Lessons on Putting Fundamentals

Reading Greens Part One - Chapter 4

Overview: Learning how to putt not only takes a good understanding of putting stroke fundamentals but to master putting one also needs to learn how to effectively read greens. Basically, reading a green involves determining the slope of the green, determining the speed and condition of the putting surface and finally determining your target line and spot to aim for.With practice and an understanding what to look for reading greens can become second nature and well have a big impact on improving your putting game.

First Step is to Survey the Green: Begin by getting a overall lay out of the green from a distance. Start to read the green as you walk up to it from the fairway. This angle gives you a good reading of the green's general slope and the predominant way the ball will break.
  • Determine whether the green is tilting left or right or is it flat.
  • Check for Are any lakes or ponds, balls will normally roll towards water.
  • Also check for mountains nearby, balls will roll away from mountains.
Slanting Green towards Pond
With the green to the right, there is an overall slight tilt towards the pond in the back left foreground.

Another factor to consider based on where the ball is positioned on the green is the overall tilt or slanting and the inner slopes within the overall tilt.

Next step back and try to determine the direction of the grain. 

Determine the Direction of the Grain
If it appears that the grass looks a bit shiny, then this would indicate that the grain is facing away from you and the ball will may roll a faster.

On the other hand, if the grass looks darker, then the grain is facing towards you and the roll will roll slower

Next Step is Determining Slope and Direction: 
Step behind the ball, crouch down and look back toward the hole. Look carefully at the slope of the surface between your golf ball and the hole, and visualize how the ball is likely to turn as it approaches the hole.

Squat behind the Ball
- Get behind the ball and squat down

- Try cupping your hands and visualize the slope. This also helps in blocking out any distractions.

Determine Your Any Breaks
- Start to if there is any breaks and in which direction.

Reverse this angle and look back at your golf ball from behind the hole. This should confirm the slope you saw from the opposite angle. Take a look around the hole itself to see if it slopes from one edge to the other.

- There are seasoned players who can actually picture the entire green as a grid with guide lines running in both directions. 

Visualize a Grid
Next stand to the side of your target line to get a third view. On side hill putts you stand on the low side of the target line between the ball and the hole to analyze the break. You also want to get close the hole and study the last foot around the hole.

As the ball slows down when reaching the hole any slight tilt or direction of the grain well effect the roll.

Also get well behind the hole to get a different angle of the slope of the green. Walk counter clockwise to view the green from the other side. As you are analyzing the green determine where the high point of the break in your putt will be.

Remember that if the green rises from left to right when standing behind the ball then the putt will break left. 

Other Factors to Consider:
  • Strive to read greens quickly so you don't slow up play for others in your group or players behind you.
  • Perform the exact same sequence of green-reading steps each time.
  • You should trust in the line and speed you've chosen for the putt once you are finished reading the green. Uncertainty can cause you to make a tentative stroke that greatly reduces your chance of making the putt.
  • Greens that sustain heavy play can become bumpy from the ball marks caused when golf balls hit the green. Walk your target line before you take your stance and repair any obvious imperfections in the green. 
Understanding Uphill and Downhill Putts: The key point here is that uphill lies will be less effected by breaks and down hill lies will be more effected by the breaks.

Target Line: Once you have completed studying the green you should now have determined your target line and the spot to aim for based on the slope of the green and all of the factors that you have considered. 

Continue to Reading Greens Part Two

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