Reading a green correctly can be difficult, especially on a course that we do not play every day. Reading greens can seem hard, even on our home course, if we are a golfer who struggles to visualize the break of the ball.
There are green reading professionals and certifications that believe they have the best method to reading greens, such as a system called AimPoint. I am not AimPoint certified, but have learned some through their knowledge, third-hand. They have taken the scientific research of green reading, and turned it into a practical application while playing a round of golf. Since I am getting the information third-hand, this article is not about AimPoint. I bring them up to share the heightened level of importance green reading has become to competitive golfers. Let us discuss two elements of green reading, and one way that helps getting the ball started on the line you intend.
Where do you look at each putt from? There are some players who walk 360-degrees around the hole, and the golf ball, to determine the line. The 360-degree view can put many more questions into a golfer’s head than answers. The places to look at a putt are from behind the golf ball, and the low point of the green just outside the line of the putt. The golfer should stand on the low side far enough back have a good view of the greens contour, in the vicinity of the putt’s estimated path.
It is important to determine the “apex” of the putt when reading the green. I believe the biggest mistake golfers make is determining the incorrect apex. Many determine the apex, and starting line just like Jordan Spieth does in Illustration 1. Believe me, Jordan did not write this Golf Digest article, so believe me I am not picking on the best putter in the world. However, when Jordan Spieth’s name is on a golf tip people pay attention. Most of us look at the halfway point of the putt, and determine an apex, or high point. This is how many golfers determine their intended starting point, just like the illustration with Jordan.
The definition of apex is, the top or highest part of something. What we fail to calculate is that with most putts, the highest point is in the first few feet of the putt. As seen in the illustration the putt breaks before it gets to the so-called “apex.” If a putt only breaks one way the apex, or high point, is usually just in front of the golf ball. Try to visualize the entire putt to determine an apex, and then pick a line. Do not just look in the middle of the putt to determine a starting line.
Hopefully now it is very obvious that the illustration makes no sense. The blue line is giving us the path that the ball needs to travel to go in the hole. However, the article is giving us a starting line that does not match the blue lines starting point. Be careful when you read golf tips in magazines, like “How to Fix Your Slice,” “How to Read Greens,” or “How to Gain More Power,” because they can be dangerous to your game. As a friend of mine says, “Don’t drink the juice.” Do not assume everything is true, even if the best golfer in world has his name attached to the article or product.
Lastly, let us talk about getting the ball starting on the correct line. Should you use a line on the ball or not to help see the starting line when addressing the putt? I have heard many different views on this subject. Such as, if a golfer is a visual person they should not use a line, and if they are not a visual person they should use a line. I have a different opinion, which is if using a line helps, or even makes you think it helps, then do it. If it confuses you, you do not trust it, or you do not think it helps, do not use a line on the ball for help. If you do use a line make sure it does not take a half-hour to line the ball up each time (just a pet peeve).
The most important aspect of putting is confidence. If a grip, technique, system, or thought makes you feel like you are going to make more putts…do it. Go see your local PGA professional for help with reading the greens, and getting the ball started on the correct line.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.