Golf techniques for reading greens

Putting Tips on Reading the Green.

Remember 90 percent of long putting is judgement of distance.  But we all know that
the greens can be harsh.  There are two tiered greens, sloping greens, upside down
plate greens, and greens that just happen to be an optical illusion.

Here are seven tips and techniques to read the green better.

– as you approach the green look for slope (note that most greens slope back to
front-I did say most!)

– look for the grain.  Treat it like slope.  If the grain is away from you, it will
be faster.  If the grain is towards you, it will be slower.

– look at the terrain.  Grass grows towards the sea, towards a setting sun, away
from mountains (tricky in a ravine), or with the direction of water supply.

– think about moisture.  Shaded, early morning, or evening greens can be slower.
Goes for rain and sleet also.

– think about sunshine.  Sitting in the hot sun can dry and make a green faster.

– watch the line of your partner’s putts.  Enough said.

– lastly, is the wind strong enough to have an effect?

Complicated Putts

Some putts seem so difficult because severe breaks or elevation changes put
additional pressure on the one faculty we need most to putt our very best, that is,
our imagination.

The best putters are said to have the best feel, but I think they
have the best imaginations. And that imagination leads to feel. Imagine that the
green is covered with silvery dew. Your putt would leave a distinct track on its way
to the cup.

Just imagine that track to help you determine the route of your putt, and
burn that track into your mind and even onto the green. The end of your imaginary dew
track should be right in the hole! Work at maintaining the track in your mind. Don’t
let the severity of the break or even the hole distract you.

Start your ball right on
that imaginary line, not on a line at the hole. Once the track is set in your
imagination, your job is only to hit the putt at the right pace. So dust off your
imagination, and dust the green in silvery dew to conquer those tricky sidehillers.

The Stroke (revisited)

Develop a routine for your put.

– review the slope, grain, and layout of the green. – estimate the distance. –
select your aiming point. – setup your grip, feet, head, and putter head alignment. –
decide on your stoke for the distance. – take a parallel practice swing. – smile
confidently to yourself. – swing smoothly. – wait.

And then, you will most likely not hear those three dreaded words in putting.
“You’re still away!”


  1. marshgator says:

    I’ve experimented with a new putting stroke for some time now and have come to the same great results as Craig. This involves a pendulum stroke; an accelerated follow thru; a much shorter backward stroke and finally a method of practice (putting) each time before I play that day. It’s obvious that the recent “majors” winners on tour are highly effective players using pendulum strokes and using their bodies as anchors. Their success is no coincidence. Not wanting to change to a belly type putter, I did the next best thing and simply copied their triangular pendulum stroke using the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders. And using the shoulders to drive the pendulum action back and throw the ball.
    My key thought is to initiate the backward stroke with the left shoulder and the forward stroke with the right shoulder. Both strokes in this manner are “push” strokes, not “pulls”. The pull with the shoulders is too inconsistent in my experiences. The big benefit in the forward “push” stroke is that you actually feel the acceleration thru the ball better with the trailing shoulder pushing the ball. Nothing else I have tried creates this feeling of acceleration thru the ball. Acceleration is critical in keeping the ball on line. The “push” stroke going back and forward aren’t jerky but rather a measured tempo going back and twice that tempo going forward. I never change this tempo back and forward, regardless of distance. I simply lengthen or shorten the stroke for the distance needed. The tempo is the same for every stroke back and twice the tempo going forward. The second change I’ve made (also critical) is to practice making a much, much shorter stroke going back than going forward. By using a very limited stroke going back (than you have in the past) you will feel that the backward stroke is too limited and you subconsciously feel you must increase your tempo to gain any distance. This acceleration is good not bad. This feeling just happens. It’s not planned. The opposite is also true in that a longer backward stroke results in a slower stroke going forward every time because you believe the stroke is too long and you automatically decelerate without knowing it. Trust me this just happens. For a 3 foot putt, my length back is seldom more than two inches and on fast greens only one inch. All of my follow thru(s) are at least two to three times the length of my backstroke due to the accelerated tempo. I can’t tell you how automatic this becomes with a feeling you’re going to make every single one within 3 feet. Again the strokes are made with the shoulders. I use this on all distances and make an unbelievable number from 6 feet as well. The last thought I have is on longer putts over 6 feet. Before every round I spend at least 5 minutes on a flat surface on the putting green using the pendulum stroke with three balls and “no target”. I simply stroke each ball (not looking up until all balls are putted) using a backward stroke a set distance (which for me is to stop the stroke when the putter face reaches a point on my back foot) and start the forward stroke at twice the speed going forward. I do this to gauge the speed of the green that day. I putt all three balls without looking up and simply notice how far they all go. I repeat this again in the opposite direction, to get an average distance both ways with the same stroke. This gives me a distance for that day for my “basic” stroke. On the course I try to “feel” that basic stoke every time. I don’t allow any thoughts to enter my mind other than feeling that stroke for that distance. My experience is that my basic stroke usually goes 10 to 12 paces depending on the speed of the greens that day. To insure that I am putting with more feel than mechanics, I also hit some balls simply looking at the hole and not the ball trying to feel that basic stroke for 12 paces. You’d be surprised at how your mind adjusts to varying distances once you know your basic stroke for a set distance. You should adjust your distances on downhill or uphill putts by simply looking at a spot shorter than the hole on downhill putts and further than the hole on uphill putts. To improve your success on sidehill putts, you should practice sidehill putts by placing three balls on the same line directly behind each other (two to three feet apart) and stroke the shorter ones first until all three are made. You’ll notice that the further you are from the hole the higher the break, relative to the other balls you just played. Hope this helps you as much as it has me.

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