Nailing that putt with a single stroke requires reading the greens correctly. It is not difficult but something that takes practice. A good golfer is never hurried but studies the greens from various angles, and then strokes the putt with a higher chance of success.
To read golf greens for speed and break, you need to find the straight putt so that you have an overall idea of how the green breaks. Next, you can examine the green to get a feeling of the slope.
Then examine the green from around the hole as well as from where you marked your ball. Finally, visualize the path the ball will follow. This will help you make a better estimation of how the ball will travel.
For a golfer, four things matter:
- The pace
- The estimation of the line of the ball
- Mental focus
- A Confident Stroke with the intention of making it
The golfer can control the force with which they hit as well as their mental state, but how the ball will behave and interact with the green can only be guessed. The accuracy of the prediction of the path of the ball will mainly depend on experience and some luck as well.
To mitigate the uncertainty, a golfer has to gain experience in reading the greens. Here are some 5 ways in which you can get started reading the greens for speed and break.
5 Tips to Read Greens for Speed and Break
Step 1 – Find the straight putt
Walk around the putt in a fairly wide radius to get an awareness of the point where you can get a straight putt. You can make any point a straight putt by determining your line. You want to putt to the spot that is the top of the break, so then the ball can begin rolling towards the hole.
Step 2 – Gauge the slope of the green
No green is perfectly flat. Take a close look at the green and gauge the overall direction of the slope. The best way to do this is to look at the direction the green is sloped as you walk onto it, and walk slowly to the hole and then back again. This way, you get a view from the hole, the side angles, and where you are hitting the ball from.
Step 3 – View the green from around the hole
While standing near the hole, take note of even the slightest slope change that you can identify. To see the slopes and undulations around the hole, walk around it slowly. This will give you a better perspective on the overall nature of the green. Inspect arrears that appear uneven.
The slope is by far the greatest factor, but also, you need to watch out for the type of grass. Bermuda grass may create greater resistance to the ball than regular grass. Notice the direction in which the blades of grass have grown. Grass can offer resistance if the ball will be moving against the grain. If so, you will need to putt slightly harder to compensate for this..
Step 4 – View the green from where you are going to hit the ball
A glance at the overall slope that lies between you and the hole. The estimation of an approximate area where the ball will roll over should be your “line” or aiming point.
Step 5 – Visualize the path of the ball
Good golfers try to visualize how they will hit the ball and imagine the path of the ball so they can specifically look at problem spots. This helps them predict how the ball will behave when going over these spots. Many golfers envision train tracks or a white line in their minds to get a better idea of how the ball is going to roll at the hole.
The more you run over in your mind how the ball will perform when traveling the green, the more problems and challenges you could find and potentially fix.
Imagine first what will happen if you hit it straight into the hole. What are some problem areas that stand out to you? The greatest deviations happen towards the middle of the path, and that is where you need to widen out the area of your assessment.
Any hidden undulations of the green can have the potential of deviating your ball from its path.
Helpful Tips for Reading the Putting Green:
- Take your time – There is no point in feeling rushed and trying to somehow think of this as a task. You may feel hurried because other golfers are waiting for you to finish. But remember that golf is a game of strategy and patience. So take the time you need. As you become more and more adept at reading the greens, it becomes faster.
- Ask for a second opinion – If you can get the perspective of others, you can compare and contrast with yours and find something you may have gauged wrong or ignored. If you have a caddy, you can ask for their opinion, or you can use a friend or a partner who is with you. Now, remember, unless they are taking equally painstaking efforts as you to read the green, you should not trust them implicitly rather take it as a different perspective to see if you are missing anything.
- Visualization improves with practice – It is good to use an imaginary line that will trace how your hit will drive the ball to the hole. If you can visualize it in detail, you will be able to predict problem areas and estimate the amount of force you need to put in your hit. This will help you also estimate the influence of the slope on the movement of your ball.
- Watch others putt – It is good to watch others play and how their putt is behaving. This will give you a fair idea of the slope and the green, whether it is fast, slow, or bumpy.
- Get into the proper mental state – Get the mental state right – A good golfer knows that focus, concentration, and a certain amount of mindfulness are necessary before you actually take the shot. Some golfers are known to practice specific breath work and mind-calming techniques before they take a shot. They also refuse to be taken up by any anxiety and worry thoughts while taking the shot.
- Master the pace – The pace at which you putt the ball will determine how it handles the various factors on the green. Being able to control your speed is going to have a direct impact on the amount of break in a putt. If you try and jam the ball in the back of the hole, you are going to see much less break compared to a lag putt that you die into the side of the hole.
- Do not overanalyze – You will start seeing issues with the green that actually do not exist or would not be helpful. This is where having a clear head matters because you will know exactly when it’s time to stop analyzing and to confidently shoot the ball.
Green reading is definitely a skill that can have an immediate impact on your scores and handicap. The more confidence a golfer has on the putting green, the more putts you are going to make. A confident putter is a deadly putter!
While practicing reading greens is beneficial, another thing you can do to really improve your putting is to use a Golf green reading book like the one listed below from Strackaline. We bought and used the Strackaline golf reading guides last year for our Country Club and absolutely loved it.
It is not something we use on every hole, but every few holes we find ourself in a position where we don’t know which way the green is going to break. The Strackaline is extremely accurate and has become a vital golf accessory for many golfers at our club.
Check out our review of the Strackaline here.
We were able to secure a 25% discount for all readers on AEC Info.
You can check and see if your course is available here.