I’m sitting here watching Tiger Woods drain a 20 foot putt for birdie and wondering how the pros learn how to read a golf green.
One of the most frustrating things in golf is reaching the green in regulation, only to bogey because you didn’t read the putt correctly. Reading the green is about taking the time to walk your putt, find the breaks, and judge the speed. Put all of this together with a solid routine, and you will be putting better than ever. At least that’s what the pros do.
Putting well is all about having confidence in what you are doing on the green. Let’s talk about all the things that go into getting a solid putting game. Then you will see your scores start dropping.
How to Walk the Putt
Many amateur golfers act like they are eager to get off the green. It’s almost as if there is a fear of being there and having the lack of golf game exposed. Let’s get something clear, there is no time limit on the green. Of course, we don’t want to hold up play, but a solid putting routine is not time intensive.
Here is a common amateur golf routine. Walk to the ball, take a few steps behind it, squat, take a few practice swings, and putt. End up hitting either way short or way long. The crazy thing is we repeat this process on the second putt. That’s where three putts happen.
Walk your putt. What does that mean? Mark your ball and take a walk to the hole. This allows you to judge the distance and get a feel. While you are walking the putt pay attention to your feet. Do you notice any angles? Are you walking uphill or downhill? This short walk will tell you a lot.
Make sure to walk past the hole a few feet. Turn back and face your ball. Look for the break around the hole. Imagine the hole fills up with water. If it ran over, what direction would the water run? That will tell you a lot about the break near the hole.
The green can be deceiving. Especially when we are looking at a longer putt. We can’t see a lot of the detail and the length is often more than we think. Putting is the only stroke in the game where the actual ground effects the entire shot. Most shots we are looking for a landing spot. We look out for hazards, sand and water and rough, and are setting up our next shot to the green. The ball will roll, but the nuances of the fairway are not really on our radar. We can’t walk the fairway before we drive or hit an iron. Take the minute to walk your putt.
How To Read A Green for Speed and Break
Putting greens always sloped so that rain water will run off of them. It’s just a design for water drainage but it can tell you a lot about where your putt may roll. This is similar to imagining the cup on green filling with water. Which direction will the water flow when it comes out?
When you walk or pace out your putt, look for the apex of the break. Walk to the apex and judge the distance. This will give you a good idea of where to hit to get the break right.
Looking at the grain of the grass is something that many amateurs will not think of doing. If the green has a sheen to it and is lighter green, it means the grass is bending in the direction of your putt. This will increase the speed of your putt. If the green is darker, the bend is against the putt, resulting in a slower roll.
Reading a green takes practice. The more you do it, following this routine, the more confident you will be in your putting. If you haven’t done so already, you can also check out our reviews of the best putters on the market including the best for beginners, seniors, Blade, Mallet, and Center shaft putters.
What to Expect When You Come Up To the Green
Reading a green should start when you are walking up to the green. Take a close look at any slope or undulations. Is the green tiered? If you landed on the green from far away you can look for the landing divot and then track how the ball rolled. If anyone is chipping onto the green from close, pay attention to how the ball breaks.
We have touched on this before, but it’s also important to look at clues left from any approach shot. Sometimes the green has dew on it and you can see the path of the roll. How far away is your ball from the divot? Look for any clues.
If your ball is uphill to the pin, you can hit a bit more aggressively. If your ball is downhill to the pin, you need a bit more touch. In general, uphill putts are better for you because you can go at the hole more and be on the offense.
Have A Solid Putting Routine
We know by now that confidence is key in putting. The golfer must know his attack and be sure of his stroke when on the green. A routine will give you that confidence.
Routines are scattered through our everyday lives. Most of us have a morning / night routine. Routines when we get to work. Sometimes these routines just happen and we fall into them. However, it’s a lot better when a routine is deliberate. It’s especially important to have a deliberate routine when looking for a certain result. Your result here is getting the ball in the hole.
All we have gone over so far is part of the putting routine, but let’s drill down to what you do around the ball.
You have walked the putt and seen the break. You have a good idea about the pace of the putt. Now you have to address the ball with confidence.
Routine will help you gain confidence every single time you step up to the green.
Here are a Few Key Parts to a Putting Routine.
Pick a spot on your putt path about six feet from the start of your putt. This gives you a good spot to aim for that aligns with the break. You can’t aim for the hole, unless it’s a straight putt. So track your read, then pick a spot near your ball and aim.
Visualize your putt. This is important. See where the ball is going in your mind. What is the speed? How does it break? Take a few seconds and see it. Then judge your actual putt versus what you saw in your mind. How can you adjust?
Always stand with the ball slightly forward from the middle of your stance. Then keep your eye on the back of the ball and strike the middle of the putting blade. Stay in your putt with your eyes and head staying on where the ball was for seconds after the strike. Don’t come up too soon.
This routine will follow all of what came before this section. Reading the green from the walk up through the putt. This all becomes your routine.
Put it All Together
“Drive for show and putt for dough.” Ever heard that saying? You can crush off the tee and have an excellent iron play, but to really score low, you have to putt well. Putting is a mind game almost as much as it’s physical.
Confidence is key. Looking for details will be rewarded. Understanding how the green works will lead to cleaner putts.
Putting is the mental part of golf and one where repetition is key. Many people will hit balls at the driving range and almost ignore their putting game. Don’t ignore the most important aspect of your golf game. You don’t even have to pay for buckets of balls. You can practice at home with your stroke. There is no excuse for not working on your putting.
Take what we talked about in this article and work it. Set up a putting practice schedule for yourself. Several of the writers at PG Golf Links have seen drastic improvement in their putting percentages just by putting in some time. Do the same, and soon enough you will see your three putts giving way to two putts and the occasional one putt.