Done. The tee shot is successful, the fairway has been played successfully, the approach has worked, and the ball is on the green. The most difficult sections of a course have been successfully completed. That's right. - Wait a minute. Is that really true?
The golf swing is undoubtedly the most complex and difficult movement in golf. If you have, through long training, created a clean, repeatable and successful golf swing, then nothing should stand in the way of a good score.
That's what many golfers think, but at the end of the round the scorecard shows: they think wrong. The game is decided on the green, on every green of every course. The greatest difficulty lies not in the successful swing, but in reading the green correctly and implementing the result well.
But what is behind this term? What does a golfer "read" on the green. The description is quite simple, the following execution during the putt all the more difficult.
Reading the green means correctly assessing the topography, recognizing where there are undulations in the green between the ball and the hole, where it may be slightly uphill and where it is downhill. To estimate the so-called "break".
Recognizing this is at the heart of a successful putt. If you play the ball straight towards the hole on an undulating, sloping or uphill green, you are likely to fail.
Of course, the ball does not necessarily follow a straight line. Rather, it can be deflected by small slopes or dips in the green.
And for this reason, you often see golfers on the green crouching down to look from a point behind the ball towards the hole, not only to recognize the intended unevenness of the green, but also to be able to correctly assess it. And that is the real difficulty in the game of golf.
Of course, all of this is physics. And it can be calculated. But a golfer doesn't sit at the green table, he stands on the green. Here, it's not so much calculation that helps as experience.
You have to learn how the ball will be deflected, where it might speed up and how fast it will become. Or also where it might be slowed down.
You have to assess all of this when you line up to putt. The condition of the green influences the direction in which the putt is made and, of course, the power given to the ball.
But how do you learn this, where do you get the experience from? The answer is clear: the only thing that helps here is practice. And in this case, of course, it starts on the putting green. And it begins - wonder of wonders - without a putter. The club remains in the bag for the time being.
You start quite simply with a few balls. From any point, about two meters away from the chosen hole, you try to let the ball roll into the hole with your hand on the practice green (which, of course, should not be flat, but hilly). While doing this, observe the deviation, the way the ball really rolls instead of the imaginary straight line to the hole.
When you have managed to get the ball into the hole several times (I would suggest 5 to 10 balls), then you pick up the putter and try to implement what you have just learned with the club. Again, this needs to be practiced. Power and direction should fit.
If you have done this several times and have also looked for different starting points and chosen different degrees of difficulty, you are on the way to a regular two-putt, which should be the goal on every course.
The exercise can become a bit of a competition by putting a tee in the targeted roll direction before the first attempt to roll the ball into the hole. Of course, this should be at a distance that will not be reached by the ball before it is deflected by a rise or fall. After all, the tee is not meant to be hit, but only to indicate the direction.
The more often you practice, the more accurately this tee should show the perfect direction to hit before the ball rolls for the first time. If two golfers practice together, they can both stick a tee. The one that shows the better direction in this way wins. The starting point of the ball must of course be the same.
By the way, there is another way to read the green besides squatting down to estimate the direction of the shot. However, this is only used for very gentle slopes of the grass and for very sensitive golfers: You stand over the putting line between the ball and the hole, one foot to the right, the other to the left of this line, and thus determine a possible slope to one side.
There are golfers who can feel a slope of only one degree in this way. For myself, however, this way of reading the green is nothing. I prefer to look - and then roll the ball.
After a long and strenuous practice session on the driving range, this is also a good way to relax physically before actually hitting the ball. Have fun practicing.
Previous article in the series: How to Golf 13: Your friend, the putting green - Part 2
Next article in the series: How to Golf 15: Pitch or Chip?