Tips for Reading Greens and Better Putts
Every golfer is going to encounter a number of different putts while playing a round. We have the three-footers, the ten-footers, and then the way-back-footers to contend with. Even if you have a brilliant short game you are undoubtedly going to be faced with more than just a tap-in or "gimme" on the green. Following are some tips to help you improve your green-reading ability and to shave a few extra strokes off your putting game:
- Practice greens make perfect! While maybe not entirely true, it is crucial to take some putts on the course's practice green before you start your round. If anything it will help prepare you mentally for your real putts, but it also lets you see how the course maintains and grooms its greens. Depending on the time of day you play the greens may still be moist from morning dew, or completely dried out in the late afternoon on a windy day. During practice rounds I'll even take a putt or two on the first green before I take my first real putt at the cup just to see if there are any differences between the putting green and the actual course greens.
- Make sure you watch when other golfers approach the green. Watch how their balls react when chipping to see how they bounce and what direction they roll in. If others putt before you try to gauge how hard they are striking the ball and how far the ball rolls, and in which direction. Best case scenario is if someone else is along your putting line but goes before you. There is no reason after watching that putt that you should not do better!
- Dissect the green. Bend down and try to imagine a grid placed over the green. Where are the low points? The high points? What happens to the slope of the green right around the cup? Walk all around the green and analyze the slope from all different perspectives. Try to locate the lowest point on the green, most often the ball will tend to roll down to that point.
- Make sure your speed is honed. Again this goes back to the practice green and what kind of condition the greens are in. It's easier to control your speed than it is to control the direction of the ball once it leaves the putter.
- If you are farther away than 10 feet, it might be better to imagine you are going for a hole on the green more the size of a basketball. If the putt seems too difficult or you don't have the confidence to get the ball in the cup, you're better off being one or two feet away on your next shot rather than 8 feet past the hole.