The Art of Green Reading


One major difference between amateur and professional golfers is the professional golfers’ ability to read the greens. There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration before lining up and attempting your putt like slope, grain, speed, direction and break to name a few. In this Play Better Golf segment, Callaway staffer and world-renowned teaching professional, David Leadbetter, discusses a few tricks of the trade when it comes to reading greens to help you sink more putts and start playing better golf.

David Leadbetter: Hello. David Leadbetter here with an Odyssey Roll Call. Here we are at the Odyssey putting studio at Champions Gate in Orlando, Florida and we have all our selection of putters here for people to try but today I want to talk to you about green reading. I mean obviously we’re indoors here so it’s easier on a mat which doesn’t have much break to it but green reading really is an art. I mean there are lots of systems out there like aim point and all sorts of things but I’m going to give you a couple of simple thoughts about how to read greens.
Essentially, if you were to walk on the green and you had a bucket of water and you were to throw it on that green, which way would that water run? That gives you an idea of the slope. Now, so obviously there’s the slope, there’s grain on certain greens so you have to take that into account because it’s so important. Most golfers really under aim by about half on average. So, the first little tip I can really give you is to make sure that hey, whatever you think it is, double that. So, if you think it’s a cup to the left, aim two cups to the left because you want to miss it on what we call on the “pro side.”
On a left or right path the “pro side” is the left side of the hole. The “amateur side” is on the right side of the hole so you have to hit it up on the left side in order for it to have a chance. So that’s the first thing. Secondly, you’ve got to make sure that you look at the grain okay. If if it’s dark if the grass is dark as you look at it from behind the hole or from behind the ball for that matter that means you’re into the grain. If it’s shiny you’re with the grain.
So these are factors you have to take into account and then the final thing you want to do is to make sure that if you do feel it’s going to break, pick your point, aim at that point. It’s not like you’re aiming at the hole and trying to pull the putt if you have a left-to-right putt, which by the way, for most amateurs golfers, the left to right putt, if you’re a right-handed golfer, is more difficult. So you need to practice those for sure and that really is the final, final thing, practice breaking putts.
You practice breaking putts, you’ll start to see the line. In the end, it’s all instinct. The great putters, yes they have a good feel for the distance, but essentially they’re able to read the greens. You might get a caddie to help you if you’re lucky to have a caddy with you and as I say there are all sorts of systems out there, books on how to read greens and all these little arrows you can see the pros, they have these books all the arrows and indicating the topography of the green.
But get some feel, get some instinct and the biggest thing I can suggest is actually practice those breaking putts. Putting is easy if you’ve got a good feel for it. Remember, reading greens is an art just practice.