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Are pros really that good at reading putts?


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People make a big deal about tour pros putting. And no doubt they are amazing putters.

 

However...

My perspective for discussion is that pros play these courses whenever they want, have several days at each course to practice, and generally know the likely pin positions. Between them and their caddies, they practice every possible putt severall times prior to tourney tee off.

 

In the recent made for TV Big Cedar Lodge infomercial charity event, multiple FedEx cup winners were in disagreement about breaks, even direction, presumably because this was a brand new course for them.

 

Another observations is my personal practice green putting is amazing compared to putting on the large rotation of courses I play.

 

At the end of the day, I think many overestimate the ability of pros to read putts. Rather, these amazing reads are an outcome of direct experience.

 

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Green reading? Ah yes, that was what the old guys did. Now they just have to ask their caddie to read the laser-based topographic chart that tells them precisely the % of slope and how much break ther

I think professionals are vastly underestimated as putters. People always point to the stats like they're bad. Whenever I hear am amateur spew that nonsense about how "pro's only make 50% from that di

People make a big deal about tour pros putting. And no doubt they are amazing putters.   However... My perspective for discussion is that pros play these courses whenever they want, hav

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When I was watching the event, I was thinking the same thing about their green reading. They hit some putts that were WAY off, both in speed and line. I was kind of surprised and it made me feel better about my own green reading ability. Maybe they're not so superhuman when they don't have detailed break charts.

 

I mean, obviously they're still better than I am, but maybe I won't be so upset when I hit one of those embarrassing 10 feet beyond the cup "oh was that downhill?" putts that I pull out every now and then.

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Yes and no. That is why they call it the high side and the low side of the hole or the pro side or the amateur side. A lot of it is reading the break correctly but also putting the same stroke over and over and knowing where your putt is gonna go. Ive heard many a times though that most times it isnt the break that messes up amateurs in their putting it is actually getting the correct speed of the putt. You see it when these guys miss a putt, most often they are not running it by 3 or 4 feet. That to me is the distinguishing difference. 

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They've got nice smooth repeating strokes and are good at judging speed. You can't discount that skill or how important it is, but i gotta think those green books they get make a big difference in reading the break especially on some of the trickier putts that don't do what they look like they will.

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The Payne's Valley Cup event certainly showed they can struggle just as much as we do without their books and the benefit of many reps on the same greens, but green reading ability is a big part of being a great putter, and at their level, they are great putters.  I think in some of those instances where they were miscalculating speed and borrow, they may have been doing so because they were conferring with each other on the read.  They were probably a little un-committed or uncomfortable at times.  

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5 minutes ago, mumbles236 said:

They've got nice smooth repeating strokes and are good at judging speed. You can't discount that skill or how important it is, but i gotta think those green books they get make a big difference in reading the break especially on some of the trickier putts that don't do what they look like they will.

 

Last time I played Pebble Beach, my caddie had one of the greens books that looked pretty much exactly like what Poults was showing on his IG stories last week.

 

It definitely helped as I can remember quite a few times he'd give me a read and I'd be like "Wait what? Seriously?" and he'd show me the book. 

 

Still have to put a good stroke on it with the right pace but yeah, definitely plenty of tap ins that day that coulda been 10 footers coming back were it not for that book. 

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3 minutes ago, dubbelbogey said:

First, I will never be as good as a pro at reading greens. That said, this is a tool they use and I think it would be very nice to have for my own game.

 

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You can buy those for an awful lot of golf courses.  If I remember right, they cost on the order of $100 per course.  https://www.strackaline.com/courses/directory

Or you can learn Aimpoint Express, learn how to gather the same basic information presented in the book on every course in the world, AND learn how to interpret and use that data.

 

The pros are good at reading greens, yes, and practice on a course to understand the greens helps a lot.  But they are REALLY good at hitting their intended line, and REALLY good at controlling their speed.

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Just now, davep043 said:

You can buy those for an awful lot of golf courses.  If I remember right, they cost on the order of $100 per course.  https://www.strackaline.com/courses/directory

Or you can learn Aimpoint Express, learn how to gather the same basic information presented in the book on every course in the world, AND learn how to interpret and use that data.

 

The pros are good at reading greens, yes, and practice on a course to understand the greens helps a lot.  But they are REALLY good at hitting their intended line, and REALLY good at controlling their speed.


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True enough that those books are available. 

 

But, one trait of my own golf life is I play a huge variety of courses. Some locally, and some in other places. Very likely I'll not play a large percentage of those more than once in my lifetime. Buying these books is not currently in my budget. For local courses that I do play a lot of, I don't need those books as I eventually learn the nuances of the greens.

 

Aimpoint is interesting, and I've been studying bits and pieces of it for a couple of years. But, admittedly, I've not jumped onto the bandwagon a 100% at this point.

 

I predict that at some not-too-distant future, green slope maps will become much cheaper, if not completely free. Just as GPS distances are now free. We'll see. (And I can hear the cries now of how this might damage the traditional roots of the game. Probably some degree of validity, but the fact remains that it's already in use, just not by the golfing masses.)

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15 minutes ago, davep043 said:

You can buy those for an awful lot of golf courses.  If I remember right, they cost on the order of $100 per course.  https://www.strackaline.com/courses/directory

Or you can learn Aimpoint Express, learn how to gather the same basic information presented in the book on every course in the world, AND learn how to interpret and use that data.

 

The pros are good at reading greens, yes, and practice on a course to understand the greens helps a lot.  But they are REALLY good at hitting their intended line, and REALLY good at controlling their speed.

Aimpoint is an intriguing and helpful method, but look at Austin Johnson the week before last at Wingfoot. Dustin had the benefit of the green books, plus himself, plus his brother (who apparently is an Aimpoint guru) and he putted like crap.

 

Putting is always a difficult and streaky thing. On the PGA tour, the winner is usually the guy who has a putting streak on that given week. 

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3 minutes ago, jholz said:

Aimpoint is an intriguing and helpful method, but look at Austin Johnson the week before last at Wingfoot. Dustin had the benefit of the green books, plus himself, plus his brother (who apparently is an Aimpoint guru) and he putted like crap.

 

Putting is always a difficult and streaky thing. On the PGA tour, the winner is usually the guy who has a putting streak on that given week. 

The winner is usually the guy who has a really good ballstriking week, AND putts better than the few other guys having really good ballstriking weeks.

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1 minute ago, davep043 said:

 

The winner is usually the guy who has a really good ballstriking week, AND putts better than the few other guys having really good ballstriking weeks.

In other words, the guy who has a streaky putting week. ?

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28 minutes ago, davep043 said:

You can buy those for an awful lot of golf courses.  If I remember right, they cost on the order of $100 per course.  https://www.strackaline.com/courses/directory

Or you can learn Aimpoint Express, learn how to gather the same basic information presented in the book on every course in the world, AND learn how to interpret and use that data.

 

The pros are good at reading greens, yes, and practice on a course to understand the greens helps a lot.  But they are REALLY good at hitting their intended line, and REALLY good at controlling their speed.

The pros are also really good at leaving their approach in the proper spot to give them the best look. It's amazing when you watch multiple groups just how often there are guys in the same spot, which just so happens to have the flattest putt.

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7 minutes ago, jholz said:

In other words, the guy who has a streaky putting week. ?

Not at all, you can have the best putting week of anyone on the course, but if you're not on most of the greens in regulation, and not close to the pin on a good few of them, you're not winning.  Last weekend Bryson gained 4.49 strokes over the course of the 4 rounds, 18th in the field.  Zack Johnson gained 9.6 strokes putting over the same 4 rounds.  He was the one with the hot putter, and he finished T8.

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14 minutes ago, davep043 said:

Not at all, you can have the best putting week of anyone on the course, but if you're not on most of the greens in regulation, and not close to the pin on a good few of them, you're not winning.  Last weekend Bryson gained 4.49 strokes over the course of the 4 rounds, 18th in the field.  Zack Johnson gained 9.6 strokes putting over the same 4 rounds.  He was the one with the hot putter, and he finished T8.

Sorry man, I was just joking. You have a valid and reasonable point. My beef was more with your proselytizing Aimpoint, not whether ballstriking matters on the PGA tour.  

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You've got it spot on, they play the same courses every year

 

If you play your home course enough, you'll get surprisingly good at putting too.

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1 hour ago, jholz said:

Sorry man, I was just joking. You have a valid and reasonable point. My beef was more with your proselytizing Aimpoint, not whether ballstriking matters on the PGA tour.  

Hey, Aimpoint has helped me.  The science is the same, whether you get the slopes from a book or from your feet, so I think its reasonable to mention it when the subject of green-reading books comes up.  And I am proof positive that getting a good read does NOT mean I'll hit a good putt, its been a struggle recently.

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23 minutes ago, davep043 said:

Hey, Aimpoint has helped me.  The science is the same, whether you get the slopes from a book or from your feet, so I think its reasonable to mention it when the subject of green-reading books comes up.  And I am proof positive that getting a good read does NOT mean I'll hit a good putt, its been a struggle recently.

It's always funny when at the end of a mild internet argument, you find that both parties are essentially in agreement. ?

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2 hours ago, Emthree said:

You've got it spot on, they play the same courses every year

 

If you play your home course enough, you'll get surprisingly good at putting too.

You play my home course you want me as your caddy, know every crook, cranny and trick.

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4 hours ago, Soloman1 said:

Green reading? Ah yes, that was what the old guys did. Now they just have to ask their caddie to read the laser-based topographic chart that tells them precisely the % of slope and how much break there is.

 

 

 

This, the multiple practice rounds before the tournament, having the caddie of course, etc, being able to putt on the practice green for hours which is prob identical speeds to the regular greens.

 

Think about this...you're set to play a round with friends on a Friday but Tues-Thurs you can go out each day for a round, practice, hit 20 putts on every green if you want from every different angle, you have a caddie who will read the green with you, the greens books they have, THEN on Friday you can get there 2 hours beforehand, putt for an hour and the greens are the same speed as what you will encounter on Hole 1 - 18....i bet we'd all probably shave 5 strokes off our round.

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I've played with a few tour caddies. Because those guys spend so much time on and around greens, they definitely see things better. Little bumps and sways and how much a slope will affect a ball. 

 

That said, the amount of time the pros and their caddies spend on greens during tournament week completely reduces the amount of green reading that has to be down. I remember doing it for big Am competitions where the fsga would put a dot where the pins would be. Putted from all sides on all greens and made notes. 

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Remember, the hole is much larger than the golf ball, so green reading does not have to be "exact".

Rolling the ball well , that is true, end over end, is usually effective.

Most amateurs notice a sliced tee shot or duffed iron shot but don't pay much attention to a mishit putt. Tour pros tend to make quality strikes with the putter and get the ball rolling properly.

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17 hours ago, davep043 said:

Hey, Aimpoint has helped me.  The science is the same, whether you get the slopes from a book or from your feet, so I think its reasonable to mention it when the subject of green-reading books comes up.  And I am proof positive that getting a good read does NOT mean I'll hit a good putt, its been a struggle recently.

 

I started using Aimpoint a few years ago, and I think it really helps. However, I joined a private course in 2018 so I am playing the same course over and over these days. I've found that I don't Aimpoint most of my putts anymore because I have played the greens so many times. I can practically go on auto-pilot with figuring out the general direction most putts are going to go. The only time I go through the Aimpoint process is if I want to get a better grasp on HOW much break, or if I can't decide which way it's gonna break. 

 

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1 hour ago, Fairway14 said:

Remember, the hole is much larger than the golf ball, so green reading does not have to be "exact".

Rolling the ball well , that is true, end over end, is usually effective.

Most amateurs notice a sliced tee shot or duffed iron shot but don't pay much attention to a mishit putt. Tour pros tend to make quality strikes with the putter and get the ball rolling properly.

By the same logic, speed control doesn't have to be exact, hitting the intended line doesn't have to be exact.  You can make a mistake with one of those factors, as long as you make a compensating mistake in a different one.  

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Recently I've found that a good driver can reduce your scores by more than I thought. Good putting surely helps as well but eliminating most recovery shots from your game counts for a lot. Sadly the darker evenings mean I haven't been playing as much and my old swing habits are in danger of coming back but experiencing a month in which GIR was the order of the day was a revelation for me.

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I think professionals are vastly underestimated as putters. People always point to the stats like they're bad. Whenever I hear am amateur spew that nonsense about how "pro's only make 50% from that distance I just had" I laugh. You think they hit it long? That's not what makes them non-human. Their ability to avoid 3-putts is what makes them special. 

 

Keep in mind:

 

(#1) Those make %'s are achieved on greens that change every single week of the year 

(#2) Those make %'s are achieved on greens that are absolutely treacherous

(#3) Those make %'s are still better than you or me, even at our home courses

 

Pro's go out and travel to new places and are still better there, then we are at our home courses. You put a Pro on his/her home course and they make almost everything inside 10-ft. You put them on a practice green and they'll make 50 of those 10-ft putts in a row!

 

People do not realize how good pro's are. They 2-putt from virtually everywhere

 

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