When you watch golf tournaments being played, or play with different people from usual, you may notice that when they putt, they stand directly behind the golf ball and the hole and hold their putter up in the air in front of them as they look from the ball to the hole.
This is called plumb-bobbing and it can be used to help you read the green and to decide on the direction that you need to start the putt in, if you understand how to plumb-bob correctly.
Plumb-bobbing basically shows you the vertical. If you stand and hold the butt end of the putter handle between your thumb and index finger, so that it hangs freely, it will hang vertically. Using your putter as a vertical line between the golf ball and the hole will now allow you to see which side of the vertical line that the hole is on and as such this will show you the break, or curve on the surface away from vertical, allowing you to obtain the shape of the putt that is required to get the ball into the hole.
In order to plumb-bob correctly, you initially need to know which of your eyes is dominant. To work this out, do the following. Create a circle between your thumb and index finger. It does not matter which hand you do this with. Once you have this circle, raise it up in front of your eyes, arm’s length away from your face. Look at a static object in the distance. This could be the top of the flag from the edge of the green, for example, and whilst looking at the object, place the circle of your thumb and index finger around it so that you see the object in the middle of the circle. Now close your left eye. If the object remains in the circle, you are right eye dominant but if it appears out of the circle you are left eye dominant. You need to know which eye you look through more dominantly in order to plumb-bob correctly, as you are going to use this eye only as you plumb-bob.
Now that you know which eye to use, you can begin to plumb-bob. Place a golf ball on the putting green about the distance of your average first putt away from the hole. Stand directly behind the ball so that you are positioned in line with the golf ball and the hole. You need to be about 3 yards behind the ball. Hold the butt end of the putter handle, between your index finger and thumb and raise the putter up in front of you. You need to keep your dominant eye open and close the other and then position the putter in front of you so that the shaft covers the ball. As you do this, ensure that you are standing directly in line with the golf ball and the hole. With the shaft of the putter now covering the ball, look up the shaft and notice which side the hole appears and how far off the shaft it appears as well. This is now showing you the break, or curve, on the putt. If the hole appears on the left, the putt breaks right to left and vice versa. You will now be able to see the curve of the putt that you are facing.
Plumb-bobbing before you putt can really help to improve your confidence with the direction to putt the ball in and also with how much the putt will curve. It is not an exact method, but if you find it difficult to read greens, try employing this method and you should notice that your putting really does improve.