Get your eyes close to the ground.
How To Read A Green
By KorryFranke on 9/14/07
Reason number 237 that golf course designers are evil people: putting greens that aren't level! If only we could convince these architects to design golf courses like a nice pool table with a perfectly level surface, our lives would be much simpler. But nooooo... these designers want to be tricky. They want to challenge us so they build in contours, both small and large, that cause our ball to curve this way and that on its path to the hole. Well what fun is that? I mean, putting in a straight line often seems like a challenge for me. Now you add slopes and curves? Well actually, it can be a lot of fun!
Reading a green definitely takes practice and patience. Just like other areas of the game, your ability to read a green improves with experience. That said, however, there are several ways to help figure out how to read a green accurately and it begins with stepping onto the putting green before the first tee.
Generally speaking, we can affect the path of our putts in two ways: speed and direction. Speed varies greatly from course to course and even day to day. Factors such as grass length, moisture, and slope are some of the biggest influences on a putt's speed. As grass length, moisture (think dew or rain), and slope increase, a green's speed decreases requiring a firmer putt. And while speed may vary from one green to the next, a great way to help gauge the average speed for a course is to spend a few minutes putting on the practice green before teeing off on number 1.
In my opinion, the more challenging component of making accurate putts is reading the break of a green, left or right, and thus determining in what direction to start your putt. To do this, you need to develop an idea of the contour of the green. In other words, you need to know the lay of the land. You can begin this process as you hit your approach shot. Pay close attention to how the ball rolls once it hits the green, especially as it slows down. Look at the surrounding land to see if the overall slope is left to right or right to left. Then, once you are on the green, stand behind your putt and bend down. The closer your eyes are to the putting surface, the easier it is to determine the contour of the green and the easier it will be for you to determine subtle differences in the break of the green from left to right. Another technique is to look at the putt from the opposite direction, in other words from the hole to the ball. This is especially useful if it's a downhill putt because standing on the other side looking uphill means that your eyes are even closer to the putting surface and will therefore be even better at picking up the green's subtleties. Some players use the plumb bob method where they hold their putter in front of their face letting gravity pull the club straight down. This allows them to see which side of the green is higher and which side is lower, especially when looking at a green with very subtle break. Be warned, however, that some authors in my research believe the plumb bob technique to be more a way for the golfer to focus than to actually read the green. Hey, whatever works!
The important part is for you to determine a pattern for yourself and be consistent. Key into a green's subtle contours by visualizing in your head the path your ball will take across the green. Watch the putts of other players. And, more than anything, practice, practice, practice!!
Email Korry your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Korry Franke is a Boeing 757 and 767 pilot for Continental Airlines where he flies out of Newark, NJ to destinations across the US and around the globe. He lives in Bethlehem, PA where he spends most of his time on days off at the driving range or out on the golf course giving his game the practice it so desperately needs.
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Thanks Korry - I hate practicing.
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