How To Read Greens: 7 Expert Tips To Always Pick The Correct Line

It truly is quite simple. To shoot lower scores you need to make more putts. To make more putts you must learn how to read greens.

You can spend hours practicing your stroke, but even the perfect roll won’t find the cup if you are aiming at the wrong spot.

Tiger Woods is the best clutch putter golf has ever seen. In his prime, it felt like he never missed an important putt.

So how did he do it? Yes, his putting stroke is pure, but he also was the best at knowing how to read greens.

how to read greens. A golfer makes a putt on the green.

If you don’t know how to read greens you are just guessing. You are hitting putts and hoping to get lucky!

We want to help you move from luck to skill. Below we cover the factors you need to consider and different techniques you can try.

Keep reading to learn how to read greens like a pro!

How To Read Greens: 3 Factors You Must Consider

There are three things you should keep in mind when analyzing your putt. Keep these factors in mind when determining where you should aim.

A golfer makes a putt towards a golf buggy

#1: Break

When you think about how to read greens, this is the first thing that comes to mind. The break or curve of the putt.

How much is the putt going to curve left or right? If it breaks both directions, which way will it move more?

This should be the first step in your reading process. Get an idea of the break before you proceed to factor #2.

#2: Slope/Speed

How hard do you need to hit the ball? Is it uphill or downhill or a combination of both?

To make a putt, your break and speed must match. Different combinations of the two can end with the ball in the hole.

If you hit the ball softly, it will break more. A putt with a firm speed will move less.

Not all great putters do this the same way. Tiger is known as a firm putter, but Ben Crenshaw liked to take the highest possible line and hit the putt softly.

a golfer reads the green before making a putt

#3: The Weather Conditions

We know, it seems crazy to consider the weather when putting but is true. Good ol’ Mother Nature can impact your ability to sink a putt.

To learn how to read greens you must understand the impact rain and wind can have on your ball.

Rain, morning dew, or any type of moisture will slow down your putt. You must add a bit more speed in these conditions.

Don’t forget about the wind. I can impact your putt more than you think. Wind can affect the speed and the break.

The faster the greens, the more you must factor the wind when learning how to read greens.

two golfers discuss a putt before one makes the putt

How To Read Greens – 7 Expert Tips

We have covered the what, now it is time to discuss the how. Below are our favorite tips for learning how to read greens.

#1: Learn The Speed On The Practice Green

The speed of the greens will be different every time you play. You can’t properly read the greens if you don’t know the pace.

You need to prepare for each round on the practice green. As Ben Franklin said, “If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail”.

Always arrive at least 30 minutes before your tee time and spend 10-15 minutes hitting putts. You don’t need to think about your stroke, just try to feel the speed of the green.

a number of balls around a golf hole

Learn how to read greens by figuring out the speed before you reach the green on the first hole. Here is a great pre-round drill.

Drop a couple of balls on the middle of the practice green. You don’t need to aim at a hole, instead putt it to the edge of the green.

Try to stop the ball as close to the fringe as possible. Do this from different distances and you will quickly have an idea of the green speed.

#2: Know The Grass

Our second tip on how to read greens is also something you do before you reach the first tee.

Did you know that greens can be made with different types of grass? The most common are bent and bermuda.

You can’t possibly know how to read the greens if you don’t understand what type of greens you are playing on.

one golfer helps anpther putter with her putt

The primary difference is that bermuda greens will have grain that will impact how your ball rolls. You need to consider the grain when reading greens with this type of grass.

Grain in a bermuda green is caused by the fact that this type of grass will grow horizontally, instead of vertically. It will impact the speed and the break of your putt.

There are different ways to account for grain, but the simplest is to look for different colorations on the green.

Light or sheen means it will be quicker. Darker will be slower.

#3: Circle The Putt

To learn how to read greens you need to quickly gather as much information about your putt as possible. You want as many different perspectives as possible.

two golfers discuss another golfers putt

The best way to collect this data is to “circle your putt”. Walk around the full length of your putt and go behind the hole.

You should be doing two things during this stroll. Look for slopes or subtle breaks and feel the slopes with your feet.

Use more than just your eyes to learn how to read greens. Your feet can also be quite valuable.

#4: Pick A Spot To Roll The Ball Over

What is the goal of your green reading process? We recommend you identify a spot on the green approximately halfway to the hole that you want the ball to roll over.

This helps you in a couple of different ways. First, it gives you a micro-target to focus on instead of the hole.

Second, it provides you with instant feedback following a missed putt. If you missed your spot, it was caused by your putting stroke.

a golfer tries to flick a ball into the hole

On the other hand, if your ball rolled over the spot and still missed the hole, your read was off. Even a perfect putt won’t go in if you fail to learn how to read greens.

#5: Long Putts: Pay Special Attention To The 2nd Half

Long putts can be especially challenging to read. They often have multiple slopes and can break several different ways.

Learn how to read greens and you can save strokes simply by two putting when faced with a long putt.

The trick is to focus on the 2nd half of a long putt. You shouldn’t ignore the first half, but the end of the putt will take more of the break as the ball slows down.

For example, if you have a 40-foot putt that breaks right at the beginning and left at the end, we recommend you play more of the left break.

two golfers celebrate a good putt

Lag putting is a skill that separates scratch golfers from players trying to break 90 for the first time.

Reduce your 3-putts and watch your golf handicap drop!

#6: Practice Reading Greens

To improve at the game of golf you need to spend time practicing your short game. Too many players simply go to the practice green and smack putts.

If you want to learn how to read greens, you must take your practice seriously. When working on putting make sure you practice reading the break.

Get a few golf balls. Pick a 20-foot putt and go through your green reading process. Now roll the putts.

a golfer makes a long putt

Assess your read. Did you pick the correct line and speed? If not, why was it off?

Look for tendencies. Do you tend to under-read or over-read the break? Do you struggle with understanding the speed?

This is how you improve and learn how to read greens. Once you know your shortcomings they are easier to fix.

#7: Be Aware Of Your Pace

Not the pace of the putt, but your pace of play. You want to take a few moments to read your putt, but make sure the length of your routine is reasonable.

Don’t be the golfer who holds up the entire course because you spend 5 minutes reading your putt. We have all played behind this player.

Don’t disturb other players in your group, but you can start looking at your putt before it is your turn to play.

a young golfer makes a putt while another golfer watches

Once it is your turn to putt, don’t take more than 30 seconds. Using the tips above, get an understanding of the line and make a confident stroke.

Analysis paralysis can happen on the greens. Don’t let it happen to you.

Everyone loves to play with a fast golfer, but you don’t have to sacrifice your score to play quickly. Simply be efficient and decisive.

We hope you have learned how to read greens efficiently. We hope all of your putts find the bottom of the cup!

Interested in A Detailed Green Reading System? Try AimPoint

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Ray has been playing golf for 35+ years, including being part of his High School and College golf teams. While he still enjoys playing in amateur tournaments, Ray now focuses on growing the game of golf through teaching and coaching. He has two sons that both play golf competitively and loves spending time watching them compete. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +2 handicap.

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