The fastest way to lower your golf handicap is to sink more putts. Nearly 40 percent of your shots are putts. So if you can cut down on these, you’ll quickly trim your golf handicap. But few golfers spend enough time practicing putting. Even fewer spend time sharpening their green-reading skills—a critical factor in sinking more putts. In fact, accurate green reading is so critical to better putting that you should work on this skill constantly.
In addition to sharpening your green-reading skills, you also need to develop a green- reading routine. Developing one helps improve your putting. It not only provides a systematic way to putt, it also relaxes you, and it prepares you physically and psychologically to putt, which helps sink more putts. This in turn boosts your confidence. And confidence—as I’ve said in my golf lessons and golf tips—is the key to lights out putting.
Below is a green-reading routine I use in my golf instruction sessions. It gives you an idea of what a good routine looks like so you can develop your own.
Approaching the Green
Getting the big picture helps when putting. Take a mental inventory of the green as you approach it. Note its general shape. Also, note which way it slopes. Is it sloping away from your ball or toward it? Does it fall off to one side? The green’s larger features impact your putts more than the smaller breaks, so get a good look at these as you approach the green.
Most golfers take only general assessment of distance before putting. Accurately assessing distance is as critical to good putting as judging the break correctly. Pace the distance from the ball to the hole, just as you would if you were in the fairway. In general, figure one inch of backswing for every foot of green.
In addition to calculating distance, you also must determine the putt’s speed. Always look up slope to get an accurate idea of the elevation. As the elevation for your putt changes, so does your target. For an uphill putt, hit the ball with enough speed to go a few feet beyond the hole. For a downhill putt, hit the ball with enough speed to stop a foot or two in front of the hole.
Judge the Break
Since few greens are perfectly flat, odds are your putt breaks. Try squatting behind the ball to gauge the high and low side of the break. Look from your ball to the hole. After determining the break, walk over to the low side and look at it. Looking at the break from the low side offers a better picture of the slope than looking from the high side. The closer the break is to the hole the more impact, since the ball slows down as it gets to the cup.
Put It All Together
Having determined distance, speed, and break, you now must put it all together. You must create an accurate picture of the ball rolling to and falling into the hole. Keep these rules of thumb in mind:
- Putts breaking left to right enter the hole left of center.
- Putts breaking right to left enter the hole right of center.
- Downhill putts break more because you hit them softer at the start.
- Uphill putts break less because you hit them harder at the start
Putts from the fringe need special attention. How the break affects your ball with putts and chips depends on how long the ball spends in the air. The longer your ball stays in the air, the less your ball breaks.
Sinking more putts, as I’ve said in my golf tips and golf articles, is the fastest way to chop strokes off your golf handicap. Among the keys to sinking more putts is improving your ability to accurately reading greens. Accurate green reading helps you determine a putt’s speed, distance, and break. Make sure you spend time developing this skill whenever you visit the practice green. It’s worth the time and effort.