Golfers in the U.S. Sunbelt must read more than just the green’s slope when putting. Bermuda grass, found on the vast majority of hot-weather courses, is notoriously “grainy.” That is, the blades tend to grow noticeably in one direction.
The ball naturally rolls faster if putted “down grain,” or in the same direction the grass is growing. The opposite holds true as well, meaning putts hit “into the grain” will roll more slowly; they tend to bounce, too, further reducing speed and disrupting the line. What’s more, grass tends to grow in the same direction as slope, meaning down-grain putts are often downhill, and into-the-grain putts are uphill – amplifying the grain’s effect.
How do you know which way the grain is growing? It’s usually pretty obvious using these visual cues:
- If you notice a distinct sheen on the grass, you’re looking at it down-grain. The grass will appear lighter in color.
- If the grass looks dark and rough-textured, you’re looking into the grain.
Golfers tend to struggle most when putting into the grain, rarely hitting the ball hard enough to reach the hole or hold the line. In these instances, play less break than the slope indicates and hit the ball slightly firmer than normal without lengthening your backstroke. The key is to accelerate through the ball. Keep your eyes down for a couple of seconds after the ball has left the clubface.
One more thing to remember about into-the-grain putts: because they roll slowly and stop quickly after losing steam, you can be aggressive without the fear of going too far past the cup.
Note: Other grasses commonly found on greens, such as bentgrass (U.S. mid-Atlantic, northeast, midwest), poa annua (west coast), and fescue (British Isles) feature little or no grain and don’t require the same adjustments.