Putting: The links between green reading and pace control

I have met many players who are technically good putters but hole nothing and plenty of players who have iffy strokes but seem to hole a lot of putts. It comes down to understanding pace of the ball and your read of the greens. See the picture below as an example:

This image of Rory McIlroy demonstrates the different factors to consider. On the tour speed greens you can see the difference between the line needed for a dead weight putt (yellow) and the line for a firmer pace (black). The apex of the dead weight putt is much higher up the slope on the right as the ball will be rolling much slower and therefore take the slope more. You can see how much the entry angle to the hole changes too as it will literally fall in from the right edge as opposed to a more central point on the firmer putt.

The factors to consider when reading your putt and selecting your preferred pace are:

  • Are you confident on 3-5 foot return putts? If not, then the risk of hitting your putts firmer on a straighter line is probably not worth it (unless your putt is inside 3 feet)
  • How quick are your greens? If they are slower then you can take some break out as the ball will always be travelling quicker on its way to the hole. If they are super quick then you have to gently use the slope more
  • Are the greens wet? Generally a bit of morning dew or rain will slow the greens down and therefore reduce the slope that you need to read into the putt
  • Is the wind strong enough to affect the ball? It is more marginal this one but a downwind putt will have to be hit softer and therefore will take more break again

Coaches Tip

I would say that 80% of really slopy putts are under read and miss on the low side due to poor pace or read. When you practice your long putts put a tee at the highest point (i.e. where you want to aim) and try 3 or 4 different putts at different speeds to see how the ball uses the slope and where the ball finishes. Aim to find a pace and read that finishes 12 inches past the hole and rolls in from the high side. Then try different length and slope putts until you are confident that you can see the break correctly. At this point remove the tee peg and practice with 1 ball (as if on the course) and see how you get on.


Lee Wilson; June 2021