Check out my new Putting Tips under Tips!
You can do all the putting drills in the world, watch all the video tutorials of how to putt on YouTube, and read all of my articles on becoming a better putter but none of that will help you if you don’t know how to read a green properly. Learning how to read a green properly takes a lot of time and is something that is typically developed through hours of practice, many rounds of playing, and simple trial and error. There are a few things that you can do to optimize your time on the putting green
Oftentimes, people will put too much trust in only squatting down behind the ball. This makes sense because this is what we see the pros do on television. What you don’t see, however, is all of the other information that they are taking in with their caddy. Use the five tips below to learn how to read greens better.
Please don’t use these tips as an excuse to become a slow player. These are meant to be quick snapshots of information or to be assessed while walking/driving up to a green, not to take 20 minutes lining up a putt. As you move through the five tips below, you will notice them become more narrowly focused.
For each description, I have taken pictures from different angles of the same green at my local course to give you an idea of what I'm looking for.
Does the course naturally slope in any certain direction? Are there mountains nearby? Are there lakes or rivers nearby that the course might drain into? Try to find out how the course collects their water off the course. Remember, water drains to low ground. By identifying the natural high and low spots of the course, you can be better equipped to identify the natural sloping of the course.
Stand in the middle of the green. Look at all sides of the green. Which side is the highest? The lowest? Now look about 10-20 yards off the green while standing in the middle of the green. Are there any low areas? Any standing water? Any drains? All of these low areas will give you a good indication of which way the green slopes because that’s the way the water runs.
Look for any obvious mounds or slopes on the green. These obvious slopes will disrupt the natural sloping from the hole topography we learned about above. However, we know that once that slope of the green evens out, the ball will then default to the hole topography again.
Look at a circle about 7 feet all the way around the hole. Try to identify the lowest point of the circle. This tells you the most important thing about the putt, how the ball is going to break closest to the hole. The ball is going to break towards the low point on that 7 foot circle.
If you’re the closest to the hole and others are ready to go, learn from their putts and chips. Even if they don’t have the same line as you, make a mental note which way their putt broke because it’s just another piece of information for your putt! Even if you miss a putt, keep paying attention to how the ball breaks past the hole. If you have a 5 foot putt coming back, you’ll be kicking yourself for not paying attention to the way it broke when you missed.
Plumb Bob - The plumb bob putting technique is used by many pros on tour and helps you decide where you should start your putt in relation to the hole. Check out the first video below for an overview!
AimPoint - AimPoint is being adopted by a number of pros on tour because of its combination of feel and science input. One key component of AimPoint is standing with your feet a bit wider than shoulder length to try and feel different degrees of slope on the green. Check out the second video below for the beginning steps to using the AimPoint system for putting!
The first few times you do these things, it will feel a bit foreign to you. But once you practice them a few rounds, they become second nature. When I’m playing, I do all of these things on autopilot without disrupting the flow of play. I’m just constantly scanning the course and green for information.