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How to Read Greens

One thing that separates professional golfers from amateurs is the professional’s ability to read the greens. There are a number of factors that have to be taken into consideration if you want to putt well and shoot lower scores. In this Play Better Golf segment, Ian Baker-Finch gives us a breakdown of how to properly read greens, ranging from high-points and low-points of the greens to how grain can effect your putt.

Ian Baker-Finch: Hi, I’m Ian Baker-Finch with another Odyssey Roll Call. Today let’s talk about green reading. As you approach the green let’s make sure that we look around. Look around the side, look in the distance, find the high points and the low points. That’s key to trying to figure out exactly how the ball’s going to break regardless of where you are on the green.

I like to feel as if I was in a heavy rain shower or if I’d spilled a thousand gallon tank of water in the center of the green – where would the water flow? As we make our way up here you notice the grass is quite green, to me it’s a little bit dark. I’m walking uphill so the water would flow down the hill here, therefore it’ll be a little slower going up the hill and a little quicker back down. High point here on the left. As I’m walking up I kind of feel in my feet here the left foot’s a lot higher so this is probably a 2 or 3 degree slope. This ball is going to really break a long way left to right.

As I turn around I’m feeling all the time in my feet really the slope of the green. So walk around the putt, prowl around the line of your putt. If I was going to putt this ball back down the hill, it’s very very quick down here and you can see the grass is a totally different color from behind the green where we’ve got the high point going back down the hill here, so if I hit a putt down the hill to that hole it’s going to be quite quick because as the water flows down the hill the grass lays down that way. That’s as we say down grain, down the hill. That would be three or four feet faster on a stimpmeter going down the hill here and as we approach the hole another thing you can look at when reading the greens is the cup.

If you notice here in the cup this edge is quite worn and this is bent grass, it’s not Bermuda. In Bermuda it gets a lot more than this. The grass is growing down the hill and see there it’s growing into the cup that’s down grain, fast. Here it’s going away from the cup and this bottom half if we left this Cup here for a week or so that half-moon would come all the way out here and the grass is going that way.

So take some time walk around the line, get a feel for the green, the high points, the low points, where the water is going to flow. You can have the best stroke in the world. If you don’t read the greens correctly, you’ve got no chance of holing that putt. Take a little time, when you’re playing partners are putting have a good look around and get a feel for the speed and the slope on the green. Reading the greens can really improve your putting.