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How to Read Golf Greens for Speed and Break

When it comes to golf, almost everyone wants to lower their score. If this is what you’re looking to do, and if you’re interested in learning more about how you can do it, learning to read greens is a way to go. When you know how to read golf greens for speed and break, it becomes far easier to accomplish your goal of lowering your score. In fact, reading greens is exactly one of the best methods for accomplishing this goal. There are a lot of traditional ideas on doing this, but right now there are also a ton of new and even interesting techniques that are being used during the PGA tour(s). These new techniques are quite exciting, especially with how much success people have had with it.

Surely you’re here wondering how to read golf greens for speed and break. So how exactly is it done? In today’s article, we will be taking a look at how greens are read both for break and for speed. We’ll show you what you need to know in order to better improve your game – so that in the end, you can achieve a lower score as you’re out on the course.

If you are ready to learn how to improve your game, we’re here with all of the advice you could possibly need. We’ll give you information – from terms you might not know and jargon you’ll pick up, all the way to techniques that will help you in the long term.

How to Read Golf Greens for Speed and Break

How to Read Golf Greens for Speed and Break

When you read greens, you determine a slope. That slope can be either uphill, or it can be downhill. Regardless, you learn to determine the slope you’re at. On top of that, you’ll also be estimating break. Rather, you will be taking a look at the amount of break. The break will either be from left to right, or vice versa (right to left).

Now, both slope and break can either be rather obvious and easily identified, or it can be more subtle. In cases where it’s subtle, it’s a bit of an art figuring it all out.

Essentially, reading greens is an art – the art of being able to calculate all of the factors involved. All of this is done before you finally stroke your putt.

This is why it’s necessary to learn how to read golf greens for speed and break. Knowing how to do so properly can significantly improve your game.

What exactly are the techniques for this? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Putting Technique: Aim Point

The first technique that we do have to show you is the Aim Point – a putting technique or system. This system or technique was developed by a software developer who had a passion for golfing. As an amateur golfer, he aimed to create this technique in order to have an outcome that is more predictable.

The entire basis of this system is on this theory that golfers have the ability to feel a green’s slope by simply using their very own feet. Usually, reading a green has always been done through visuals – as in by the eyes. Reading was done by looking at the green, and from there determining both break and slope from the visual information available.

Aim Point, as a system, relies on your (the golfer’s) ability of identifying the slope under your foot. The goal thereof is not just to determine, but also to assign a degree. By that, we mean the degree of the slope in consideration to the putt affected. And this is all to be done by simply feeling beneath your feet. It may be a bit confusing, but the truth is it’s rather easy once you’ve learned it all.

By testing the feeling under your feet, you’ll be able to determine whether the slope is one, two, or even three degrees – and so on, and so forth. The golfer – aka YOU – will then apply a 2nd step to this system in order to determine the aim point.

YouTube video
Watch a video on this system here.

Understanding The Grain of Your Green

As you stand on the course, or rather on the green, there are still a few things that you will need to know and understand. These things will then help you to determine the direction of the grain on the green. You might be saying – what does this matter? What’s the point of learning about the grain on the greens you’re standing on? Well – the grain’s direction will affect two things. It will affect the break of your putt, and it will also affect its speed.

Determining Grain Through Color of Grass

When you’re out on the green, you should identify the dark green patches, as well as the light green patches. Both of these will help you to determine the grain direction.

If you’re standing on light green patches, that means you’re going with or along the grain. If you’re looking at dark patches, that means that you are standing against it.

Here’s a quick way to determine it:

  • If you’re along the grain, you will see silvery looking grass, or light green colored grass.
  • If you’re against the grain, you will see a darker green instead.

Really, it’s quite easy! Before you know it, you’ll already be understanding how to read golf greens for speed and break.

Determining Grain Through Looking at The Hole

One more way in which you can determine a green’s grain is by simply looking inside of the golf hole. Yes, the actual golf hole – the one you’re trying to get your ball into!

When you look inside of a golf hole, you will see two things. You will see the ragged edge inside the hole, then you’ll see the edge that is more clean cut. The direction in which the grain is growing will be toward the ragged edge.

The reason why we’ve still made sure to tell you about determining grain through grass color is simple. It won’t always be easy, identifying the grain just by looking inside of the golf hole. Sometimes, courses or country clubs have got it all down to an art. As a result, you’ll get a really crisp and clean cut hole, which means it will be hard to find a ragged edge.

Thankfully, by combining both of the techniques we’ve mentioned, you should be able to determine your green’s grain either way!

How Will Grain Affect My Putt?

Although we mentioned above just how the green’s grain will make a difference, we still think it prudent to discuss this all in depth. It’s pretty simple, really.

  • If you go against grain (also known as into the grain), your putt will end up being much slower than what it would normally be.
  • If you go with grain (also known as down grain), your put will end up with a putt that is much faster than what it would normally be. This could be even 25% to maybe 30% faster than average.

Knowing this, you’ll now be able to use this information to your advantage! To make your putt go slower, aim for a putt going against the grain – and vice versa, of course. You’ll be able to make your putt go quite a bit faster if you instead go along with grain.

Putting with Side Grain

So we just learned about going with or against the grain. And now we’re learning about side grains? Is there any end to the amount of knowledge necessary in this sport? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it!) the answer is no. Even pros and experts have more to learn each time they go out on the course. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! In fact, this makes the whole experience far more fun.

But since we are talking about side grain, here’s what you need to know.

If indeed you have a putt that is side grain, where your green’s grain is growing in the break’s direction, you will need to take it into consideration. For example, if the grain grows in the break’s direction – let’s say left to right – this will indeed affect the amount of the break you have to play.

Your putt will be breaking further than what the slope might normally suggest. For example, if you putt without a slope or a break, then your putt should be straight. If the green has a grain running side to the putt, the putt will then be breaking slightly towards the grain’s direction.

If the green has a grain growing into the break’s direction, this means that the grain will help the putt to straighten. This straightening effect will make a pretty big difference overall. Here is an example: your shorter putt may look like it has a slight right to left break. But, if the grass’ grain is growing left to right, that putt may then straighten somewhat.

Slow Greens versus Fast Greens

An important thing to know is that a fast green will break quite a bit more than a slow green would. And so, fast putts downhill will break quite much more in comparison to slow putts uphill.

When you’re on fast green and you stroke your putt, the stroke in itself is much softer – and also quite a bit shorter. This results in the ball coming off of the club’s face slower – but it also can roll to a much greater distance. Know that when your ball is coming off your club slowly but traveling far, that means that it’ll be taking the most amount of possible break. And so it makes sense that you allow a max aim point – at least for a putt that is fast breaking.

On the other hand, if you’re on a slow green, you’ll basically have the opposite. Your putting stroke will be longer. The ball will be hit in more aggressive fashion. The ball will come off your club face with a lot more speed, but it won’t be traveling as far in terms of distance. When your ball hits off of the club’s face quicker and slows faster, your ball won’t be taking as much in terms of break. When you’re doing a slow putt uphill with a bit of break, it would then make sense for you to have less aim point than you might want.

The same holds true when it comes to uphill putts and downhill putts, too. Putts downhill should be hit softly, so that they’ll be taking on a lot more of break. Uphill putts, on the other hand, should be hit far more aggressively. The putt still takes less break.

Remember putts will take more break while slowing down near the hole.

What’s a Stimpmeter, and How Exactly Does it Work?

If you’ve never heard of a Stimpmeter before, don’t worry. We’re here to explain just about everything that you need to know, so that you can figure all of it out as necessary!

In essence, a Stimpmeter is a device used by Greens-keepers in order to determine one thing. It is used for telling how fast a green is playing on pretty much any day.

Go ahead and watch a PGA event on TV – or any other golfing event with live coverage. You’ll be able to hear commentators referring to the readings of a stimpmeter. This device is used by greens-keepers for monitoring putting surfaces’ paces for both tournament and daily play.

A stimpmeter is really quite a simple tool. It’s a metal rail, long and narrow, and it has a hole on one of its ends. It’s simple in design, sure, but it works quite cleverly. It allows the greens-keeper to keep record of readings. Readings, that is, of how fast greens are. After they are cut and then rolled, that is.

A reading will be taken on an area at the green that is relatively flat. A ball is placed in the stimpmeter’s hole (the one at one end of the railing). The rail’s end is then lifted, until the ball begins to roll from the hole and onto greens. It’s taken from the stimpmeter’s bottom edge, up to where your ball will come to rest. Another measurement shall be done, but in the opposite direction. This is so that the greens-keeper can come up with 2 numbers.

Here’s an example reading:

A ball may go in 1 direction 10 ft, and in the opposite 12 ft. It will be calculated 10 + 12 = 22, divided in 2. The day’s stimp reading will be 11.

How Do You Hit Putts at The Right Pace?

Easily one of the most important things when it comes to putting is hitting your putt the right distance. This is why it is important that you practice putting certain distances – this is ideal rather than you put it to a golf hole or make putts every now and then.

There are so many different aspects in putting that you should be practicing. You can practice pace without necessarily aiming at the golf hole sometimes. The whole idea here is for you to get a feel when it comes to putting a certain distance. Later on, you should be able to combine that with the aim point.

It’s great to practice putting certain distances without a specific hole at which to aim. This is because it will allow you to focus on feeling the distance rather than trying to put the ball in the hole.

Practice Drills for Putting Pace

It’s always a good idea to practice putting pace. There are a lot of exercises you can do for this, but one of the best ways to do it is this. First, put a golf tee into the ground, at a spot where you’ll hit putts from. This will be your starting point. Pick a putt that is level – neither downhill nor uphill. Then, place more of these golf tees into the surface of the green. Do it at the following walking paces: 5, 10, then finally, 15. Basically, you should be putting 1 golf tee at 5 walking paces away from your starting point. Another tee will be 10 paces away from the starting point. The last will be 15 paces away from your original starting tee. Easy!

Practicing pace putting is a great way for you to dramatically improve in your golfing game. Once all of you tees have been put into the ground, grab 6-10 balls. From your starting point, putt to the first marker (5 pace tee) until your balls all begin to group around that tee tightly. Afterwards, you can move on to the next tee (10 pace tee), until you manage to get all your balls/putts to group around that marker. And then, you guessed it – move on to the 15 pace one after.

As you continue practicing this, you’ll further become familiar with this and commit it to muscle memory!

How to Read the Break on Greens

Naturally, we can’t just tell you how to read golf greens for speed and break without teaching you how to read the break! We’ve covered speed in the very informational sections above. It’s time to talk about reading the break.

Just like with anything in golf, reading a green’s break will take practice. But if you remain consistent, you’ll be able to learn the right approach(es).

Here are some strategies you can try:

  • As you begin to approach the golf green, notice from fifty yards out the R to L slope. (Right to Left)
  • Observe the green’s back to front slope, also from fifty yards out.
  • Walk your intended putt from your ball all the way to the hole, feeling the green’s slope with your feet.
  • Go towards the putt’s low side. Then, look out towards the view, following the path from the ball all the way to the hole. This way, you can identify whether it’s a slope going downhill or uphill.
  • Stand a relatively good distance positioning yourself behind your ball. This will allow you to identify R to L, L to R, or even straight.
  • Pace (walk) the distance from ball to hole so you can have a reference as to whether it’s 5 paces, 10 paces, 15 paces etc.
  • Look inside the hole if it will help you determine the green’s grain, otherwise look at the color of the grass.
  • Make sure to look for water drainage holes, hills, subtle runoffs, and even valleys on the green. Course designers will always include a way for water to drain in the case of heavy rains.

The takeaway here is that you need to come up with a strategy for consistently reading greens. Make this strategy yours!

Reading Greens = Analyzing Both Break + Pace

For a golfer to read the greens effectively, they must combine two things: the break analysis and using the proper or right pace to suit the distance.

Once the aim point has been factored in, and you’ve got a feel or understanding of the speed, then you are ready to stroke or putt with great confidence.

As the golfer, it’s basically your job to analyze both the speed and the break, and trust your own analysis. Putt confidently, with the right trust in your aim point and your analysis. A confident stroke is absolutely the best way for you to have a higher chance of a good putt!

Final Thoughts

Learning how to read golf greens for speed and break is an important thing for you to do as a golfer. Beginners who are starting to learn to golf will find that they’ll improve almost instantly upon learning some of these techniques. And so it’s important for you to give these things a try so you can see how to get your score lower. It’s truly not too difficult to learn how to read golf greens for speed and break. It may sound as though it’s complicated, but the fact is it’s not too hard – once you get the hang of all of it!