information on the break of the putt.
When reading putting greens, you will get a more accurate picture when you are standing in a lower area looking uphill. Check from the side of the green if you have an uphill or downhill putt. This provides the best perspective for determining the speed of the ball. Behind the ball is the best place to take a final look.
Envision the Path
Never hit the golf ball until you have formed a vision of the path the ball will travel. Your goal is to visualize your putt as a straight line because the slope of the green is what will make your ball curve. Pick out a spot that represents the apex of the break, now to reach this point, just try to putt your ball over a spot three inches in front of your ball.
Finally, do not make your stroke until you have the best read you can get and then commit to it. It can be disastrous if you begin to second -guess yourself while your taking your stroke.
Good reading putting greens comes with experience. After putting over enough different greens, you will develop a sixth sense of how the ball will roll.
I hope you have found these tips useful. Good luck in all your golfing adventures!
About the Author
Randy Raasch has been in golf for over thirty years. His website, Golf-Fever shares information and products that are sound and easy. If you are looking for great Putting Tips to improve your game of golf, visit: http://www.golf-fever.com/Putting/PuttingTips.html. In addition you will receive a free report 'The Art of Reading Greens'.