My first lesson the other day was to cover green reading. The early morning provides the best time to learn to truly see how the slope affects the roll of your putts. I recommend you “dew” this exercise as often as you can to hole more of those must make putts.
Use a hole location that is “planar” meaning a flat, tilted surface like a pool table tilted up on one end. Avoid using a hole location with more than one slope to it. It is a good idea to use holes with different slopes (amounts of tilt) to get an idea of how different slopes will change the read. It is CRUCIAL that you develop the required touch to roll the ball one foot past the cup if the ball does not go in. AND commit to that distance (capture speed actually) on every putt from 20 feet and in. If your speed varies, the read will necessarily HAVE to vary as well and that leads to confusion and inaccuracy.
The Green Reading Clock
6 O’clock is a zero degrees to the slope putt, as is 12. This is known as the fall line (zero break line). You are putting straight up and down the slope. Keep in mind that all putting surfaces are not flat like a pool table, and realize that you will have instances where the straight uphill and down hill putts are NOT on the same line. This is why I recommend only reading the putt from one side of the hole. Read from the uphill side if your ball is on the uphill side of the hole. Read from the down hill side if your ball is below the hole. Otherwise, you can and will get confused by reads that differ on either side. (In the photo, you can see that I miss placed the 12 o’clock putt and the ball broke to the left just a little so I have drawn the line as it should have been.)
PLACE PICTURE HERE!!!!
ALL PUTTS BREAK TO THE LEFT on the right side of the Zero Break Line (6-12 Fall Line)
ALL PUTTS BREAK TO THE RIGHT on the left side of the Zero Break Line
Distance. Slope. Ball Speed. These are the factors that influence break. It is important to know that if the 5 foot putt breaks 2 inches, doubling that distance to 10 feet will increase the break by just about three times!!! Of course, the greater the slope, the more the putt will break. The longer the putt is rolling, the more gravity will pull it down the slope. Downhill putts must be hit more slowly than uphill putts. That’s why downhill putts break more than uphill putts.
The beauty of the putting clock, whether you prefer to look at it as the hours on the clock or the degrees relative to the slope, is that with regular practice, you can eliminate guessing from your reads. If the slope is flat, and you are putting at 5 o’clock, you KNOW for certain that you play the ball inside the right edge—don’t give the hole away—for SURE.
One of the best exercises you can include in your practice is to putt the Clock using a plugged hole so that you can see how far beyond the hole each putt goes. No you don’t get the satisfaction of seeing and hearing the ball go in, but it is a very good exercise nonetheless.
Roll ‘em and hole ‘em!
John Dunigan is a PGA Master Professional and Director of Instruction at White Manor Country Club in Malvern where he runs the John Dunigan Golf Academy. An expert in Junior Golf, John received the prestigious PGA Philadelphia Section Junior Golf Leader Award for 2012, and was named Philadelphia Section Teacher of the Year in 2008.He lives in Kennett Square.