How to Read the Green When Playing Golf

When it comes to playing golf there is a large element of skill to it. There is a small component of luck. An unlucky bounce on a dry fairway can be a real bummer. Then, you have one final component. Witchcraft. Is there any other possible way to explain how we are to read a green?

As amateur golfers, we watch the professionals, we watch the golf tournaments and take it all in, as they crouch down and move around, but really, we all know the reading a green is equal measure witchcraft and repetition.

Wait… it’s not? You could have fooled me.

Man Putting on a Golf Green

Reading the Green: Skill or Memory

As an amateur golfer, I often play on the same course, or same course(s). I would bet that you are the same. You may think you know how to read the green of your local course, I know I do. But, what if I were to put you on a new course. One you have never played before. Would you be able to knuckle down and read the greens as accurately?

                I could now. This is because on our home golf course, we do not really read the greens, but rather memorize them. We know the way they break, more or less. We know the trouble areas, and when we should attempt to play to the bucket as opposed to the cup.

                Place us on a new course, and we flounder, because we are taken away from out element and forced to rely on the skill set we thought we had gained.

 Tiger Woods Reading a Putt

Look at the Slope of the Green

                Fear not, for reading a green it not actually as hard as it looks or sounds. Providing you are not putting to save the hole, silently praying that you sink it.

                There are two main aspects of the green to bear in mind. The slope and the grain.

                The slope is the direction of the ground upon which the green is set. This will determine which way the ball will break, and therefore whether you should aim to the left or the right of the cup.

                There are several ways to gauge the slope of the green. The bigger picture would tell enough to get a rough approximation. If you are playing near the mountains, then the greens will naturally slope from them. Under other circumstances, look at the land around you. The roll of the fairway, and the landscape around the course. Take it all in and let nature guide you.

                Squat down and take a look at the green. Don’t stand right behind your ball, but move back. I would suggest you move back the same distance from your ball, as it is from the hole. Get down low and look at things with a more critical eye. Get an understanding of not only the slope of the green, but the severity. Does it break as soon as you have hit the ball, or does it break late, just before you reach the hole? These factors are key to understanding how you need to play the shot.

 Putter and Ball

The Grain of The Grass Reveals All

                The grain is, as the name would suggest, the grain of the green. What direction does the grass grow, or which direction is it laying, if the green is on a well maintained and professionally cared for course.

                The grain will determine the pace of the putt, which is a key component to any successful putting venture. Hitting the ball too hard will send you speeding past the hole. Hitting it too soft will see you come up short.

                Now me, I was taught that you never want to leave your putt short. It is a wasted effort if you don’t even reach the hole. But, that being said, being too aggressive can also leave you in a bad state. Hence why reading the grain is so important. If the grass is lying flat towards you, then the putt will be slower, than if the grass is going away from you.


                Other factors that will influence the pace of the green are weather conditions, such as wind, and humidity, and also any moisture on the green. Has it been raining, was it watered. The wetter the surface, the faster the ball is likely to travel.

                Do not forget that pace of your putt will also influence the severity of the green’s curve. You could combat a slight curve in the green with a firmer putt, thus needing less off center alignment.

 Golf Ball by the Hole

Tips and Tricks Take Time

Reading a putt is a key element to your golf game. From amateur players swinging the club in anger, through high quality players, competing regularly week in week out, being able to finish a hole is key.

                The tips I have talked about in this article are no rocket science. They are not deep rooted secrets, but they are effective. I was told them a long time ago, and they have stuck with me ever since. Now, I will, from time to time suffer the indignity of a three-putt hole, but I consider myself to have a strong understanding of the lay of the land, on any course.

                It takes practice, but I am sure you can do it, and shave a few of those extra shots from your scorecard.


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