How to read greens more effectively

Published 08/03/2010 06:42:24

Drive for show, putt for dough. One of golf's best known axioms. In this guide we'll show you how to sink more putts by reading the green properly every time.


Reading the green

From the moment you hit a shot into the green, start to size up how you will go about sinking the putt. As you walk up the fairway, try to judge the slope and the general lie of the land.

Is the green on flat land, or part of a ridge that falls away from a hill? Is there water nearby, and do the natural contours lead in that direction? If it has been raining heavily, which way does the land drain?

Once you get closer, start to analyse the slopes on the green itself, plus the colour and coarseness of the grass to gauge the speed of the green. On hot summer days, the time might dictate the speed - later on it will be slower due to longer grass and the heavier air.

Finally, unless you are putting first, spend any free time practising your strokes. Then, if you can, watch how others hit their strokes, and how the ball moves along the green. Just make sure not to hold others up with slow play.


Speed, slope and run

Everything described above amounts to a method for judging the speed, slope and run of the green - information vital to making a putt. Those are the three key words in learning how to read greens, and becoming a putter - speed, slope and run.


Picture gallery

Before you can hope to lower your scores significantly, you have to put in the time on the practice range. This is more true of putting than of anything else in golf.

By the time you reach the green during play, you should have logged countless hours hitting putts of all shapes and sizes. That way, once you hit the course, you will be prepared for almost anything, and you will have compiled a mental picture gallery that you can refer back to.

However, that's only half the battle. Here's how to conquer the other half.


First glance

How much will your putt break? If at all.

  • Start by squatting behind your ball and taking a visual cue.
  • Walk back to the hole and try to visualise the line from there back to the ball, taking a sideways look on the way.
  • Return to the ball to get a good sense of what lies inbetween.
  • Once you understand the break, overplay it. A common mistake is not giving enough break and missing the hole on the underside. If you break too far, you have a greater chance of seeing the ball drop as it comes from the top.

Last turn

Next, consider the speed. THe ball will break more on fast greens than on slow ones, because there is less friction to slow it down. So play more break on a fast green, and watch how the ball starts to curve more as it dies near the hole.

Downhill putts have even more speed and break.


Distance dictates

When playing uphill putts, you must tell yourself to hit the ball harder.

This is quite often difficult to do, and is similar to playing on a slow green after a fast one. Often some mental or physical inhibition just will not let us loosen up in these situations, and some golfers consistently leave such putts short.

So again, try to visualise hitting the ball past the hole or charging it. Of course, don't hammer the ball, always hit with a smooth stroke, letting the length of the putt dictate the distance the ball travels.


Colourful clue

Finally, consider the grain, or the direction in which the grass lies, on the green. The longer and thicker it is, the more it will affect your putt.

How does grain affect your play? A putt hit downgrain will run faster and further than one hit upgrain. And if the grain runs across the line of your putt, the ball will break more in the direction the grain is running, and less so the other way.

You can tell which way the grain is running by its colour. If it looks light or has a sheen, you are looking down the grain. If it is dark and coarse, you are looking up the grain.


Get sinking

Hopefully this guide will help you to judge putts on tricky greens more effectively. It's not an easy task, and one that only comes with time and practice. Good luck.

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