Reading Greens to Improve Your Putting Game in Golf

By Jim McLean

Become a Great Putter

If you come to one of my golf schools one thing I can guarantee you is that you are going to spend time reading greens. I feel this is one of the most underrated, if not the most underrated, aspects of being a good putter. All the great putters that I work with, I have spent a lot of time with Crenshaw, Kite, Faxon, Mattice, great putters, they are also great green readers. When you think about it, you can have the best stroke in the world, but if you can't read the green to hit the putt where it is supposed to be hit you are not going to make any putts. The only way you can make a putt is to hit a bad putt, push it or pull it on the correct line, but if you hit a perfect putt and you have not read it right you are going to miss every time.

How to Begin Reading Greens

Here are a few key components for reading a green.

  1. First of all you start reading a green as you walk up or ride up to the green to get the general contour.
  2. You have to factor in the wind. If you are playing an a really windy day the wind is going to effect it.
  3. You have to look at grain, I am in Florida right now, we really have to consider the grain down in the south. North the grain is not nearly as important.
  4. Then of course we have to look at slope. I have a putt right here, up the hill about 30 feet and what I will do on a 30 foot putt is first of all get down very low to the ground to see the general terrain.
  5. Then I will look for the high spots on the green. It is always good to go to the low end, the lowest piece of the green, to get the best idea for which way the ball is going to break.
  6. From behind the golf ball I am going to visualize a line to that target. I have to start to feel how much this is going to break.

Visualize Water

I also like the old idea, and I used this all the time, of throwing a thousand gallons of water on this green, which way is it going off. Well it is hard to see on the camera, but this putt really goes uphill and there is a tremendous amount of slope left to right, so the water is going off this green in that direction, down and to the right. That is crucial and will also effect the grain in Florida. I have that in mind and as I walk up here I can just see that slope.

Use Your Feet

Also, as I walk I can feel the hill and I can feel the slope in my feet. You can get some good reads right out of your footwork as you walk up. The ball is going to break the most up at the end when the ball slows down. This is the most critical area, right up in here near the hole, of break on a long putt. I can see that there is quite a bit of slope in this area going down towards the bunker and off the green here.


Now on a 30 foot putt no one is going to be perfect but we want to be able to roll that ball up near the hole. Sometimes if you get lucky you might even knock this putt in. The goal here is to get it up within a three foot circle. I always like the ball coming in from the high side so as it slows down or runs out it is going in towards the hole. If you get underneath the hole and it starts breaking away, you think you hit a pretty good putt and all of a sudden instead of being two feet it is four or five feet from the hole. I will do my rehearsal strokes, try to get myself organized and get the speed right, but right now we are talking about reads, so I will put it on my line, visualize where that putt is going, it is going to be breaking quite a bit.

About the Instructor

Jim McLean
Jim McLean
Jim McLean Golf School
Doral Golf Resort and Spa
4400 NW 87th Avenue
Miami, FL 33178
Tel: 800-72-DORAL