How to Read a Green to Drain More Putts

How to Read a Green to Drain More Putts: An Expert’s Guide

Start reading the green like a pro. Explore our comprehensive tips and learn how a green’s type of grass, grain, and slope can affect your putt.
Alexis Bennett
Updated on
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Imagine you’re on the putting green, lined up for a putt that will make or break your game. You’ve practiced your stroke thousands of times, but as any good putter will say, sinking the ball requires more than muscle memory. To get the result you want, you need to understand grass types and the art of green reading.

Many amateur golfers have yet to be taught how to read a green properly, let alone the difference between Bermuda and bent grass. To help lower your scores, we’ll share expert tips on navigating these grass types and how to become a master green reader. It’s time to level up your skills and sink those putts like a pro! 

The Bottom Line:

  • How to Read a Green: Reading the greens takes only five steps and can feel second nature once you get the hang of it. 
  • 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.
  • How Does the Slope Influence My Putt? The ball's path will always follow where gravity most impacts it, making slope the most significant factor in reading the green.

How to Read a Green Like a Pro in 5 Steps

Knowing how to read greens effectively helps you devise the best strategy to approach a shot. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to develop a solid green reading routine:  

Step 1: Observe Your Surroundings

Take in the green while you approach the hole, at least 20 yards out and ideally on foot. Get a general idea of the green’s characteristics and see if anything stands out, such as ridges or valleys. Determine the type of grass and whether it has grain, which causes the ball to roll faster. 

Step 2: Assess the Slope

Look for the high and low points when you’re close to the hole. Try to predict how the ball will travel, given that it will break in the direction of the low point. Determine if the slope is uphill, downhill, or a bit of both to gauge the green speed and complexity. 

Step 3: Inspect the Green 

To get a better idea of the green’s characteristics, walk around and inspect it from multiple angles, but especially from the lowest side and behind the hole. Pay special attention to the immediate area around the hole where the ball will roll the slowest.

Step 4: Visualize Your Putt

Next, stand behind your ball and squat down to visualize the putt path and the break’s direction. Look for any potential issues or areas to avoid. Don’t overthink your shot, and try to follow your immediate reaction. You can imagine a line or track from the ball to the hole if it's helpful.  

Step 5: Commit to Your Line and Putt

Once you’ve analyzed the green and settled on a putt path, it’s time to execute the putt. Trust that you’ve made the right call, and focus on making a smooth stroke. 

Key Tips for Reading Greens

In addition to the steps outlined above, you want to keep a few things in mind when reading the greens before your putt. Here are some insightful tips to get better at reading greens: 

  • Take your time, but trust your first view: Golf isn’t a fast-paced sport, so you shouldn’t feel rushed on the green. Nonetheless, your first look is probably your best, so don’t focus too much on overanalyzing the putt. 
  • Watch other golfers’ approaches: Watching other players’ green reading routines can help you understand what to do during yours—likewise, note the outcome of the putt and what to avoid or include during your turn. 
  • Stay focused and concentrate: Enjoy your time golfing and try to block out any negative feelings, anxieties, or stresses before taking your shot. The best golfers understand the importance of staying focused, so do your best to get in the right mindset and push out distractions.
  • Have a second plan: Think about what can go wrong during your initial putt, and devise a plan in case you miss it. If you can anticipate what may fail, mitigating the result with a recovery plan is easier. 
  • Consider local rules: Every course has different playing conditions, including climate, design, and grass type. Ask the locals if there are any certainties, like if the ball breaks toward the water or mountains.

Grass Varieties Make a Difference

When it comes to green reading techniques and determining which are best, you 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 likely have different grasses from warmer climate areas.

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

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 grass. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to read a green and what steps to take to start improving.

Aside from being an excellent green reader, regular putting practice is the other half of the equation for becoming 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 make more putts, so get out there!

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re interested in learning more about reading the green, check out some commonly asked questions below:

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 easy?

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.

Alexis Bennett
Updated on
Alexis is a longtime student of the game. After collegiate and professional playing careers, she spent 9 seasons coaching, most recently at a Division 1 university. 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 the program’s history. Now, Alexis hones her expertise as a copywriter and content marketer in the golf niche, staying tied closely to a game she’s loved her whole life.

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