It’s as true on the putting green as anywhere else: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. On the green, however, the shortest route isn’t always the best one.
Most putts of three or more feet in length have at least a little break (curve) to the right or left, which must be accounted for when deciding where to aim and how hard to hit the ball.
There are two schools of thought on how to handle breaking putts. One method is to stroke the ball gently so that it “dies” in the hole, which requires playing the maximum amount of break. The other is to hit the ball harder and more directly at the hole, eliminating some or all of the break.
Both tactics have plusses and minuses. Dying your putts requires a delicate touch and refined green-reading skills; when charging putts, you run the risk of running well past the hole on a miss.
Here’s a short primer on factors that influence how aggressively to putt:
- Green speed: On very fast greens, it’s best to play lots of break and die your putts. On slower greens, play less break and give putts a good rap.
- Slope: Downhill putts are faster and break more, so a light stroke is best. Uphill putts are slower and break less; charge them.
- Length: On putts inside four feet, play as little break as possible and knock the ball into the back of the hole. It’s best to respect the break on longer putts.