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Plumb-bobbing doesn't tell you enough

October 03, 2023
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Illustration by George Retseck

Nothing mystifies reigning PGA Teacher and Coach of the Year Kevin Weeks more than watching players stand behind the ball and dangle a putter in front of them as they try to plumb-bob, an old-school method used to ascertain a putt’s break.

“I get that it would be nice to know the overall slope of the putt you’re about to hit, but I don’t know why you would ever take a read like that from the place where the ball is going to be moving the fastest and breaking the least,” Weeks says. “What you need to know is what’s going to happen in the middle of the putt and down by the hole, where the ball is going the slowest and is breaking the most.”

Even if there was some utility to plumb-bobbing, it would only come if you did it with your putter hanging perfectly vertical and had a non-distorted, accurate view of the line with your dominant eye.

Instead of plumb-bobbing, use some of your other senses to get a better idea of what your putt will do, Weeks says. “You can use your feet and your feel to get a better read. Walk slowly from the ball to the cup and back, paying attention to what your feet are telling you. Is it uphill or downhill? How significant is the side slope? Remember, the architect is trying to trick you visually, so you need to do some more work beyond just what your eyes would tell you.”

Once you have a rough idea of the line, walk to the apex of the break (the target, above) and read the putt as if you were playing it from there, Weeks says. “Get the speed right and even a bad read will still end up somewhere by the hole,” he says. “Also, pay close attention to what the ball is going to do as it slows down near the cup. That’s great intel for what you need to do next if you miss.”