Reading Putts

While cor­rect­ly judg­ing the speed of your putts is the most impor­tant fac­tor in avoid­ing three putts, cor­rect­ly deter­min­ing the break of your putts is cru­cial to mak­ing more putts. Scratch and low hand­i­cap golfers rely on mak­ing putts to score low. High hand­i­cap golfers are too incon­sis­tent to score low, but mak­ing putts can off­set oth­er mis­cues and help in shoot­ing 90. Strokes with your put­ter make up a big­ger part of your score than any oth­er club. Know­ing how to judge the break of your putts is nec­es­sary for sink­ing more putts.

The first key to mak­ing more putts is to know the speed of the greens. Vis­it the prac­tice green before your round. Hope­ful­ly it is a sim­i­lar speed to the course greens. Take a cou­ple balls and putt from 5, 10 and 15 feet. Final­ly putt to a few dif­fer­ent  spots on the edge of the fringe. Putting to the fringe is a great way to con­firm you have a good idea of the speed of the green.

It is also impor­tant to know the over­all ter­rain of the golf course. If there are moun­tains near­by, every green will most like­ly slope away from them. Like­wise, the greens will most like­ly slope towards the low­est point in the area. The greens on most cours­es will slope down from the back to the front. As you walk up to each green on the course, use this knowl­edge to exam­ine your upcom­ing putt. Based on where your ball is sit­ting on the green, deter­mine if your putt will be uphill or down­hill and which gen­er­al direc­tion it will break.

When on the green, you will want to look at your putt from mul­ti­ple views. The first thing you need to ver­i­fy if your ball is above or below the hole. The eas­i­est way to do this is to look at both your ball and the hole from a side view. Know­ing whether your putt is uphill or down­hill is impor­tant for both judg­ing the speed and break. The best view to read the break of a putt is from below the hole. So for an uphill putt, you should view the putt from behind the ball look­ing up to the hole. Con­verse­ly, for a down­hill putt, view the putt from behind the hole look­ing up to the ball. If you have the time, look at the putt from above the hole. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple looks at your putt will give you more infor­ma­tion and will help your deci­sion mak­ing. Crouch down and be as low to the green as pos­si­ble when view­ing your putts.

When lin­ing up your putts, you are visu­al­iz­ing the path your ball will take going in the hole. The curve(s) of this path is deter­mined by many fac­tors includ­ing whether the putt is uphill or down­hill, the slope of the green and the speed of the green.

The ball will break more or less depend­ing on how fast it is going. A slow­er mov­ing ball will break more than a faster mov­ing ball. This is because grav­i­ty has a greater affect on an object the slow­er it goes.

It is impor­tant to rec­og­nize cir­cum­stances where your ball will be trav­el­ling more slow­ly and tak­ing more break such as:

Down­hill Putts - You hit your ball more slow­ly on a down­hill putt as it needs less speed to make it to the hole.

Fast Greens - The ball needs less speed to reach the hole on a fast green.

When Approach­ing the Hole - As your ball approach­es the hole, it los­es speed thus being affect­ed more by the slope of the green. Con­verse­ly, your ball will take less break after it is first hit.

Prob­a­bly the hard­est part of a putt with a lot of break is get­ting the ball rolling on your visu­al­ized path with the right speed to keep it on the path. This is where a lot of the “feel” you here about in putting comes into play. Know­ing the right direc­tion and speed for a putt to get it on your visu­al­ized path large­ly comes down to prac­tice and expe­ri­ence. One tip is to putt “around the clock” dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion on the prac­tice putting green. Find a hole on a slope and putt balls from 12 o’clock all the way around back to 12 o’clock. This rep­e­ti­tion will help you hole more putts from these same posi­tions dur­ing play.

Putting is the key for both the pro­fes­sion­al and high hand­i­cap golfer work­ing on shoot­ing 90. Prac­tice read­ing and mak­ing putts with break and you will find your­self sink­ing more on the course.

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