A Lesson Learned: Reading comprehension

By Brady Wilson, PGA
Published on

Torrey Pines is a tremendous venue, everyone who watched one shot of the golf this past weekend understands how beautiful, impressive and difficult it is. When Phil Mickelson had to withdraw due to back pain and Tiger Woods somehow shot 79 to miss the secondary cut, there was a concern that Sunday would somehow lack in interest and drama. Not a chance. That was one of the most crowded and crazy leaderboards we've seen in a long time.

What the thick rough and tucked pins from the week showed the golf world was that when your long game is not working, you can still score if you take care of business on the green. Scott Stallings hit only four of 14 fairways in the final round, yet still shot 68 to emerge with the win. It was his putter that bailed him out and then propelled him ahead.

Watch: More help with reading greens


So how do you putt better? One of the best ways to improve is to become better at reading a green. And that's the topic of this week's "A Lesson Learned."

You've heard the adage that everything breaks toward the water (and at Torrey, that's some big water). Not exactly. Gravity still matters and the ball will break towards the low point on a particular line.

Most players understand that a rolling golf ball (all else being equal) will break towards the ocean. And what looks straight may break, what looks like a slight break may be pretty severe and uphill/downhill putts should take the same concepts into account.

Now, let's apply that same (correct) logic to all your putts - no matter where you are. Watch as the world's best players walk up to a green (especially in the practice rounds). They are looking for the highest point of the green and the lowest point on the green. They do the same for the landscape around the green. Once you've established the "flow" of the green, it will make reading the green much easier for you.

Additionally, I encourage students to look at a putt from the hole back to where the ball rests. Specifically, determine what the ball is doing at the hole. The idea is that you want to know which way your ball is moving as it nears the cup. If you hit the low side, the ball will most likely spin out. But putts that come in via the high side will often drop. It's the classic "pro side" vs. the "amateur side" of a read.

We all know how important putting is to your score. The ability to avoid three putts and get the occasional longer putt to drop will most likely improve your score faster than any other part of your game. Reading the greens properly, and understanding what influences the ball on each green, will go a long ways in you reaching your golf goals.

Brady Wilson, PGA is the General Manager at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Ariz.