Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

Play More Break!

One big mistake golfers make on long putts—but it's easy to fix

November 04, 2022


Pros knock in putts from all over the place, but in some ways, it's more impressive to analyze the putts they don't make.

Whereas amateur golfers, faced with a long putt, tend to send their first effort long or short of the hole and into three-putt territory, pros send their ball to just over two feet on average. While amateur golfers are faced with a nervy two-putt attempt, pros enjoy a virtual tap-in and move on, stress-free.

How do they do it? There's no one answer, but one of the key reasons is they avoid making one big mistake: not reading enough break on their long putts.

The Mistake: Not reading enough break

Mark Sweeney is a Golf Digest Best in State Teacher and the inventor of the revolutionary AimPoint putting system, which is used far-and-wide by many pros on every major tour.

One of the key mistakes he sees too many golfers make is under-reading the break on long putts. The reason why is actually quite simple: When you underead putts, that means gravity will be pulling your ball farther away from the hole every inch it rolls.

Think about it this way:

  • Let's say you have a 30-foot putt that breaks a foot from right-to-left. Let's say you hit two putts.
  • On the first putt, you aimed that putt straight at the hole and hit the putt with perfect speed.
  • On the second putt, you hit your ball with the exact same speed, but played two feet of break instead of one.

Because gravity will always pull your ball down a slope, the second putt will end up closer to the hole than the first putt. That's because your second putt, even though you over-read it, gravity will gradually pull your golf ball closer to the hole as it rolls. The opposite happens on the first putt that you under-read. For every inch it rolls, gravity will pull your ball further away from the hole.

Sweeney has studied the effects of this, and found that of the golfers he's studied, an under-read lag putt can end up to six times farther away than a putt where you've played too much break.

But the good news is that the solution is simple! When in doubt, play more break on your long putts.