published Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Good putting starts with good reading

Adam Campbell talks about putting at the Lookout Mountain Golf and Country Club, where he is head golf professional.
Adam Campbell talks about putting at the Lookout Mountain Golf and Country Club, where he is head golf professional.
Photo by John Rawlston.

TIPS ON THE GREEN

Reading putts

• 1. Find the overall slope of the entire green.

• 2. Find the highest and lowest points of the green.

• 3. Use your built-in range finder (you know how far to throw your keys).

• 4. Gauge the distance and speed after factoring in other info.

• 5. Watch what others do around the hole if you're not first to go.

• 6. Find a target and make it as small as possible.

Striking putts

• 1. Line up the putter with the ball and the alignment aids.

• 2. Take your grip and then your stance.

• 3. Look at the line one more time from your stance.

• 4. Focus your eyes on a spot just in front of the ball.

• 5. Make a firm, confident stroke at the ball.

Source: Adam Campbell, Lookout Mountain head golf professional

The goal is to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible while following the Rules of Golf.

The final part -- finding the right path for the ball and actually putting it in the cup -- can be the most difficult part of the game.

"It's about being able to combine speed with what you read," said Dalton State College director of golf Ben Rickett. "The best you can do is read a good line, put a good putt on a good line and leave the rest to nature."

Reading greens is an art that can take thousands of hours to reach a level of excellence. But there are common principles that can make it easier for advanced, weekend and beginning golfers.

The primary principle is to examine the green as a whole and incrementally narrow the target of a putt to the size of the cup or smaller.

"Reading greens is an acquired taste, and some guys are good at it and some guys aren't," said Chattanooga native Kip Henley, who caddies for Brian Gay on the PGA Tour.

"Brian chimed in," Henley said. "BG said, 'Balls roll downhill, so if you can figure out downhill then you've got it licked.'"

Only reading greens and putting the ball aren't so simple.

"There are so many variables when you're looking at slope, wind and the grain," said Lookout Mountain head professional Adam Campbell. "Find the true fall of the green, and if there's a ridge that will affect the putt, take that into account making two slopes. Educate yourself by watching others, get a good line, get a good pace and make a confident stroke.

"That can all be done in a mental check box."

Both Rickett, who played at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and caddied for the Mocs' Steven Fox in this year's Masters, and Henley, who reads PGA Tour greens for a living, delivered the same visual.

When reading a putt, imagine where all the water would run if somebody dumped out a bucket.

"I still read some putts like that," Henley said. "The top [putting] teachers will tell you that if you're a linear thinker you'll see the putt two cups to the right. But if you're a non-linear thinker, you'll see the ball going in at 4 o'clock on the hole.

"Me and BG will talk about the ball going in on the clock."

The methods aren't science, but plenty of physics and gravity come into play. As does practice on the putting green, either in long intervals or for just a few minutes before teeing off.

"Practice is vital, and if I'm there 30 minutes beforehand I may hit some wedges and drivers, but I'll spend a majority of my time on the green," Campbell said. "The first thing I'll do is hit long putts to learn speed control, then five minutes of six-footers in the compass drill."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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