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Question on Putting:

I have problems reading the break in the greens and getting my putts on line. I seem to push and pull my putts when trying to strike the ball firmly. Can you offer some suggestions?
--Larry L. from Kingsville, TX

Hi Larry,

Thanks for writing in to MyGolfInstructor.com.

Reading greens starts before you even step foot onto the putting surface. Your preparation should begin as you are approaching the green. As you approach be sure to check out the entire landscape around the green. Look for high points and low points. Take note of any mountains which would push the ball away from it or any water (creeks, lakes, oceans) which will pull the ball down towards it. Keep looking at the surroundings and at the entire putting green as you approach your ball.

Once you mark your ball and are cleaning it, make sure to walk an entire circle around the cup. At this point try feeling the land under your feet. You should easily feel if you are walking downhill or uphill and if you have more weight leaning left or right. Take a second when you get to the back side of the hole to squat down and view the putt from there as this always gives you a great read.

In our DVD Putting Principles PGA Tour Veteran Jay Delsing and I cover how to read the break and the speed and Jay demonstrates this walk. I might suggest you get a copy to see how it is done by most tour players.

After you have done all the prep, you should have a pretty good idea of what the putt is going to do before you even squat down behind it and take a look at the line. From here, knowing the speed from the practice green and knowing the slope from your walk, just make the best guess you can, but be sure to always play a bit more break than you think as most people under read the break by 50% or so.

The pushing and pulling you are talking about is a stroke issue (provided you have a putter that is properly fit to your body type and stroke path). For that I would refer you to our drills section under Putting on the Instruction page here on the site. I have written over 30 drills and many are useful for training your path. If you putt on an arc a training aid like The Putting Arc can really help you groove a good path. If you putt on a straight path you can easily make your own putting track by laying down two clubs parallel to each other just wider than your putting head. Since it is somewhat off season now you might check out our Practice section as it has numerous Indoor Practice drills. The Baseboard drill sounds like it would be really good for you as it sounds like when you try to accelerate you get too much extra motion happening with your body and arms.

Try some of the drills and the prep routine for reading the green and let me know how it goes. I hope it helps! Be sure to start logging your scores in the free Game Tracker and log your practice sessions so we can help you with your plan of attack!

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