Mastering The Art Of Putting – Green Reading

By Chris Foley







Over the course of the season, in each issue of Tee Times we have covered an aspect of putting in this column.  Becoming a great putter is part of the game that doesn’t require exceptional athletic ability, great club head speed, or a great deal of time and energy. It is the area of the game were the average player can be of similar skill level to the elite level player. With the right information and with a commitment to practice, your putting will improve and your scores will get better!

We can break putting into the following areas; the set-up, stroke mechanics, distance control, and green reading. This month we are going to focus on green reading. 

The way a ball moves on the putting green is simply the effect of gravity. Gravity moves the ball in the direction of the low point. Becoming a good green reader is developing the skill of identifying the direction of the slope of the green in relationship to the ball and then matching that slope with the proper speed of the putt. 

The slope of the putt can be determined visually or with feel. The problem with only using our sight is that our eyes can fool us. The way a green lay in relationship to the topography around it effects the perception of how we see slope and can fool us. Some of the great golf course architects were masters at creating green sights that were sloped different that they looked. Visually, things like the placement of drainage boxes around a green, seeing how water flows off a green, and paying attention to the overall slope of the green from the fairway will all help increase our awareness of the correct direction of slope.

Feel is the most reliable way to determining slope. If we have awareness of the way the green feels under our feet, we have a much more reliable way of determining the direction the ball will roll. As you walk around the green pay attention to if you are walking up hill, downhill, or across the slope. If you walk from your ball to the hole pay attention to whether you are walking uphill or downhill. Stand behind the ball facing the hole. Which foot is feels higher? Gravity will move the ball in the direction of the lower foot. If the slope feels downhill the putt will be faster and the ball with break more. Gravity does not affect the direction the ball breaks as much on uphill putts because the ball has to be hit more firmly.

Use this process to enhance your green reading skills.

  • Pay attention to the overall slope of the green as you approach it from the fairway.
  • Watch for visual clues of slope when you get on the green.
  • As you walk to your ball feel direction of the slope under your feet.
  • Stand behind the ball facing the hole to determine the proper aim.
  • Matching up the line with the pace you are going to hit the putt.
  • Commitment to your line and make the stroke.

Practice this process and your green reading skills and opportunity to make more putts with be enhanced!