Reading your putt sight

The practice of “plumb-bobbing” a putt’s line draws scowls from some golf purists, but the method can be an effective way to determine a putt’s break. Just ask Ben Crenshaw.

One of the game’s greatest putters – and a noted traditionalist himself – Crenshaw is exhibit A in the argument for plumb-bobbing. In essence, plumb-bobbing can tell you which side of a putt’s line is higher. In other words, in which direction the ball will break.

It’s not necessary to plumb-bob every putt, since the slope on most greens is fairly obvious. But sometimes it can be tough to determine with the normal technique, and that’s when plumb-bobbing comes in handy. 

plumb bob putt

Here’s how to properly plumb-bob a putt: 

  • Get into a crouch 5-15 feet behind the ball. For longer putts, you may want to stand upright.
  • Using your thumb and forefinger, hold the putter just below the grip so that it hangs perpendicular to the green surface, in front of your face, with the clubhead just off the ground.
  • The shaft should form a straight line from the ball (bottom) to the hole (top).
  • Looking through only your dominant eye* (with the other eye closed), note whether the green to one side of the shaft appears higher than the other. If the high side is to the right, for example, the putt will break left. You may also notice that the hole tilts in one direction. 

Those who dismiss plumb-bobbing often point out that many greens feature multiple slopes in different directions, creating intersections that can fool the eyes. Try plumb-bobbing and make note of the results on confusing putts. Did plumb-bobbing give you the right line, or not?

Practicing this on a putting green with a familiar break will help you determine if you're performing the plumb-bob correctly. 

One final note: Do not use this method on a putt that has more than one break. 

*To determine your dominant eye, hold one arm straight in front of you, with the thumb pointing up and aligned with an object in the distance, such as a tree. Close one eye, then open it and close the other. One eye will cause the thumb to “move,” while it will remain in basically the same place when looking through the other. Your dominant eye is the one through which the thumb stays still.

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