Indeed, no matter how solid your setup and your stroke, if you don’t adequately ascertain the break, your ball will sail wide and your score will grow.
Reading greens is an acquired skill that improves with experience. The good news is that this skill is easily acquired for those who make an effort to be attentive and aware of their putting environment.
In his excellent intuition-based book Extraordinary Putting, top instructor Fred Shoemaker makes the following observation: “Great green readers are like cats watching a gopher hole. They are alert, awake, fascinated. They watch everybody’s chip, everybody’s putt. They even look at how balls roll on the green from 100 yards. They see it all…They have an ongoing curiosity about what’s happening.”
Here’s one drill that Mr. Shoemaker recommends for heightening your curiosity and awareness on the green:
“Go to the practice green and find putts that have varying amounts of break. Instead of putting, first simply roll balls toward the holes with your hand. Watch the entire length of the break. When you are aware of the quality of attention needed to see accurately, start putting and notice if the quality of your attention—your seeing—changes with the putter in hand. This exercise is an opportunity to train yourself to see the break without the filter of expectation, judgment or hope.”
The above drill was reprinted with the express permission of Fred Shoemaker and Jo Hardy, the authors of Extraordinary Putting. Mr. Shoemaker is the proprietor of Extraordinary Golf, a golf school that “trains the student to be the source of their development.” Extraordinary Golf is based in