How to Read a Green: Everything You Need to Know

Want to score more putts and develop your playing confidence? Not sure how to send your putt to the bottom of the hole cup?

We’re here to guide you through the ENTIRE process and provide you with our top tips!

By the end of this article, you’ll be so much better at green reading and will only improve in time.

Let’s start!

How to read greens

How to Read Greens: A Step by Step Guide

Do you need a proper guide on how to read greens? DON’T WORRY!

We’ll go through a step-by-step process, and after reading this guide, hopefully, you’ll be able to do this process easily!

Let’s walk through it!

Step 1: Sight It Out

Being able to read greens is already HALF the battle of improving your game!

Green reading starts by looking at the grass as soon as you’re walking and while you pull your cart. Scan the green and start looking out for hills and the break and slopes of your shot.

If you can, go around the perimeter and make out the lighter parts from the darker parts. You’ll notice that the lighter and darker sections change depending on where your feet are and your perspective.

Depending on where your feet stand, the light sections mean that the green is going downhill, while the dark sections mean the green is going uphill.

You want to DETERMINE which part of the putting green goes downhill and uphill from the hole.

Additional Tip

However, if you can’t see much of the lay of the land in the green and where the slopes are, you can also try to CROUCH DOWN to get a better green reading…

Step 2: Look at the Grain Direction

When you crouch down, you notice the direction of where the leaves are facing. The grain grows in the direction of its water source, not of the sun.

Earlier, we told you about the light parts of the green going downhill and the dark parts uphill. It works that way, thanks to the reflection of the light on the grain.

As you’re looking at grass, what you see is its GRAIN. The dark sections of the greens are the underside of the leaves (which is the shaded side).

Meanwhile, in the light sections of the greens, what you see is the SHINY TOP PART of the grain reflecting the sunlight better.

If you’re looking at the top part of the leaf, then you’re higher than it, and you know it will take your shot downhill.

Step 3: Get Low

Set your golf ball to the ground and take a few steps back. Then squat and get as low as possible to do your green reading. This way, you’ll see more of the putt.

Now you can see the lay of the land better. You also start seeing the OBVIOUS breaks and whether the cup hole goes from the left to the right or from right to left.

Step 4: Read Greens With Your Feet

You already have an idea of the distance while WALKING UP to your ball, so pace it out as well to give you a feel of the ground.

Sure, you can see if the green is going uphill with just your eyes. But the pacing of green-reading will give you the nuances of the putt that you couldn’t see.

The grain gives you a lot of information, but if the slope isn’t as steep, you won’t always tell where hitting your shot will take you with your visual green-reading.

Pacing, however, will immediately let you read greens better because you can feel EVERY LITTLE SLOPE with your feet.

Start pacing from behind the hole, not the other side. When you walk behind the putt, you can also read greens better by not having to miss the minuscule directions of the break. 

You’ll be able to be more certain if it starts from the left to the right or from right to left.

Things to Consider

Also, have you ever noticed how professional golfers STAND TO THE SIDE before playing or widen their feet stance before putting?

They do that to feel with their feet! If they are leaning to either the left or the right side, they know the slope and where it’s going.

They can also feel with their feet to see if they are going to put their weight on their heels or toes, again indicating the run of the green.

Step 5: Gauge the Distance of Your Aim

Now that you know whether your putts will go downhill or uphill, start pacing from behind your putt to around the hole.

This will give you an idea of the distance, so you know how much strength and speed to use in your putt.

Being able to sink your putt all depends on how FAR the distance is, how much FORCE you think you will need, how good you’ll be able to CONTROL that strength, and how much SPEED your putts will need.

Step 6: Imagine a Line on the Greens

Now that you’ve got your green reading covered, it’s time to prepare for your putts.

From your ball to the hole, draw a line in your head about how you’re going to send it in the hole when you take your shot.

Remember, there are no flat sections in the courses, so your “line” is never really straight. There are ALWAYS CURVED lines on breaking putts.

This means you can’t hit your putt with too much speed since curved lines tend to slow the putt down.

Step 7:  Get Into Your Set up Position

Now get BEHIND, where you’ll hit your putt.

Set up just along the curved line. If you have a starting position set up, get into it before you start to hit.

Step 8: Set Your Speed

You’ve got the distance covered, you’ve imagined the pathway of your putt, and you’re in your putter position.

The only thing that’s left now is DETERMINING your putt speed. This part is usually based on your playing style and the distance to the hole.

Just keep in mind that the less break you need in playing, the harder you will need to hit the putt (and the more speed you’ll get in your stroke).

Also, a downhill hole will only need a slow stroke, while an uphill one will need a fast one.

Step 9: Hit Your Putter Solid

It’s TIME TO PUTT!

Go back to the curved line in your head to determine the force you need. A curved line is that, unlike a straight one, there is ALWAYS a stopping point.

A straight line has no stopping point; when you hit a straight path, it makes the hole no matter how much strength you put in your putt.

However, a curved line will require more control in your putts’ force. Your goal is to get your putt in the curved pathway to make the hole.

Now go ahead and putt it gently along the right line in your head.

Related: Best Putters For High Handicappers

Things to Remember

Here are our additional tips and tricks to fully master reading greens!

Create Your Starting Position

It’s important to have a STARTING POSITION setup because it becomes your default. It’s where you can always reset to and check if you’re in the right place, especially before the round.

You could also use a putting mirror to help.

It will provide you instant feedback and let you build a more consistent setup faster since you easily see what you can improve on and how to move your body to get into position.

There Is No Completely Flat Section

If there is a flat spot, water will pool when it rains. Architects that design courses do it so that no water will pool in any part of the greens.

This is because the grass used belongs to the small, short, and fragile grass types. These grass types are so FRAGILE that they rot and die easily when water pools in them.

Yes, there are almost flat sections in the greens. But a golf course is always designed to have at least half a degree of angle to create a slope.

It’s also a good thing to always remember that every green has a slope because, with this mindset, you are already always looking for the slope of the green and the curve in the path as early as your initial read.

Stick To Your First Instinct

Sure, it takes time to train your eyes to do a green reading, but your gut feeling when you sight the field out is usually the right one.

Many other players end up making a worse putt when they read in too much and doubt their instincts, so always STICK with it!

Look Around You

OBSERVE other golfers around the course if you’re putting with a group and you’re not the first to putt.

You can learn a lot from their play and putt. They’re also done with their green reading before putting, so following their example (if their shot turned out to be good) will be helpful for your play.

If they miss, you also gain some insight into what went wrong and what you should avoid when you putt.

Missed putts give you more insight than putts that make the hole because when the ball continues to roll, you see the continuation of that role and determine where it is going.

Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Long Putt

If you find your play with a long putt, consider a BREAK or two!

A long putt will require multiple reads since you’ll be dealing with different slopes, possibly in different directions.

A long putt will need multiple curved pathways. You can’t play them all in just one ultimate putt without a break.

When you encounter one, always break a long putt because the short game is just as IMPORTANT as the long game!

Practice!

Reading greens takes time, effort, and lots of practice, just like learning any other skill. You can’t expect yourself to be the next Tiger Woods in no time!

If you did everything right, but your putts still didn’t make it, you’re still doing FINE! Just keep at it, and you’ll find yourself making progress and building your confidence.

FAQs

More questions about the topic? We’ve got you covered! Here are the most frequently asked questions about the topic!

What Is Plumb Bobbing?

Plumb bobbing is (in our humble opinion) an OLD-FASHIONED way to do the green reading. It was used to see which way a putt will break.

This is done by squatting behind the ball with the putter handing it in the right in front of you. Then, reading greens according to the pathway of the putt based on how your putter hangs.

Does Doing a Plumb Bob Work?

Some professionals use it, so YES, it does work!

However, there are more accurate and easier ways to read greens than doing a plumb bob, so we don’t recommend that you do it.

A plumb bob will only let you know the steep slopes (which you already know by seeing the light and dark sections).

It also won’t tell you about the multiple small slopes you read when you walk.

What if I Have Trouble Seeing the Grain for Green Reading?

POLARIZED SUNGLASSES!

They help you see the color change of the grain so much better than just your eyes, and you’re allowed to wear them for reading greens!

How Much Time Are You Allowed to Have for Reading Greens and Preparing for Your Putts?

If you happen to be the first player, you are allowed 45 seconds in total to play. This includes doing your green reading, pacing, setting up, and putting.

No delays are ALLOWED, so you can’t be slow, or you’ll run out of time. It’s up to you how you’ll divide your time and allot for reading greens.

If, however, you are lucky enough not to be the first person to play, you have more time to assess and do your green reading while other players take their turn.

Don’t worry, though, soon you’ll be able to get faster and faster in the entire process of green-reading and sink more and more putts in time.

Different Courses Have Different Playing Rules

Of course, playing isn’t solely dependent on your skill. There are a few external factors in play depending on the environment.

Everything from the wind, the leaf type used, and the architecture affect your green reading. You might also hear that some courses have their own rules.

For example, in ocean courses, you might hear rules like “breaks towards the ocean” that you definitely won’t hear in other courses. 

It’s important to remember the local rules so you won’t miss your shot.

Conclusion

And that’s ALL! Keep all of these in mind and make more putts in time.

Practicing and perfecting the process is the BEST WAY to improve in making putts, and it takes a lot of time, but you’ll be able to do it with effort and patience!

We hope this will be helpful the next time you read greens, GOOD LUCK!

Barry