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The art of reading greens – by Ernie Els

This week we’re back with tip from Ernie Els – The art of reading greens.

“Reading greens is a funny business. Most people know which way the ball breaks on the greens at their home course, but away from home, it’s an altogether different story. Some golfers just happen to be better than others, but it’s tough to put your finger on exactly why they are good in this particular department.

Well, I consider myself a pretty good reader of greens, so all I can do in this section is pass on a few of the things I look for in a putt, the tell-tale signs indicating which way the ball will break.

  1. Take a good look at the whole green as you approach it. I often find that from a distance I can get a pretty good idea of the lie of the land and that’s my first clue as to what breaks the ball might take.
  2. Look from behind the ball and look from the side. It needn’t take an age – if you’re smart, you can usually find time in-between your playing partners hitting their approach shots or putts. 
  3. Look at what your playing partner’s ball does as it approaches the hole. Even if he or she is not coming from exactly the same line as you, you can still learn a lot about how the ball behaves in that crucial last 18 inches or so of its journey to the hole.
  4. Remember, speed determines break. A firmly struck putt breaks less than a ball hit at a slower speed. So, decide how firmly you want to hit the putt, then establish how much the ball will move at that speed.
  5. Some golfers find it hard to believe that wind can affect the line of a putt, but it does. Obviously, a light breeze isn’t going to do anything, but if your trouser bottoms are flapping, then that should alert you to the fact that it is strong enough to make a difference. And the faster the greens, the more the wind will influence the ball’s path to the hole. It can cancel out the break on some putts or increase the swing on others.
  6. Finally, experiment a little. I can’t show you the break on putts, so the best thing you can do is work on a trial-and-error basis. During the next practice round you play, place some balls around a hole – say, 15 feet away – and try to read each putt individually. Then hit the putt and see if you were right. If you read it incorrectly, take a second look and see if you can see the line now. Bit by bit, you’re training your eyes to see the borrows and spot the tell-tale signs. And that really is what reading greens is all about. You can’t just suddenly become a good line-reader overnight. Like anything else, it takes experience. 

If you don’t think you’re very good at reading greens, set up some balls around the hole as shown in the images. Read each putt individually, slowly working your way around the circle.”

Thank you, Ernie! Being able to read the greens is an important part of putting well. So is alignment and distance control. Bloodline technology takes alignment out of the equation by making it possible for a player to clearly see where the putter is aligned because they can walk behind it while it stands alone. We help people make more putts through better alignment, more consistency and more confidence.

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