How to Read a Green to Drain More Putts

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How to Read a Green to Drain More Putts

To become a better putter, you must do more than just practice. Consistently sinking putts requires a core understanding of how to read greens and differentiate between different grass types. Correctly reading the putt is half the battle.

The grain's direction and the slope of the green can affect which way and how much your putt breaks. However, undulation and grain are not mutually exclusive. The slope will always be the most significant factor when reading greens. Grain, in addition to slope, still plays an essential role in how the ball moves on the green. However, the tricky part about grain in grass is that it only exists on Bermuda grass greens, not Bent grass greens. That's why it's almost crucial to learn to spot the differences between types of grass when putting.

The first step on your journey to becoming a better green reader is understanding how different types of grass can affect the break of your putt. Many amateur golfers have yet to be taught how to read a green properly, let alone the difference between Bermuda and Bent grass (when it comes to fairways, there are a handful of other options, too).

Before we dive into the best green reading tips, let's touch on the different types of grass and how they can affect your ability to make more putts.

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The Bottom Line:

  • Grass Varieties Make a Difference: Learning how to analyze grain is an integral part of the green reading process and being able to make more putts.
  • What are Bermuda greens? Found in warmer climates, what makes Bermuda grass so different is how the blades of grass lay on the green, creating grain that affects the break of your putt. 
  • What are Bent greens? Bent grass greens thrive in a much cooler environment. Because bent grass blades grow straight up and down, they can be cut much shorter, creating faster greens without grain.

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Grass Varieties Make a Difference

When it comes to green reading techniques and determining which are best, you first need to understand different types of grass and how they might affect your ability to read greens correctly. When playing in areas with similar temperature ranges, you're likely to find similar types of grass. Cooler climate areas will have similar grasses, and warmer climate areas will have similar grasses.

Besides the temperatures these grasses thrive in, the most significant difference between the two types of putting green grass is the presence or absence of grain. Learning how to analyze grain is an integral part of the green reading process and being able to make more putts.

Bermuda Greens

Bermuda grass grows best in warmer climates, where the temperature is between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes Bermuda grass so different is how the blades of grass lay on the green, creating grain that affects the break of your putt in addition to the severity of the undulations on the green.

When reading the grain on Bermuda greens, there are two important things to remember. One, pay attention to the hole and, more specifically, the grass lining the cup's edge. Two, hone the ability to spot the differences between shiny and dull sections of the grass.

Using The Cup to Read Grain

When using the cup to read grain, you'll notice there will always be a rough edge to the cup. The ragged edge indicates the direction the grass is growing. Whether it is down, into, or cross-grain, your putt will break more, less, or be slowed down, respectively, as a result of the direction of that grain.

Shiny vs. Dull Bermuda Grass

Imagine you are looking at a metal pole sitting at a 45-degree angle. On one side, it will cast a shadow. On the other side, the sun will reflect off of the top. This is the same thing that happens on Bermuda green putting surfaces.

When looking at a shiny spot on a Bermuda putting green, you look down at the grain. The sun is reflecting off the tops of those blades of grass, just like it would on the pole leaning away from you.

As you look into the grain on Bermuda grass, you will notice a much duller look on the grass. This is because you see the shadow being created by the blades of grass as they are leaning in your direction.

Bent Greens

Bent grass greens do best in a much cooler environment. They only need temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees to grow at their best. They also tend to be the faster of the two green types and hold their lines better due to the blades of grass being finer and growing vertically rather than bending with the sun. Because bent grass blades grow straight up and down, they can be cut much shorter, creating faster greens without grain.

The great thing about bent grass greens not having grain is that the slope is the only thing you have to pay attention to when reading these greens. Making it a one-part green reading process rather than two is a piece of cake to nail down!

How Does the Slope Influence My Putt?

The slope of the green is the most significant factor when it comes to reading your putts. The simplest way to read a slope is to think about gravity. Based on the undulation of the green as you see it, which way is gravity most likely to cause the golf ball to roll?

There are two distinct ways to gauge a slope: by looking at your putt from the high side of the hole or the low side. To determine which side of the hole you're on, think about an uneven kitchen table. A ball would roll off that table when slanted in one direction. This is because one side is higher than the other. The same goes for the slope on a putting green. Look for the slant where one side of the hole is higher, and you have found the high side of the hole.

The ball's path will always follow where gravity most impacts it. Being able to identify the slope is always going to be easier to read from the low side of the hole. If you have a hard time seeing slopes and want to practice reading slopes and undulations, go out to practice putting on the green when it is raining and notice where the rainwater begins to pool on the green. You will see the undulation in the grass much easier when watching how the water flows over it, pooling in certain areas.

Final Thoughts

Aside from being an excellent green reader, regular putting practice is the other half of the equation for making more putts or being a better putter. Whether you get your reps in on the practice green at your local golf course or at home on your favorite indoor putting mat, reading putts and practicing your putting are the only ways to get better. There aren't any shortcuts, unfortunately!

It doesn't matter if you are one of the greatest golfers of all time or just beginning; learning how to read a green is a very challenging part of golf, especially if you are unfamiliar with the two main types of greens. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to read both Bermuda and Bent putting greens. But if you step foot on a golf course and need to know what type of grass you'll be putting on, you can always go into the pro shop to ask. This will help you understand how to read your putts throughout your round better and whether or not grain will play a role.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Bent grass putting greens have grain?

No. The blades of grass on bent greens are much finer and grow vertically, creating no grain.

Are Bent greens or Bermuda greens faster?

Bent grass greens tend to be the faster of the two because the finer blades of grass can grow vertically, which allows them to be cut shorter, creating a much quicker roll.

Which greens break more, Bent or Bermuda?

Bent greens break more because they tend to roll faster and don't have any grain affecting the speed or break of the putt.

Is learning how to read greens hard?

It can be if you get the proper education on the different types of grass and how they can affect your ability to make more putts.

Which greens are harder to read, Bent or Bermuda?

Bermuda is the most difficult of the two types of grasses to read when it comes to putting greens. When reading Bermuda greens, you have to consider two things: slope and grain. On Bent grass, you only need to consider the slope.

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Alexis Bennett

Alexis is a longtime student of the game. After playing careers both in college, at the Division 1 level, and 3 years as a touring professional on the developmental circuits, she most recently wrapped a 9-year stint as a collegiate Head Coach at two different universities. In that time, she led her teams to 8 top-4 finishes in conference championships and led one player to the NCAA Regionals as an at-large bid in 2021, capping the best individual playing career in program history.

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