Basics of Reading Greens

June 8, 2012 Jon Roy

Reading Greens is an Art – I mean Science.

My objective summary of a recent trend in golf

Reading greens is a challenge players face every time they set up for a putt.  When coaching, it has traditionally been overlooked as a source of misses – usually teachers will look to mechanical breakdowns or psychological factors when searching for the answer of why we miss putts we should make.  But the reality is that the best stroke in the world, stroked with the greatest of confidence,and stroked at the right speed, will miss the hole if it is not aimed correctly.

There have been numerous “schools” of green reading emerging over the past few years.  In fact, I would suggest that green reading is one of the single greatest trends in coaching information for golf in the past 5 years, along with discussions about “D plane” or long putters.  Companies like Aimpoint and Vector are two examples of schools which have emerged with a new “system” for making green reading more efficient, but the truth is that putting specialists have been talking about this for years, in various forms.  But in today’s climate, marketing teams have turned their attention to this “new” frontier – so we hear about it everywhere.

I will try to hold my opinion about this new trend in golf coaching until another post – I want to give the information as objectively as I can.  But one thing I will agree to is that we can all benefit from a little more time spent reading greens and committing to a line to putt on.  In my world, I am concerned that players are able to make clear decisions that they can trust, and if green reading will help them to do this then I will try to find out more.

The main premise of this “paradigm shift” in green reading is simply that all that all putts will break according to gravity.  From that assumption, we then just have to identify where the “high points” around the hole are – like identifying the top of a mountain and accepting that everything falls from there.  Once we have the high point, we can, with confidence, trust that gravity will move the ball towards the low points.  Now we can accurately read how putts will move after we’ve hit them.

So for every set length of putt around a hole, say 6 feet, there is a point near the hole to which all of the putts should be aimed – the “Aimpoint”.  For simplicity, the aimpoint is a point that is as many inches from the hole as your ball is in feet from the hole – and this aimpoint is to be found on the straight downhill line above the hole. The diagram below shows how this works for one putt, and the magic of this theory is that every putt at 6 feet from this hole is aimed at the same point.

Key Takeaways from a recent Vector Seminar:

I did attend a “Vector” seminar a few weeks ago which was offered by Mike Schy, who is a lead coach in the Vector system of green reading.  I took a few notes which are listed below:

  • Accept that All putts break according to gravity – every ball is rolling towards the low point of a given green.  When your ball is right of the straight putt, it will break left.  When it is left of the straight putt, it will break right.
  • Pay attention to how other putts roll in your group to help determine the straight putts.
  • All putts from the same distance around a hole would ideally be aimed at the same spot near the hole.  (Assuming a standard green slope of 2degrees), a 10 ft putt should be aimed at a spot 10inches from the hole along the gravity vector – the straight downhill putt.
  • In terms of speed, you should stroke putts so that they would end up about 6″ – 12″ past the hole.  This makes hole fairly big in terms of capturing the ball, and also allows your putt to hold it’s line despite imperfections on the green.
  • When you warm up before a round – you should calibrate your stroke on a downhill putt along the straight line to the hole from about 5 feet.
  • In a practice round – search out the pin placements for the event, put a level on the ground and search for the straight putts – aim for these points when you hit approach shots and chips.
  • This system works best inside 10 feet – and inside 10 feet is where you should be working hard to increase your one putt percentage anyway.  For double breakers, tiered greens, etc… the system becomes much more complicated and much less reliable.
  • Every time you pull a pin – identify the high point of the hole and draw an imaginary line up the slope along the straight putt line – you will be aiming at a point on this line…

As I said, I will refrain from offering my own opinion on this, but I invite you to post any comments you may have – be it positive or negative…

Here’s a video/ marketing tool with one of the creators of the Vector system – which some would suggest they “stole” from the creator of AimPoint – Mark Sweeney.  We’ll leave that to them to figure out, but in my experience every idea is plagiarized from a previous source in some way…

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