Reading greens is a very important skill if you want to be a good putter. It comes easier if you play the same course over and over, but when playing a course for the first time it requires more conscious effort. To be great no matter where you play you need a simple procedure for identifying the slopes and seeing the line.
Note: If you’re playing a course for the first time I highly recommend walking. Not only is this a great way to stay loose, you will become more aware of your surroundings, especially around the greens. It also gives you more time as you walk to the putting surface to observe the slope in the greens. Here’s a simple system I wrote about last year in a blog titled, “A System for Estimating Break,” that outlines a procedure for seeing the line.
Walk behind your mark as far back as needed to get a general idea of the slope. This is a breif introduction to your putt. You want to take in all necessary information. Use the three major factors when estimating break – slope, elevation, and distance. After a very short time your mind will begin visualizing a path to the hole. The first break you want to visualize is the lower estimate. This is where you guess the minimal amount of break the ball will take to the hole. The next break you visualize is the upper estimate. This is where you guess the maximum amount of break the ball will take to the hole. Here’s an illustration of what that might look like.
So you’re basically creating two possible routes to the hole – the minimum break and the maximum break. On most occasions the true read will fall somewhere in between these two. However, since most amateurs miss on the low side, the upper estimate is usually the safe bet. But when facing uphill putts the lower estimate might work best since uphill putts break less than downhill putts and vice versa for downhill putts. Either way, the key is committing early so you never second guess over the ball. Try this system and let me know how it works!