How to Prepare for a Golf Tournament (Tip #6) – Learn the Break on the Greens
There are several ways to learn the breaks on a green, and they require different amounts of time and precision. Of course, when you look back at your tournament results and realize that your efforts helped you cut out 1-2 shots per round (or more), and that helped you jump 10-20 players in the tournament field, you should feel proud that you made the effort.
Why do you think the pros make so many putts on tour? First, they have very good putting strokes, but second, they’ve played the course numerous times – practice rounds, competitive rounds, pro-ams. They’ve learned how far outside the hole to play a specific putt based on their vast experience. That’s why so many new PGA Tour professionals find it so hard to win or to remain on tour. They don’t have 10+ years of experience playing that tournament and course. If you look at the pin positions from year to year, they don’t change significantly very often. Pros know to go to where the likely pin positions will be and practice 5, 10, and 15 footers from different sides of the hole. Some caddies are writing this information down in their yardage books or cheat sheets. It would be a waste to practice so much without charting this knowledge. A few putts on the PGA Tour can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars or just retaining your tour card.
Now, how can you go about mapping out the breaks on greens you’ll be playing in an upcoming tournament?
Key Preparation Tip: If the tournament officials have already placed a paint mark on the green signaling where the tournament pin positions will be, then your job is much easier. The simplest way to quickly prepare yourself would be to go to each paint spot and putt 6-8 footers at the spot until you find the exact line where the putt is dead straight up the hill. Anything to the left of this line should break to the right and anything to the right of this line should break to the left. This is invaluable knowledge for several reasons:
1. Your best chance to gain strokes on the field is to make putts within 15 feet of the hole. Given that reading the break on a green can involve subtle differences in elevation, knowing where the dead straight uphill putt is located will help you quickly assess the potential break in your putt. You should be more confident with this knowledge and that should help you pick the right line and make a more aggressive stroke. This should help you make more putts. No longer will you be arguing with yourself as to whether a putt is straight or whether it has a slight break. Those are the putts you shouldn’t and can’t afford to miss.
2. Now you know where the best place is to leave your pitches, chips, or approach shots. You’re most likely to make birdies when you leave yourself somewhat straight, uphill putts. This involves good planning on your part. Ask yourself how often you hole out from off the green. The answer is probably “rarely”. That means you should focus more on where you want to be putting from if you don’t make your chip. The answer: “slightly uphill and as straight as possible”.
Use this knowledge for your benefit throughout your tournament and you’ll feel much more comfortable and confident as you make your way around the course.
Note: if you don’t have the benefit of the future pin placements ahead of time, you can pick random spots on the green that you want to learn about and perform this same analysis, marking the straight uphill putts to various potential pin positions in your yardage book or other green mapping system.
Note: Check out our new paradigm busting post on a new methodology for putting.
Check out this follow up post for other, more time-consuming or complicated ways to learn the break on the greens.