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The basics of reading grain on greens: A 3-step explainer

September 23, 2023

Grain can be a confusing concept for lots of golfers, but it's an important factor that they should know the basics of. When we talk about grain, we're describing the direction the grass tips are pointing. Grain is a big factor on courses with bermudagrass greens, which is a warm-weather grass that you'll usually find down south. The faster the greens speeds, the smaller the influence of the grain; the slower the greens get, the greater the influence becomes. But grain always plays a role. It can be the reason you make or miss putts, so it's important to understand the basics of it. —Joe Plecker, Director of Instruction, Landings Club, Savannah, Ga., Golf Digest Best in State Teacher

How To Read Grain

  • Find the grassy side of the hole
  • Find the dead side of the hole
  • Look for slopes and shading

How To Read Grain Step #1: Find Grassy Side

The basics are that the tips of the grass are pointed in a specific direction, which influences the ball as it rolls. If the grain is pointing toward you're ball, it will be a little slow; if it's pointing away from your ball, it will be quicker. If you're ever confused about grain, the first thing you should do is look at the golf hole itself. On greens where grain plays a heavy role, you'll see there's a grassy side and a dead side. I'm pointing to the grassier, smooth side here.

How To Read Grain Step #2: Find Dead Side

The dead side of the whole will always be opposite the grassy side. The dead side is caused by the grass being chopped off at the roots. The grain points from the smooth side, towards the dead side.

How To Read Grain Step #3: Find Slope Shading

Grain also grows down and along slopes. It's why when you look at certain greens, they'll often look different shades of green—that's because of the grain. Here, I'm pouring water to illustrate the slope. This is a downhill, down-grain putt, which means it's going to be extra fast. A putt on a green without much grain would be slightly slower.

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