Do you know what the fall-line on a green is? If so, do you know how it can help you read a green better? Learning to find the fall-line on the green is an important step in taking your level of green-reading up a notch or two. Allow me to explain what the fall-line is, how to find it, and how it can help you make more putts. This is not the easiest thing to understand at first so take your time reading this article. This is, without a doubt, the most important thing I’ve learned about reading greens.
What the Fall-Line is
The fall-line is an imaginary straight line on a green where gravity would take a golf ball, water, or anything else that would roll, flow, or move down hill. Thinking of the fall-line as a water-line is good visual. Visualize a tiny river flowing on a green after a big rain. Where will the water flow? It will flow downhill, right? This is the fall-line on a green.
When putting on a fall-line, whether uphill or downhill, your golf ball will roll straight. Almost every green has a fall-line; some flat greens may not, but it’s very unlikely. To make matters more complicated, greens can have more than one fall-line. I know, this is tricky, but bare with me. Believe it or not, every cup on a green has at least two areas that a putt would enter the cup on a straight line. Some really flat greens could have multiple straight putts, but most greens are sloped to some degree.
How To Find The Fall-Line
Most of the time finding the fall-line isn’t that difficult. What I like to do is stand on the high side of the cup. I then look at the cup and the slope of the green. I then try to imagine what would happen to golf balls if I dropped them. Where would they roll? Straight, left, right, etc. I demonstrate this when I teach how to read a green and it’s pretty clear after the demonstration where the fall-line is. Try it sometime. Stand above the cup and drop golf balls. They will roll to the same place. What they’re doing is rolling down the fall-line.
An important note I’d like to make is an entire green can have a fall-line and each cup can have a fall-line. They are not always the same thing. Viewing the green as a whole can give you a general idea of how a putt will break, but the fall-line around the cup will give you the best idea of what your putt is going to do around the hole. 60% of the break occurs in the last 3-feet of a putt so it’s important to understand how you putt will break at the end of the putt.
Make more putts using the fall-line to your advantage
Once again, every putt on the fall-line is straight. Now, what about breaking putts? If you’re standing on the fall-line below the hole, every putt to your right will break right-to-left and every putt on your left will break left-to-right, regardless if the putt is uphill or downhill. I need to reiterate this fact as it’s the most important point of this article. If you’re on the right half of the fall-line, every putt will break right-to-left whether the putt is uphill or downhill, and vice versa being left of the fall-line.
If you’re ever confused on what way a putt can break, try to find where a straight putt would be first. Once you find where the straight putt is, you can determine which way your putt will break. If your ball is on the right side of the straight putt, your ball will break to the left and vice versa.
Another important note to make is how much your putts will break. When putting uphill, your putts will break considerably less than downhill putts. Uphill putts are hit much harder and don’t take the break as much as downhill putts. The faster the greens, the bigger difference there will be in the break of a downhill putt verses an uphill putt.
Thanks for reading, now go out and make more putts!
ERROR ON THE PRO SIDE IF YOU CAN
When it comes to putting, have you ever heard about the “pro side” and the “amateur side” of the hole? If not, the pro side is when you miss a putt on the high side of the hole and vice versa for the amateur side. Most understand this as amateurs under-read their putts, which is generally true as the average person only reads about a third of a putt’s true break, but there’s more to it. If I had a choice, I’d much rather miss a putt on the high side. I’ll explain why.
First of all, missing a putt on the high side means your first putt had a better chance of going in. If you hit a putt on the low side of the correct line it will almost never go in. Gravity won’t allow your ball to go back uphill on-line. On the flip side, if you hit a putt too high, it does have a chance to bounce downhill or break more as it slows down. Obviously, the right line is preferred, but missing it high means your putt had a better chance of going in.
Second of all, and more importantly, missing a putt on the high side will leave you a shorter 2nd putt. If you hit your first putt past the hole, you will always have a shorter second putt if you miss on the high side, assuming the first putt would travel the same total distance. Due to geometry this is a fact. When a putt is missed on the low side it is rolling away from the hole. Conversely, if you miss a putt on the high side it’s wrapping around the hole and will leave you a shorter 2nd putt.
Try playing more break for your putts. Not only will you give yourself a better opportunity to make a putt, you’ll also have a shorter 2nd putt helping you to avoid the dreaded 3-putt. I’m very confident this will help your putting. Good luck!
Consistently putting well is one of the hardest things to do at this game. Every course and every green is different. Throw in grain, slope, spike marks, ball marks, foot prints, shadows, etc. and you can easily see why holing putts is difficult. This being the case, staying positive towards your putting is not easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to do in this game. Putting well requires confidence. Confidence comes from trusting and believing in what you’re doing. To gain more confidence, consider thinking about putting this way: try to make the putt in your mind, not whether it goes in the hole or not. This is not easy, but if you can adopt this mind-set, you’ll gain more confidence and stay more positive on the greens.
When you hit a putt there are two possible outcomes: it either goes in the hole or it doesn’t. There’s nothing in between. This gives us many highs and lows. It’s easy to become result-orientated, meaning you judge your success solely on the results. This is counter-productive because the odds are you’re going to miss more putts than you hole.
What I like to do is judge my putting success on how I hit the putt. I want to “make” the putt in my mind. I try to roll the ball to the best of my ability on the line I choose. If I do that, I’m happy. I’m obviously happier if the ball goes in the hole, but I know it’s out of my control once the ball leaves the putter face. When I’m putting well, I will “make” most of the putts in my mind, but the odds are I’ve only holed a few on the greens. I like to think that if you make a good putt in your mind and it doesn’t go in it just means your odds of holing the next putt goes up. At least it does my mind. Try this the next time you play and I bet you’ll not only be in a better frame of mind, but you’ll putt better too.
WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT: LINE OR SPEED WHEN PUTTING
What’s more important to your putting success, the line of the putt or the speed? The short answer would be both, right? Obviously, having both the line and the speed correct is ideal, but that’s tough to do every time. I like to think of it this way. If you had to choose between the two, which would you choose? It’s tough to answer that question. However, it’s easier if you break down your putts into two categories: long putts and short putts. For long putts, it’s better to focus on the speed and for short putts it’s better to focus on the line. I’ll explain why and how to do it.
When you’re more than 20 feet away from the cup, especially when you’re 40+ feet away, your odds of making the putt are not great. Even PGA Tour Players don’t make many long putts. What they do very well, however, is avoid 3-putting. On long putts, it is important to have a good line, but it’s more important to have the correct speed. If you have the correct speed you can miss your putt 3 feet right or left of the hole and still have a 3-foot putt for your second putt. If you have a good line, but knock your putt 6 feet by, you will have a 6-footer left. On long putts, I recommend focusing on the speed and not being overly concerned with the line.
The key to getting better with your speed on the greens is to focus more on using your hand-eye coordination. I highly recommend taking your practice stroke(s) looking at the hole. This will initiate your hand-eye coordination. Your eyes will do most of the work for you. They’ll subconsciously let you know how hard to hit the putt, similar to tossing a ball to someone 30-feet away. Trusting and using your hand-eye coordination will greatly improve your speed on the greens.
Conversely, short putts are more dependent upon having the right line. Within 5 or 6 feet of the hole, the line of the putt is more important than the speed. Perfect speed can guarantee a 2-putt, but we’re looking to make these short putts, not settle for a 2-putt. Also, it’s not very difficult getting the correct speed for these putts with a little practice. Usually, your ball will stop within a couple feet of the cup. This is why you should focus almost solely on the line for short putts.
What I recommend for short putts is to read the putt slowly and carefully, like you’re reading it under a microscope. Focus on the exact path your ball will take to the hole. After you’re committed to this line, pick a spot 4 inches ahead of your ball that’s on your line. When walking up to your ball, stay focused on that spot. Line your putter head to that spot. Once you do this, then you can look at the hole, but it’s imperative to line your putter up first. This will take out the variable of wondering if your putter is lined up correctly or not. Once lined-up, all you need to do is take the putter straight back and straight through. I know it’s not easy, but taking one variable out will give you more confidence over these short putts. I also recommend trying to keep your head down until the ball drops in the hole so you don’t come out of your posture too soon.
To summarize, focus more on speed for longer putts and the line for shorter putts to avoid 3-putts and increase your 1-putts. Hopefully, this advice will help you become a great putter.
CHART YOUR MISSES ON THE GREEN
Have you ever charted where you miss your putts? If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to do so this season. If you answered yes, I may offer an idea or two to take it a step further.
There are a few ways to chart your putts on the green. The most simplistic way is to chart whether you miss your putts short or long. I’m hoping long because 98% of the putts left short don’t have a chance of going in. I’m not much of a gambler, but those are not good odds. The second way to chart your putts, and probably the most common, is to chart whether you miss your putts on the high side (pro) or low side (am) of the hole. The last way to chart your putts is to see if you have a tendency to miss them left or right of the hole. Many tend to overlook charting their putts this last way, however, it can be pretty telling if you’re missing the majority of your putts on one side of the hole.
Here’s what you’re looking for when charting your putts. Ideally, you would want to miss about half of your putts on the pro side of the hole and half on the am side. And the same can be said for missing it left and right. Most likely, you’ll start seeing a tendency for your misses after a few rounds.
Here’s what the tendencies mean. For example, if you’re missing 70% of your putts on the am side of the hole, you’re under-reading the break on the green. If this is the case, practice playing more break for your putts. If you’re missing 70% of your putts to the right, then you could be pushing or slicing your putts. For this, practice by placing a 3-iron next to your ball parallel to your target line. Hit putts along the shaft without allowing your ball to strike the shaft. Obviously, I could go on and on about your misses, but it’s imperative to chart them so you can fix your flaws. The more putts you chart the better. Chart your putts for at least 5 rounds and up to 10 rounds. If you do this, I guarantee you’ll find a tendency in your putting that can be improved. And most likely, this improvement can come quickly. Good luck and make more putts!
You just hit a pretty good approach shot, yet you find your ball on the fringe a couple of feet off the green. You’re 30 feet from the hole and you could get up and down with 7 different clubs in your bag. What to do? I say putt it. Every time.
Here’s why I putt it every time:
1) A bad putt is always better than a bad chip. A bad chip could end up anywhere, where a bad putt will still probably be within a few feet of the hole.
2) The risk outweighs the reward when it comes to chipping. In my opinion, when you miss a green your realistic goal is to get down in two. Obviously, you’d love to make it, but the odds are against you. I believe putting it every time will result in a lower total number of shots over time. You may have a slightly better chance of making it by chipping, but guaranteeing the up and down is more important in my opinion.
3) The fringe won’t affect the putt much at all. Believe it or not, your ball is airborn for the first foot or so on your putts. The loft of the putter face (typically 4 degrees) makes the ball fly for a short distance. Then, the ball skids for a bit, and finally, it rolls. That being said, when your ball is on the fringe it will barely touch the fringe when you putt it. This tip should help with your distance control when putting from the fringe. Most of the time you can putt it just as hard as you would if there was no fringe at all.
There are a few exceptions to the rule and those being: 1) there is a sprinkler head/ball mark/etc. in your way, 2) the fringe is exceptionally long, or 3) your name is Phil Mickelson.
To summarize, I recommend simplifying your short game by putting it every time you have a chance. It’ll take all the guess work out of play and consistently lower your scores.