You don’t have to be like this goof to read putting greens!

by Jordan on February 2, 2012

You don’t have to be like this goof to read the green

You could hit the best putt of your life.

But if you’re no good at reading greens, you got no chance.

This is the most overlooked aspect of putting.

But it won’t be after you read this post!

You’ll learn how to improve at these while reading this article.

So start you should know the factors that play into what way and how much a putt breaks.

They are:

  • Slope
  • Moisture Level
  • Green Firmness
  • Grass Length
  • Wind
  • Grain


When approaching the putting surface you should be already trying to determine which way the land slopes.

Is it back to front, right to left or left to right? Take a second to scan around and see what way the land falls.

Once you have the slope  figured out you have to determine how much the putt will break in that direction. This is a skill that will take some time to master. But the main goal is to figure out which way the ball will move.

Don’t get too discouraged at the beginning if you are not playing the correct amount of break. Just take the positive away that you knew what way it broke!

At the end of this post I’ve got a great way to excelerate your ability to read greens. 

But I still need to discuss the other factors that play into how much a putt breaks.

Moisture Level

If there is a lot of water on the top or in the soil, the putt will not break as much. I have no explanation for this but all I can tell you that it’s true from playing many rounds on the west coast (rainy coast) of Canada! Moist characteristics are big ball marks and lush putting surfaces.


If a putting surface is firm then it will generally be faster and tend to break more than normal. Firmness can be gauged by the color of a putting surface – brownish tint means it’s firm, how deep the ball marks are – if there are not noticeable then it’s firm, if you can hear a thud sound when you tap your putter head on ground or if the surface feels more like pavement then mud!

Grass Length

If the grass is longer the ball will roll at a slower pace and not break as much. Shorter grass length equals faster greens which break more.


Not only does wind affect our full shots but it also affects reading the green. Wind direction can cause a putt to be fast, slow or break more than it should. If you’re faced with a putt into the wind, it will be slower and vice versa with a putt down wind. If the wind is coming from the right or left of you, it will cause the putt to break more then it normally would.

Grain (depending on the type of grass)

Courses that have bermuda grass will have a grain to it much like wood. You can determine which way the grain is going by looking at the tint of the grass on the surface.

Below is a visual. Although it’s a fairway the grass has grain and I will explain how to determine grain below.

The right side (shiny) is down grain. The left side (dark) is into the grain)

The shiny grass on the right side of this picture is down grain. This would make a putting surface play faster and break more.

On the left side of the fairway the grass is darker meaning it’s going against the grain. This would make the green slower and break less.


I see it too often. Golfers who are completely baffled by what way a putt broke. It’s unaccapetable because it’s their home course which they’ve played hundreds of rounds on.

With that said I’d highly suggest taking notes of your home courses greens.

Chart out your greens and measure them out. Mark down any slopes, shelves or high points. See the below visual taken from PGA Tour player Scott Piercy’s yardage book.

Start charting greens like this

With your green charting book, draw a visual of green and below that, leave a space for your notes.

When you play jot any notes down you can. Then refer back to your notes when you’re walking up to the green.

I can’t stress the importantce of keeping notes of greens. Even if it’s a course you play a few times a year, you will still benefit from charting it’s greens.

In the end you’ll save yourself from looking foolish and you’ll shave strokes off your score.

What Do You Think

What is your biggest challenge when trying to read putts?


Jordan J. Caron is a former Canadian PGA Class A member who still wants to help golfers shoot better scores. He is also the President of Meaningful Marketing. In his downtime he likes to read, play squash and drink wine.

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