We don’t have to go this far to understand the break on our putts. Our eyes can trick us into seeing things that are not there. There is a better way to understand break and what a putt will do. This simple formula will not only help you sink more putts but will speed up play. Once you understand the premise you will be making three putts a thing of your past.
All greens have slope. The course architect maintains this slope on all the greens throughout the course. Slope is built in to allow the greens and course to drain. This stops puddles forming on the greens and allow the green to remain playable when it rains. It also helps prevent fungus and allows the green to stay in good condition. Slope has influence on break and once we know the degree of slope on the course we can then use that information to understand break. Most greens slope from back to front. The average slope on greens is somewhere between one and three degrees. The max for slope is six degrees. Once the slope gets steeper than this, the ball will not stay on the green.
There are greens that have portions of the green with higher slope but the overall the green will not have more then 3 degrees. This helps drain the green of water and keeps the ball on the green on putts and approach shots. If we know the exact slope of the greens on the course we can then apply a formula that allows use to calculate break. This formula will work on the entire course because the course designer keep this break consistent on all of the greens. This is done because of the lay of the land across the entire property of the golf course. All land has slope of some kind and golf courses use this slope to drain so the course remains playable.
Now that we have a basic understanding of slope and it’s function let’s look at how it can help us sink more putts. The best way to measure slope is using a a digital level. I prefer a level that is a minimum of 11” long or longer. Take one end and tie it to the tee. Turn on the level and place it on the surface of the green. You can do this on the practice green or any green on the course but not during a round of golf of course. You will now place the level parallel to you stance. Just like you set up to the target line. This will let you feel the slope in your feet. One foot will be higher then the other. This is a great way to train yourself to feel the amount of degrees of slope on the green. Check the level and see how many degrees it shows. Now get to the high side of the cup. Which foot feels higher then the other. Do this about four feet from the hole. Now move in a circle in the direction of the foot that is lower until both feet feel level. Go a little past this until the foot that was lower starts to get higher. Now move back to where your feet feel level. You are now on the fall line. This is the only straight uphill putt to the hole. All balls will be drawn towards this fall line. We will use this fall line to determine our aim point. Now stand parallel to the fall line next to the hole and feel the amount of slope.How many degrees is it. If you are not sure pull out your level and measure it. The more you get familiar with determining the amount of slope through your feet the better you will be able to go through this method of putting with success. Place the level on different slope levels and guess the amount of slope then check and see if your correct.
We will now use this simple formula. For every foot your ball is from the hole will count as a measurement of a half inch up the fall line for every one degree of slope. If there is two degrees of slope the fall we will go one inch up the fall line above the hole for every foot we are away from the hole. We can think of the fall line as a line that goes through the entire green and intersects with the hole.
If your ball is twelve feet from the hole and the slope is two degrees. Here is how we will determine where we need to aim for gravity to take over and the putt to fall. Of course speed is a factor but we will talk about that in a few moments. Take the amount in distance the ball is from the hole. Here it is twelve feet. Times that by the degrees of slope. In this case two degrees. Twelve times a half inch times 2 equals twelve inches. Now measure Twelve inches up the fall line above the cup. This is where you will need to aim for the putt to drop.
So many players aim to low and miss the putt below the hole. This will allow if the speed is off slightly for the putt to fall towards the hole not away from it. Speed can affect this so here is a good rule of thumb when calculating your speed. If you miss the putt it should roll between a foot to two feet past the hole. If it rolls too fast the ball will end up above the hole. If it is slower the ball will fall below the hole and the result will be short. If it is short it will never go in. If it would have rolled past the hole you are upping the chance that it will go in the hole if it is on line. I use a tee to practice this on the practice green. I will make my calculations and find my aim point above the hole. Then I will place the tee in the green at my aim point. Then I will roll putts to the tee above the hole with the speed to feel like the ball will stop as it touches the tee. The ball will then start on line to my aim point then as it gets closer to the hole the slope of the green will pull the all towards the fall line and the hole.
This Putting method is “The Putting Zone”.
Bernard Sheridan is a certified Putting Zone Coach and is located in Naples, Florida at Impact Zone Golf. For more information and to learn how to putt better than a PGA Pro contact Bernard Sheridan at 239-236-5536.