READ YOUR GREENS: The Putting Pyramid


Some golfers always sink their putts. Frequently this is chalked up to the golfer being extremely talented or lucky. However, more often than not, the golfer has superior green reading and putting alignment skills. Reading the green is sometimes thought of as a mystical science, but it can actually be broken down into five elements that make up a healthy short game.

Ball Speed

The first aspect to consider is ball speed, which is critical when putting. Factors that affect ball speed include type of grass, direction the grass is growing, and whether the grass is moist. Jim Furyk, who recently shot a 58 in the Travelers Championship, states that when he reads the green, he stands over the ball to assess the situation and it gives him critical information on the ball speed that he can expect.

As you develop your green reading routine, you will become aware of all the factors affecting your ball speed and direction. Assuming you have aligned your ball properly to the hole, once you hit the ball you should make the shot if you have read the green properly.

Points to keep in mind as you start your putt:

Think about the line of the putt as you walk to the green.

The best view of the green’s slope (whether it slopes to the right or left) is from 20 yards or so away, you will not be able to get an accurate reading standing on the green. If the terrain surrounding the green slopes to the right, then the green will most likely slope to the right. If a green slopes in the opposite direction, it creates a basin that collects water. Landscape architects typically do not do design greens in such a manner.

Check if you have an uphill or downhill putt.

You can make this judgment by standing behind the putt. For downhill putts, the low side of the green offers the best perspective for judging the terrain’s slope.

Stand behind the hole and judge its immediate vicinity.

This area is crucial because a ball loses most of its speed by the time it reaches the hole. The terrain around a hole can really influence the ball’s direction.

Read the green with your feet.

Read the green with your feet. Use your sense of balance to determine the green’s slope.

Use your sense of balance to determine the green’s slope. It will also give you an indication of the putt’s speed. When Bones Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s caddy, reads the greens he says, “I get a great sense of the break not only with my eyes, but with my feet. When I look down at the ball, I can tell immediately whether it’s a fraction of an inch higher or lower than my feet. Then I factor that in along with what I see from the other perspectives.”

Make your final decision on the putt’s direction by standing behind the ball.

Once you’ve made your decision, don’t change it. If you are going to miss a break, do it on the high side of the hole, not the low. On the high side, the ball at least has a chance of rolling in; additionally the ball won’t roll as far on the high side as on the low. Always keep the wind and moisture in mind! A ball rolls a lot slower on wet grass than on dry grass.

It is also beneficial to watch other player’s balls roll in your foursome. This can give you valuable clues as to what to expect.

Questions to Ask

Should you miss your putt, there are a few questions to ask yourself: Did it have the right direction? What about its speed? Was it correctly aligned? Answering these questions is crucial to improving your ability to read greens and sink more putts. And doing that–will lower your golf handicap.

If you are sure you are reading the green correctly and you are still missing putts, then your alignment might be the issue. LinksWalker manufactures an innovative golf ball that features a patented alignment guide. The ball is designed for spin and distance while the alignment guide improves accuracy and will save you strokes. View our video of how to use the alignment guide, or read through some of our blog articles below on alignment for extra pointers.