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PGA Tour winner: Don't use the line on your golf ball—do this instead

August 23, 2023

Kirk Irwin

On the face of it, it's almost a little too obvious.

Aiming, in golf, is really hard. But aiming well is especially important on the greens. The good news, though, is that golf balls are created with a line on them. Use the line on the ball to make sure you're aiming exactly where you want, and it's problem solved, right?

Well, kind of.

It's true that using a line can solve the problem of helping you aim where you're intending to, it can also create another one along the way.

Michael Kim, the winner of the 2018 John Deere Classic, brought it up during our interview which published last week. We kept that article full swing-focused (you can read the Q&A here) but his take on the line was an interesting one, and worth a follow-up.

Kim, like Tiger Woods, Brad Faxon and countless others, uses the line on the golf ball. He says it helps him aim better. But his advice for amateur golfers is to not bother using the line on the golf ball. Why?

Don't use the line

The reason is pretty simple, ultimately: Kim says most golfers struggle with reading putts correctly, and often get into a habit of compensating by consistently pushing or pulling their putts. Using a line may help you aim better, but probably won't improve your green reading skills or the technical aspects of your putting stroke. At least not right away.

Which is why Kim says amateur golfers should ditch the line, and trust their instincts instead:

"Most amateur golfers shouldn’t use a line, because they're usually not great at green reading and they rarely start their putts on line. They think they're aiming at one spot but they're really aiming at another. A line, for so many of them, may help them aim more accurately, but they’ll still struggle to start their putts on line and reading greens. I think that instead, they should tap more into where their brain and body is telling them where to aim. It will help them react a little better to the target. You don’t need to have a perfect stroke to make putts."

Read the putt standing over the ball

Kim's advice instead is to read the putt primarily when you're standing over the golf ball...

"Let’s say I’m reading a putt that looks like a cup of break from behind the ball, and then I stand over the ball and it looks like two cups. I’ll always go with what I see when I’’m over the ball, because that’s the point of view where I’ve seen putts roll into the hole from or miss from. Even though I think I’m pretty good at reading putts from behind the ball, my brain will sometimes pick up on something over the ball based on past experience."

...and to hone these instincts in some different ways on the practice putting green.