Television doesn’t always show it, but pro golfers face a lot of putts with huge breaks, often five feet or more. It’s amazing how infrequently they three-putt – and how many of these snakes they knock in the hole.
Big-breaking putts can be intimidating to amateur golfers, who fear playing too little break and finishing well wide of the hole, or playing too much and leaving a downhill second putt. The key lies in learning to read these putts and developing a feel for proper speed.
Let’s start with a couple of green-reading basics:
- The faster the green, the more putts will break. Putts break less on slower greens.
- Downhill putts typically break more than those over level ground, while uphill putts tend to break less.
When faced with a large amount of break, most golfers tend to under-read and miss below the hole, aka the “amateur side.” When watching the pros, notice how they usually miss to the high or “pro” side. Why does this matter? Because once a ball breaks below the center of hole, it has very little chance of going in even if it catches the lip. A putt rolling from above the hole is more likely to find a piece of the cup and – thanks to gravity – fall to the bottom.
As you read a big-breaking putt, determine the spot where you think the ball will begin turning toward the hole. This is called the high point or apex. Then choose the spot on the cup where a putt from the high point would go in, dead-center. This may be on the very side of the cup as viewed from your ball.
Align yourself with the high point and take a couple of looks at it – not the hole itself – then stroke the ball as though trying to roll it directly over the spot. At the correct pace, the ball should trickle over the apex and toward its final destination.
Spend a few minutes of every practice session on big-breaking putts from varying distances. You’ll quickly improve your ability to read greens and stroke tough putts with touch.