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Golf - Reading The Green

Every golfer knows that a good putting game is the difference between winning and losing. Central to improving that crucial part of the game is developing a well-honed ability to read the green.

Part physics, part art, being able to judge the territory and predict a ball's speed and path marks the master putter. Developing precise control and aim is essential, but useless if you can't tell what the ball is rolling over.

The first important clue is to recognize that, until you've had considerable experience, you can't tell what the green is like standing up and looking out over 10 or 20 feet of grass. Judgment errors about the roughness and contour of the surface, the density and wetness of the grass, and even the distance increase the farther away you are and the higher up you stand.

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So get down on your knees and take a good look at what's between the ball and the cup. Lay a club down in the direction of the hole and get even closer to the ground to look along the shaft.

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Look for any bumps, curves left or right, and hills or valleys. Estimate how much downhill versus uphill lies between you and your goal. Get a feel for how wet the grass is. Even a small amount of moisture can alter ball travel distance by 8 to 14 inches over that of a shot across dry ground.

Equally important is to judge the mow height and whether it's been double cut. (When the maintenance man cuts the grass in one direction, then again perpendicular to the first, it's said to be 'double-cut'.) Double-cutting can change ball travel distance 6 to 12 inches for the same impact. Similarly, lowering mow height by one-sixteenth of an inch can increase roll by 6 to 10 inches. More difficult to judge is whether the green has been rolled which compacts the soil. That increased ground hardness affects roll by 4 to 10 inches.

Beyond all these factors is the amount and direction of curve. Intuition is enough to tell you that the force and angle of your shot varies considerably by whether you are downhill or up, and how much to the left or right the green breaks.

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Of course, these factors all have an effect and can't be quantified without advanced measuring devices. Since you don't normally carry those around, use the one attached to your neck. Take into account the factors listed above but also rely on experience and practice.

Take practice shots on both practice greens and real greens when you're not in active play. Take a look from the opposite side of the flagstick to get another point of view that of the hole's. Watch your partners' putts and take that into account.

You can only take time to do these things when others aren't waiting, of course. But courses have slow days too that allow you to take your time. Use those days to discover the details of each hole. Don't be afraid to take notes. Then the next time you play that course, use that information to judge how to putt that hole.

Reading the green well can easily decrease your scores by several strokes. Who doesn't need that? The world of golf is an interesting one. It is with this objective that this article on golf was written so that people got to know more about it.


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