With spring comes a new golf season, and the always spectacular first Major of the year. The Masters Tournament, contested at the renowned Augusta National, showcases the epitome of how we all wish our home course could look. Perfectly manicured in every way, the spectacle is as visually stunning as it is exciting. But one thing viewers at home will not quite understand is the severity of the undulation on all the greens at Augusta.
It all starts with the Green Read
In recent years, all aspects of golf instruction have been revolutionized with the assistance of science and technology. My excitement surrounding this topic is vast…driven mostly by the fact that once we are on the putting green, all golfers have entered a level playing field. The attributes needed for accurate putting are much less physically demanding than those required for a 300 yard drive…anyone can be a great putter! Let’s start from the beginning. All putting greens are built with slope. Augusta’s greens have some of the largest slopes on the PGA Tour. A huge amount of that slope is from the back of the green towards the front, but it will also slope to the sides as well.
As a golfer, you must accommodate for the built in slope of the green, since the ball will react and curve in the direction of the slope. There are only two putts to any given hole that would not curve, straight-up or straight-down the slope. You will see the caddies helping their player evaluate the slope, and judge the exact amount of “break”, or curve the ball will take. In the above picture, we see Padraig Harrington and his caddie measuring the percent of slope with a digital level during a practice round at The Masters. Taking notes on these variations helps when it comes to calculating an exact read on tournament day.
Most Common Green Reading Flaw
The most common problem I see with my students is that they only take into account one part of the putt, the direction of the slope. Golfers will make a decision on the direction the ball will curve, but not the exact amount of curvature. In my experience most golfers grossly under estimate how much the putt will break. Golfers will also fall for the classic belief that there is a central point on a golf course that all greens slope towards. That is simply untrue. At The Masters, those landmarks are Rae’s Creek and the number 11 green. The famous meandering water hazard that crisscrosses Augusta, is fabled to affect the curve of your putt at almost any time. False. Read every putt for what it is. Never just assume it will break a certain direction, otherwise you will make an incorrect read and lose strokes on the green.