Reading putting greens correctly is key to putting well. All putts start out straight, but the green’s contour moves the ball as it loses speed. If you’re going to start making more birdies and par saves then you must learn how to read greens.
Reading a green’s slope comes with experience, like a lot of things in golf. The more you play, the better you’ll become at it. Here are 5 tips to make more putts.
Tip #1: Determine the Speed of the Greens
The green’s slope determines the degree of break on a putt. How much the putt breaks depends on two factors: the ball’s speed and the green’s speed. In the summer, the ball tends to break more because the grass is shorter than in the winter, making the green faster. In the winter, the ball tends to break less because the grass is longer than in the summer, making the green slower. Take note of how fast or slow the greens are the next time you play. Get used to the difference between them.
Tip #2: Assess Your Surroundings
Study a green as you approach it from the fairway yields a wealth of information. In general, a green tends to slope more one way than another does. Take an overview of the green as you approach it to determine its slope. Note which way it slopes. Also, check to see if the grass is cut with the putt, in which case the grass will appear lighter, or against the putt, in which case the grass will appear darker.
Pay attention to streams or lakes next to the green. A good course architect will have the green sloping towards the water. Designing putting greens this way will allow the water to drain from the putting green during a rain storm.
Identify any hills or major mountain ranges within the area. Greens will slope away from those landmarks.
Pay attention to sand bunkers around the green. Again, a good course designer is going to make sure the greens drain properly. A course designer does not want the sand traps to be filled with water after a rain storm, so the greens will be designed to slope away from a sandtrap.
Take note of any drains near the greens. Putting greens are going to slope towards these drains.
Tip #3: Practice Your Lag Putts
Learning to make long-range putts is difficult enough without adding slopes or borrows. Adding slopes between the ball and the hole takes long range putting to another level of difficulty. The best way to learn how to putt in this situation is to practice it. Try this drill to improve your long-range putting. Stand on one side of the green and putt the ball all the way over to the other side. Try to get the ball as close to the green’s fringe as possible, without going off the green Make a game of it with your friends. This is also a great way to improve your speed control.
Tip #4: Play every putt as if it were straight
One way to deal with slopes is to play every putt as if it were straight. When dealing with a sharply sloping green, identify the putt’s breaking point—the exact spot wide of the hole indicating the amount of break the ball will take. Then putt the ball straight to it. If you have the correct speed, the ball will break at the right moment and dive into the cup.
Tip #5: Deaden the impact on downhill putts
Most golfers would rather putt a ball uphill than downhill, especially on a fast green. But if you play a lot of golf, you’ll face a downhill putt on a fast green sooner or later. One way to control the speed is to hit the ball off the putter’s toe or off the putter’s heel, close to the hosel. Either way deadens the ball enough so you can take a somewhat normal putting stroke without hitting the ball well past the hole. Which approach you adopt is a matter of personal choice.
These five tips on reading putting greens will help you learn to read the slopes on greens faster. But no golf instruction, whether golf lesson or golf tip, can teach you how to putt well. Only practice can do that. Remember improving your putting is the fastest way to lower your score.