Half of all strokes on the score card are allotted for putting. Reducing your putts per round is the fastest way to drop your handicap.
The 3 key factors to good putting are
- Ability to putt the ball on a straight line
- Controlling the distance a putt rolls
- Reading greens
Most players focus a great deal on the first 2 factors but neglect the third, leading to many missed putts.
A system recently developed by Mark Sweeny, AimPoint, has become the new standard of excellence in predictive putting. This system is the technology used during PGA Tour television coverage that creates the blue line showing how the putt will break before the player strikes it. It is wildly accurate and the best news, it can be taught.
I recently spent some time with AimPoint certified instructor and award winning teacher Paul Horton to go over the basics. We worked on the introductory course which involves all single plane breaking putts inside 20 feet.
The main philosophy of this system is that a player should read the break based on the position of his/her ball on the green, versus the tried and true “looking down the line”. Where the ball is on the green will determine how a putt breaks.
There are three variables in break:
The slope on a flat green is zero. The holes on most greens are cut at about a 2% slope and severe greens cut at about 4%.
To determine slope, stand 8 feet below the hole and estimate the number of inches of tilt it is from flat. Two inches of tilt is equivalent to 2%, 3 inches is 3%, etc… Slope is a skill that is learned by eyeballing, and confirming with a measuring device (such as a digital level available at most hardware stores).
The key to reading greens is based on the direction of slope. This is determined by walking in a circle around the hole the same distance your ball is away. You want to get your feet involved in feeling the green, versus reading it with your eyes. You are looking to feel where you start to walk uphill, where you start to walk down hill, and where your feet feel dead level. The point where your feet are level between the uphill and the down hill is referred to as the Zero Line.
To determine how putts break from the Zero Line, if you have an uphill putt, all putts to the right of the Zero Line break right to left and all putts to the left of the Zero Line break left to right. The opposite is true of downhill putts. Putts to the left of the Zero Line will break right to left and all putts right of the Zero Line break left to right.
The angle is the distance away from the zero line. It goes from 1degree to 90 degrees with 1 degree having the least amount of break and 90% the most. 90 degrees is a cross hill put that is neither uphill or down hill.
The farther the ball is from the hole, the longer time it will take to get to the hole, which means more break.
An interesting question was posed to me. You have a 10 foot uphill putt or a 10 foot downhill putt. In which situation is the ball rolling faster? Like most players I answered a down hill putt. Horton, kindly corrected me and said no an uphill putt is faster because it is a more aggressive stroke and is travelling faster to the hole. A down hill putt takes more time to go the same distance causing it to break more than uphill putts. Remember this!
Green speed is key in the time factor as well. Knowing the stimp (speed of green) is important. To estimate green speed, go to practice a green, find a hole on a 2 % slope and putt at the 90 degree line. If the putt breaks more than expected assume a faster stimp (9-10). If the ball breaks less than expected use a slower stimp (7-8).
It varies region to region, but most golf courses typically average 7 to 10 stimp speeds. Tour players typically play on courses that average 10-12 with majors being 13 or more.
Here are the steps Horton takes every time he reads a green:
- Assess the green back from the fairway. Look how the green is shaped and how water would run off it. Course architects design greens for proper drainage. Spot any tiers on the green, and pick the level you want to put from BEFORE you hit your shot. Make sure to note where “jail” is. You don’t want to short side yourself. You are looking for the easiest putt which is usually directly below the hole.
- As you approach the green assess how far you are from the hole and look at the Slope. This is sometimes easier to pick out from further away.
- As you approach the hole determine if the putt is uphill, downhill or cross hill. If it is up hill or down hill find the Zero Line if it is cross hill it is 90 degrees.
- Estimate your distance from the hole (5 feet, 10 feet, etc…), the Angle it is on (distance from the Zero Line), what Slope your ball will be rolling over (is it average at 2 % or severe at 4 %) and how fast the greens are (stimp).
- Once you know the Slope of the intended putt, have determined the Zero Line by walking around the hole, estimated the Angle away from the Zero Line and how fast the green is, there is a predetermined amount of break. To be precise, there is an AimPoint chart used for this that will detail the number of inches a putt will break based on those factors.
- Once you know how many inches away from the cup to aim, you line your ball up, stroke the ball straight on your aim line and target for it to be 6 – 12 inches past the cup.
AimPoint takes the guess work out of reading putts. It is a game changing skill that can be acquired. People who are skilled at AimPoint can read greens in fewer than 30 seconds after much practice. If you want to learn more about AimPoint email Paul Horton at email@example.com.
By: Lisa “Longball” Vloosywk