My teaching career as an Assistant Golf Professional at La Paloma Country Club in Tucson is still very much in its infancy, but one of the most common questions I’ve received in my short time there is “How do you read greens?”
Great question! At the Golf Academy, we learned that when it comes to reading greens successfully, experience is the key. The more golf you play, the more greens you’re going to experience so you can see how they roll and which way they break. You bank those memories away for future rounds.
Short game guru Todd Sones is a Golf Digest Top 50 and Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructor in the Chicago area who also serves on the Golf Academy’s National Advisory Board. He has a lot to say about golf, but particularly the short game.
Recently, Todd emailed out a video tip on reading greens. His philosophy is find your line, commit to your line, and then forget about your line. Not only will this video help you better read greens, it’ll teach you how to aim to the line you choose.
Like all of Todd’s videos that I post, this one will only be available for one week, after which it’ll be archived exclusively for Todd’s Impact Golf members. I’ll transcribe the tip below, but if you’re interested in becoming an Impact Golf Member to gain access to this tip and others, click on Impact Golf. I think you’ll find it to be a worthwhile investment.
Much like the full swing, alignment when you’re putting is huge. If you roll the ball straight off the face and at the proper speed, it’s pretty important that you also do two other things: read the putt and get it lined up properly. To be a good putter, those last two things are really important.
Alignment is influenced by two things, but the major influence is what the ball does consistently off the face of the club. In other words, if you tend to hit putts where the ball goes to the right off the face of the club and your brain is seeing the ball finish right, it won’t take long for your brain to figure out, “I need to adjust my alignment to the left.”
Players who tend to push putts have alignment patterns to the left, just like players who tend to pull putts. If the ball is going left off the face of the putter, they learn that they need to aim to the right to counteract the ball going left off the face.
“Never in my teaching have I seen anyone miss right by hitting a push off the face while aiming right,” says Todd.
“That putter is aiming left. And I’ve never seen someone who has a pull in his stroke aim left. He’ll aim to the right to counteract where the ball’s going off the face of the putter.”
The best thing to do to learn good alignment is to build fundamentals where you learn to roll the ball straight off the face. That’s the first thing you do to line up the putter properly. Then your brain learns where the ball’s going to go.
The second thing you have to determine is where your eyes are in relation to the golf ball. When you tilt forward from the hips, it allows your eyes to come to the inside edge of the golf ball. If you think about it, it makes sense. If you were shooting a rifle, your eyes would be directly over the rifle sight.
It’s not that you couldn’t do it, but it would be harder to have your eyes to the side of the rifle sight and shoot in a straight line. It’s possible, but it’s just harder, and you want to make things as simple as possible.
With your eyes over the inside edge of the golf ball, you have the best optical view of where the leading edge of your putter is pointing. It’s as simple as that. Those are the two most important things as far as alignment is concerned: rolling the ball straight off the face of the putter and where your eyes are in relation to the golf ball.
Your optic line, when it converges with your target line, gives you the best view of where the putter head is aiming. If you’re looking at it at an angle, it’s harder. If you’re rolling it straight, you can still do it, but it’s harder. That’s how Todd looks at alignment.
When you’re on the green, there’s a system that will help you read greens and get the putter lined-up properly. Todd likes to use a phrase at his short game schools: “Find your line, commit to your line, forget about your line.” “Find your line” doesn’t mean the total line of the putt. That’s very hard to do because, depending on the speed you hit the putt, there are 3-4 lines you could make a putt on depending on how hard you hit the golf ball. There are different lines, but what’s the same is where you start the golf ball.
Todd always tells people they need a 6″ straight line on every putt because that tells them where to aim the putter face. When you get behind the putt, get down and look at the green. Ultimately, what you’re looking for is where you need to start the putt. You shouldn’t be concerned with aiming the putter in relation to the hole.
When you go into your tilt, you shouldn’t be focused out in the distance or aiming the putter out in the distance. Start behind the golf ball. After you’ve read the putt properly, grip the putter, set the putter down looking at where you want to start the golf ball (never taking your eyes off that spot) while you’re putting the putter down.
Once you’ve found the line from behind, walked up to it, and set the putter down, that’s the moment you should commit to it. Find your 6″ start line and commit to it. Once you’re committed to it and you build your stance, the last part is your mental pre-shot routine.
You’re physical is what you’re physically doing, but your mental is what’s unseen. It’s what you’re thinking about. Find your line. Commit to your line. Now, forget about your line. This is key. Once the putter’s down, you should have no concern about the alignment of your putter and the line the ball will travel on. You’ll steer the putt if you try to do that and lose the flow of your stroke.
Instead, look at the hole, being totally consumed with the distance to the hole and making the putt. That’s where you want your mind. If you’re thinking about hitting the ball on a line, you’re not thinking about the hole. Forget about your line. Find your line from behind and commit to your line with the putter behind the golf ball. Then look at the hole, and if you make a good stroke where the ball rolls straight off the face, the chances of you rolling it over your spot and making the putt go way up.
Don’t steer your putt after you’ve got the putter lined up, and always remember: find your line, commit to your line, and forget about your line.