SCIENCE-- 4Ts -- PUTT READING
Design and Construction
keep the rain water from draining off the green and
out through the trap, thus carrying the costly sand
into the forest of the fairway never to be seen again,
bunkers are usually shielded from drainage flow off
the green with protective mounds that channel the
water away. These mounds have quite an effect on green
slope inward from the edge of the green, sometimes
a long way into the interior of the green.
Swales, Ridges, Humps, Bowls ...
today are sized and designed with lobes so there are
enough clear and reasonably flatish areas suitable
for locating the pin that the pin location can be
rotated on a regular basis. The purpose is not only
variety, but to preserve the green from excessive
foot traffic buildup around the pin. Usually, a green
needs about 14 separate 12-foot diameter circles that
are suitable for pins, since the region within 6 feet
of the hole gets a vastly disproportionate amount
of the foot traffic. That's a two-week supply. These
pinnable areas are then used in a rotating system
during the week or month to rest up old areas. This
approach means that greens will usually be a minimum
size about 3,000 square feet, and most are considerably
larger than this. The more severe the undulations
and tiering on a green, the larger it needs to be
to accommodate the pinnable areas.
for Pin Placements
Cutting Technique and Rules
holes are cut to the center of the earth, not flush
to the surface slope. Cup liners must be down below
the lip by at least one inch to avoid the top of the
liner knocking balls back out of the cup. The cup has
to be a minimum of 4 inches deep so ball don't hit the
bottom and pop back out. Holes have to be 4.25 inches
in diameter and round. The lip must be round and intact,
or the hole requires repairing. In pulling the cut plug
up for the new liner, the greenkeeper needs to avoid
sucking up a "volcano" around the hole. These
usually extend away from the lip for 4-5 inches, and
can be noticed as a faint light ring that mounds toward
the lip. Foot plates are available for the greenkeeper
to press this area down after removing a plug. New plugs
are used to fill old holes, and ideally the surface
afterwards is smooth and flat and unbriken. Sometimes
old hole plugs stick up, and sometimes that settle too
deep, and sometimes the old hole is too wide and requires
in-filling with sand.
Type and Playing Conditions
Factors Affecting Speed
to Green Speed
type and height of mow cut.
- How hard
the turf is packed as felt by the feet.
- The lushness
of the grass showing moisture content.
- The color
of the grass (green to blue for slow, dun to tawny
or absence of shade.
speed, and constancy of breeze or wind.
of ball marks.
spike marks on surface have dried to a cake.
true vertical assists greatly in assessing and evaluating
green contour and overall slope. Gravity defines verticality.
Vertical is "straigth down" to the center
of the earth. Every separate piece of the earth's
gigantic mass attracts an object like a golf ball,
the human body, or water molecules. In point of fact,
both a golf ball and the earth attract each other.
"Weight" is the result of the masses of
BOTH the earth and the object in question, not just
one or the other. If you placed two bowling balls
far out in space away from all planets and stars,
they would attract each other and drift closer together
until they collided. The same is true for two metal
balls in a physics lab in Princeton, except the attraction
is so far overwhelmed by the attraction of the gigantic
earth that the effect is difficult but not impossible
to detect and register. So we ignore these other forces.
you hold a golf ball aloft and let go, it will always
drop in the same straight-down direction, pulled toward
the center of the earth. This is a very convenient
and useful fact for reference. It's the same idea
for using a plumb bob to get buildings and walls vertical.
If you built a skyscraper out of plumb, it just might
fall over, so most buildings should be built straight
up. However, casual structures, old structures, and
things that are subject to use do not always remain
vertical. The flag in the green is a good example.
The flag is supposed to be set in the green vertical
to the earth and not perpendicular to the slope of
the green. However, sometimes the greenskeeper is
off in setting the flag and sometimes the setting
gets knocked about during the day with wind and golfers.
Similarly, old wooden houses settle unevenly over
time and wooden structures get a bit warped.
the best vertical references are tall, permanent brick
or metal structures like tall buildings, tall chimneys,
and communications towers. Poor references are telephone
poles, street signs, wooden houses, flags, and trees.
Nearby ponds or standing water provide perfect horizontal
references just like in a carpenter's spirit level,
and thus serve indirectly as true vertical references.
are some neat tricks for getting a good vertical calibration:
If there is a background landmark that serves as a
good vertical reference, you can sight the flag pole
against the edge of the vertical landmark to assess
whether the flag is indeed vertical. If so, you can
use the flag.
Similarly, you can suspend your putter like a plumb
bob and use it as a vertical reference (not to see
break or slope, just to see what is vertical). And
you can also sight the flag pole with your plumb bob
putter to see if the flag pole is vertical.
Another trick is to lift the flag pole out of its
seat in the cup and suspend it like a pulmb bob directly
above the hole about three or four inches so the base
of the flag hangs straight down; then drop the flag
into the hole: if the flag pole stays still and doesn't
wander in a tilt out of vertical, the flag is upright,
but if after dropping the flag into the hole it tilts
to the side any, the flag is crooked and not a good
Just hold a golf ball in one hand suspended above
the other palm and drop it; watch the line of fall
-- it's a true vertical reference.
sources of the true vertical calibrate your sense
of upright posture and balance and give you a big
headstart on seeing the slope and contour of the green
Ear Vestibular Sense
Sense of Upright
type - bent grows straight up, Bermuda grows
sideways and sprawls (more grainy)
- plants grow toward the light, so the daily trajectory
of sun across local sky attracts the grass, and
thus the grain. In the northern hemisphere, the
sun's path across the sky is mostly south of straight
overhead. Growth is more profuse when temperatures
are warmer, and in the daily cycle that period is
usually midafternoon. So the sun's path at midafternoon
to late afternoon (southwest) has a greater training
effect on grain.
- since the green is permanently contoured, the
direction that gravity channels the water off the
surface is fixed. Rains that generate sufficient
water so that drainage does not merely seep down
but also runs laterally off the green tend to train
grain. The extent to which rain affects grain depends
on the regularity and volume of rains and the severity
of slope in the drainage contour. In Florida, the
daily afternoon thunderstorm downpours are regular
and heavy, but the drainage slope varies considerably.
- steady winds can influence grain, so long as the
direction is sustained and the velocity substantial.
This is sometimes the case with seaside courses
under the influence of steady sea breeze patterns
or island courses and trade wind patterns.
- the direction the mower travels can create a grain,
and for this reason (and others) superintendents
change the mow patterns daily. Still, the standard
mow pattern has stripes in alternate directions.
Putting within the same stripe can be influenced
by the direction of the mowing. Putting across stripes
tends to average out the grain effect. Putting perpendicularly
across the stripes would seem not to influence the
roll except right at the cup where it matters most.
Occasionally, the boundary between mow stripes can
be missed and this creates a surface irregularity
of high grass that can deflect the ball's roll.
- the purpose of verticutting, aside from its aeration
effects, is to neutralize grain by cabining sidewise
growth and promoting growth more upward.
Effects on Break
grass seldom if ever has any grain worth noting these
days. Bermuda grass still has considerable grain.
Grain is the dominant direction that the grass blades
grow. Grain occurs mostly in a patchwork pattern,
rather than in a uniform pattern across the entire
green. Grain can also be present as a result of the
mowing patterrn, as the mowers tend to train the grass
blades into a uniform direction with the direction
of the separate mow stripes.
usually grows in the same direction as the afternoon
or setting sun, as this is the strongest effect of
"helioptropism" -- the tendency of plants
to grow in the direction of the light. Grain sometimes
grows in the dominant drainage pattern, which is obviously
is identified / perceived by noting the shine on the
backs / tops of the flatish grass blades versus the
shadows beneath the grass blades. Looking or putting
"into" the grain, the tips of the blades
are pointing to you, and the dominant perception is
of the shadowy darkness beneath the tips. Looking
or putting "with" the grain, the tips of
the blades are aiming away from you, and the dominant
perception is of a shiny lightness or dullness reflected
off the backs or tops of the blades with the darkness
of the shadows beneath the blades obscured. The best
direction to face when trying to see grain is into
the sun, since having the sun at your back will tend
to wash out the shadows beneath the blades and make
seeing the contrast between light and dark more difficult.
"with" the grain, the ball's rolling is
opposed by less friction than either a no-grain surface
or a putt "into" the grain, and so rolls
farther for the same stroke as it would into the grain
or across surface without grain. The ball sort of
"surfs" the welcoming backs of the grass
blades. The surface is effectively "faster."
Hence, the golfer needs to envision the break that
corresponds to a faster surface, which is a bigger
break with a more gradual slowing and stopping of
the ball over a longer decay path. In addition, putting
with the grain has some similarity to putting with
the wind: the consistent directionality of the grass
blades tends to keep the ball headed the same direction
of the grain to a certain extent, regardless of changes
in surface contour. The effect is as if the rolling
ball slips or floats thru the "break' that otherwise
would occur due to surface contour.
"into" the grain, the ball's rolling is
opposed by more friction than either a no-grain surface
or a putt "with" the grain, and so rolls
shorter for the same stroke as it would with the grain
or across surface without grain. The ball sort of
runs against defensive pikes, as it keeps impaling
itself on the somewhat stiff and pointed blades of
grass angled up slightly from laying flat on the ground.
The surface is effectively "slower." Hence,
the golfer needs to envision the break that corresponds
to a slower surface, which is a shrper, more radiused
break with a more dramatic slowing and stopping of
the ball over a shorter decay path. In addition, putting
into the grain has some similaritiy to putting into
the wind: the consistent opposition of the grass "pikes"
lessens a wee bit as the ball turns away from the
pike line to run sideways across the grain as the
break of the surface contour takes hold (i.e., the
putt is not straight) and this mild effect lengthens
the sideways path of the roll just a little.
"across" the grain, the ball's rolling speed
pattern is intermediate between that of putting "into"
the grain and that of putting "with" the
with break from the surface contour never truly run
only "with", "into", or "across"
the grain, as the direction of roll across the direction
of grain is changing. The last section of the roll's
path (when the ball is slowing to a stop) is where
the break is most pronounced and the effect of the
grain is also most pronounced.
Effects on Break
grain that runs "downhill" or "uphill"
may not have the same alignment as the line thru the
surface at any given point that is straight uphill-downhill
with respect to gravity. For clarity, the discussion
here assumes the grain and the gravity uphill-downhill
direction are the same.
the grain runs downhill, the break also heads downhill,
so that makes the friction loosen up as the ball turns
downhill. If the golfer is putting straight downhill,
then the putt is obviously fast, but there is not
any break to worry about. More normally, the golfer
will be putting a little sideways across the surface
and then the ball will "take the break"
and start heading down-grain. As it does so, the ball
will tend to "float" thru the break and
break less than anticipated.
the golfer putts uphill and the grain runs downhill,
the ball rolls more slowly and breaks more sharply
and stops more abruptly.
slightly uphill but mostly sideways across surface
with the grain running downhill, the ball's roll direction
turns downhill somewhat at the end of the path into
the hole, and friction lessens. The grain does not
really "take" the ball with its direction.
Instead, the lessened friction allows the ball to
roll downhill farther than otherwise. This extra downhill
rolling does not ordinarily matter very much, as the
hole gets in the way fairly soon, but if the break
is large with a considerable path to cover from the
turn downhill to the lip, than downhill grain may
tend to "float" the ball thru the anticipated
break too much so the ball misses the hole on the
the grain may run uphill near the hole, and this may
"float" the ball oddly uphill at the end.
I suspect that the grain direction when this occurs
is a little aslant the true uphill line, and has the
ball keep on a track it is following when it still
has a little steam left in the roll. If so, these
situations will also tend to make the golfer miss
to the uphill side by not seeing the grain, or miss
to the far side even if the uphill grain is seen.
Break from Optimal Speed
Speed, One Read -- Modern neuroscience teaches that
the brain is similar to a flight simulator: it's main
job is to predict accurately the future consequences
of movement, a skill that the brain learns throughout
life by ceaseless trial and error, and without which
the animal using that brain will die. Animals live
because their brains are well-trained and highly skilled
at predicting accurately the consequences of intended
movements. How does this work in reading a breaking
putt? The three principal factors that determine the
curving path of a rolling golf ball across the contoured
surface of a putting green are 1. the exact shape
of the tilts of the surface in relation to flat and
level in gravity; 2. the surface speed of the green
over the path; and 3. the pattern of rolling speed
of the ball over that same path. Of these, the only
factor in the control of the golfer is the rolling
speed of the ball. From the beginning of a putt to
the end of a successful putt in the bottom of the
cup, the ONLY section of the putt where the golfer
can accurately predict and envision the rolling speed
pattern of the putt is at the end, specifically the
last several feet of the path as the ball slows and
drops into the cup. A golfer who has a consistent
tempo and good distance control always delivers the
ball into the final few feet of EVERY putt, regardless
of length or green speed or contour, with the SAME
"terminal velocity" or "delivery speed" -- the ball
always drops into the cup with about the SAME rolling
speed right as it crosses the lip of the cup on ALL
putts. At least, this is true so long as the golfer
uses his normal tempo and touch. THEREFORE, when the
golfer envisions the break of the ball into the cup,
he is implicitly relying upon his normal tempo and
touch with its same-every-time delivery speed in order
to predict accurately the exact curving path of the
ball over the final 3-4 feet of the putt. Once he
"sees" this accurately and realistically in his "mind's
eye," the remainder of the path of the putt constructs
itself backwards from the hole to the golfer's ball
at his feet, establishing a startline and a distance
for the putt. Great putters use only one delivery
speed, and therefore always look for only one read.
Once they see this break, then they are able to make
choices, but not before. The usual choice is to putt
the normal break, using the normal tempo. The notion
that there are multiple breaks to choose from on any
putt depending on "how hard you are going to hit it"
is alien to great putters. One speed, one read.
physics of ball-hole interaction teaches that a steady
delivery speed of between 1-3 revolutions per second
(rps) at the lip of the cup will 1. minimize comebacks,
2. maximize the effective capture width of the hole,
and 3. take care of surface problems getting the ball
to the cup. A speed of 1 rps dives deep to the bottom
of the cup without hitting the back wall. A speed
of 2 rps dives deep but hit the back wall near the
bottom of the cup. A speed of 3 rps dives into the
cup and hits the back wall about halfway up from the
bottom to the top edge of the cup liner.
Up with Reference to Slope
the fairway on a sidehill lie with the ball ABOVE
the feet, the golfer will tend to lose the shot DOWNHILL
unless he conforms his setup to the slope. In the
fairway on a sidehill lie with the ball BELOW the
feet, the golfer will tend to lose the shot DOWNHILL
unless he conforms his setup to the slope.
putting, the same is true. For a right-hander, a right-to-left
break is a "ball above the feet" sidehill
lie, and a left-to-right break is a "ball-below-the-feet"
sidehill lie. Reagrdless of handedness, the golfer
will tend to lose the putt downhill to the "amateur"
side unless he conforms his setup to the slope.
conform the setup to a tilted slope, the golfer needs
only to flatten the sole of the putter to the surface.
Then by bringing the body to the resulting orientation
in space of the handle of the putter without changing
it effectively conforms the golfer's body and setup
to the slope.
works the same when the slope is down away from the
feet, up away from the feet, or uphill to the left
or to the right. Whatever slope the surface of the
green has, the golfer always simply flattens the putter
and then brings the body to the handle.
Perception and Reading Putts
Imagery / Visualization for Reading Break
Imagery / Visualization for Assessing Energy Patterns
Updated Monday, July 7, 2008 6:13 AM