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Golf Digest Logo mythbusters

No, your putts don't all break toward that lake, or away from that mountain

October 03, 2023
Myth#1 IndioBreak-HiRes

Illustration by George Retseck

It’s one of the oldest myths in golf broadcasting: Playing in Palm Springs, they say that all putts break toward the town of Indio. At Pebble Beach, you’ll hear they break toward Carmel Bay. Golf-course architect Bobby Weed has heard them all—even about the courses he has designed, such as TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.

“There they claim everything breaks toward the strip,” Weed says. “The reality is, if you want to understand how putts break, it isn’t about what’s off in the distance. It’s understanding where the water would run off the green. There are typically two or three directions water can drain, but I’ve built bigger greens where it can run off in five directions. Those are the slopes that are going to do the most to determine how your putt breaks.”

Weed says the key to reading greens is twofold: First, walk up to it from the front (instead of from the side after parking your golf cart or from the back after you drop your bag). “From 50 yards away, you can really see where the green wants to drain,” says Weed, who also designed TPC River Highlands (home of the PGA Tour’s Travelers) and Michael Jordan’s Grove XXIII. “That is going to give you clues about the predominant break. Second, evaluate your specific putt, keeping in mind the prevailing break as a tiebreaker to make your final read.”

Another factor to consider has nothing to do with topography and everything to do with how grass grows—toward the sun. The ball will roll faster if the blades are leaning away from you (with the grain), and putting across the grain means the ball might behave like a marshmallow tossed into a river. The cross growth on a straight, flat putt can be the difference between rolling one in just off center or lipping out.

Also, remember that course architects know the misconceptions you have about landmarks and breaks. “We don’t have many more tools in our bag,” Weed says. “Illusion and deception are two useful ones.”