Friday, October 7, 2011

Reading Greens - Three Spots on the Green

We had a great practice session yesterday at the Dallas Athletic Club.  We practiced on the big putting green by the Gold Course first tee, because of the slopes on it.  Our practice was focused on reading the speed of the putt, reading the break of the putt and choosing a break point where we wanted the ball to rely on gravity and momentum to get to the hole.

Felicia is putting to the hole, using the white tee as her break point.  This is a very fast putt and the break point was 10 feet from the hole.  The goal is to aim to the blue tee, die the ball on the white tee and let it feed down the hill to the hole.  (NOTE: by clicking on any of the pictures in this blog, it will get big so you can see it clearly.  After viewing, click the back arrow in your browser.)

The first piece of learning that I witnessed is that a lot of players believe that you should aim at the break point.  If you aim at the break point, you will miss a lot of putts on the low side of the hole.  In other words, you won't be playing enough break.  In order to hit the break point, you usually have to play additional break.  You want to think of the break point as a target, but not necessarily an aim point.

Here is a diagram of the three important points in an uphill putt.   The straight line from the ball to the hole is the line if the putt didn't break and ends in the true center of the hole.  Because your putt breaks left to right, the new center is left of center or about 7 O Clock on a clock face.  Your aim point will start the ball on the arc.  Because the putt is uphill, your break point is very near the hole and the new center is closer to the true center than a fast, downhill putt would present.

Every breaking putt you face has three important spots on the green that should have your attention.  The first is the aim point, the second is the break point and the third is the spot on the hole where the ball will enter.  When you read putts, start at the hole and pick the third spot first.

Here is a diagram of a fast, downhill, breaking putt.  The straight arrow represents your aim point.  The break point is the spot on the putt's line when the ball starts to roll to the hole because of gravity and momentum.  The new center of the hole is the point the ball will enter on the line chosen.  When you putt, look for your center for the putt first, imagine the arc on which the ball will travel and figure out where to aim to get the ball to die on that point.

On the golf hole, there is a point that is the true center.  If the hole is the same as a clock, that point would be 6 O Clock.  If you have a putt that breaks from right to left, your ball will enter the hole on the right side or closer to 4 or 5 O Clock depending on the amount of break.  That point where the ball will enter the hole is the new center for your putt.

Your next job in reading putts is to figure out the break point.  If you lay a stick down on the spot where the ball will enter the hole, that stick will aim at your break point.  If you have a fast, downhill putt, your break point may be 10 feet away from the hole.  If you have a slow putt or an uphill putt, your break point will probably be just a few feet away from the hole, depending on the length of the putt.  The shorter the putt and the slower the putt, the closer the break point will get to the hole.

Here is a youtube video of Nick Faldo using an extreme break point to make a putt at Augusta.

Now that you have chosen the break point, your goal should be to get the ball to roll over that point at a die speed.  From the break point to the hole, the ball should be carried forward by gravity and the momentum of your stroke.  In other words, it should be well beyond the apex of speed and slowing down.  When you figure out how to get the ball to roll over your break point at a die speed, you have figured out where you need to aim.  That is your aim point.

Here is a youtube video of Aaron Baddeley using an aim point to work on a left to right breaking putt.

Taking these three steps is a great exercise for young players.  It clarifies a lot of information for them by clearly breaking down what is important.  Players who grow up playing sloped, quick greens generally do this without a lot of thought.  However, there are a lot of players who grow up playing slow or flat Bermuda greens without a lot of slopes.  For them, this is a new skill and there is a great deal of value in understanding the entire process instead of feeling as though reading greens is a guessing game.  No matter what your age or handicap, if you consistently miss breaking putts on the low side, you need to pay attention to all three important spots on the putting green.  Remember to start at the hole and work your way back to the ball and you will become a much better green reader and you will also understand the importance of speed control in hitting your break points.

The goal of every putt!

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