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Instruction

These green reading basics can help every golfer—from tour pro to amateur

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Mike Ehrmann

January 12, 2024

Over the past year I've come to the rather upsetting realization that I'm a pretty terrible green-reader. Stroke mechanics and speed control is important, of course, but that stuff can only take you so far. If you're not matching it with a good read on the green, you're not going to make putts.

It's one of the reasons why I enjoyed picking the mind of Collin Morikawa last year (you can read the cover story about I wrote about it right here). Collin's built the early part of his starbound career of the back of his generational ball striking, but recently, he's been taking a renewed approach to his putting.

He's been working with the highly-regarded putting coach Stephen Sweeney, and the approach has been working: Though it's still early in the process, Morikawa has jumped more than 60z spots in SG: Putting over the last two seasons.

There were some technical adjustments that, yes, played a key role. But many of his changes were process related. And, crucially, paying a closer attention to the details on the green. It's helped things trend in the right direction.

Here's a few tips he shared with me, that could probably help you, too.

(You can watch the full video right here, by the way).

1. Start reading the green from the fairway

One green-reading mistake a lot of golfers fall into is simply not paying attention to their surroundings. Both to the finer details on the green, and also the wider landscape.

That's why one of Collin's pieces of advice was to begin reading your putt before you've even arrived at your ball. Where's the high point? Where's the low point? Are you walking uphill onto the green, or down to it?

Taking in the wider scene won't tell you everything you need to know, but it'll give you a great starting point to refine your reading from.

2. Go from broad to narrow

The nice thing about starting broad, and taking in the literal lay of the land, is that it can serve as a kind of focus trigger. You're taking in the scene, chatting with your playing partners and feeling relaxed. But then, once you get to your ball, that's your cue to lock in, and focus on the small stuff between you and the hole.

3. Feel it with your feet

You don't need to necessarily pace the entirety of the hole, but stand by your ball and ask yourself: What are you feeling underneath your feet. And if need be, don't be afraid to use them to override what you think you're seeing.

"Slopes can be deceptive," Morikawa says. "But your feel can tell you a lot."

4. Paint a picture in your mind

To each their own, but as you settle in over the putt, Morikawa suggests visualizing the entire journey of the golf ball over the course of the putt. It's a small thing, but by forcing yourself to imagine the ball rolling down each inch of the line, it will force you to focus on each detail of it.

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Michael Reaves

5. Pick three points along the putt

Finally, once you've done that, Morikawa says to pick three points over the span of your putt:

  • A point just in front of the ball (the start line).
  • A point in the middle of the putt (its apex).
  • The point which you want it to enter the hole.

Your goal, Morikawa says, is to roll your ball through each of those three points. By breaking up the putt into threes, it'll allow you to focus on every detail of it.