The enigma of “reading greens” has puzzled many players over the years. What was once considered just an art — either you could do it or you couldn’t — has now been made into a science. With the invention of AimPoint by Mark Sweeney, anyone young or old can now read greens with the precision of a Tour caddie.
As someone who’s taught green reading to many golfers, it has never ceased to amaze me how differently some of my students read greens. That’s where AimPoint comes in. It’s a system based on quantifiable numbers that allows all golfers to “see” the correct line. In this Q&A, I’m glad to bring you a brilliant mind and a game changer on the greens, Mark Sweeney.
Tom Stickney: Tell me how Aimpoint was invented?
Mark Sweeney: Aimpoint began as a very complex software program that was designed to accurately predict break on any green, and over about 10 years it evolved into the Express Read that you see now. The first product was actually an app for Palm Pilots in 2004 prior to it being used on Golf Channel.
TS: Is this a system that anyone can use? I have noticed the newer versions are much simpler than the earlier ones.
MS: The Express Read is the fouth version of reads that we have taught, and it was specifically designed for children under 10 years old to be a single-factor read. It can be used by anyone because there are no angles and calculations of any kind; it’s simply assigning a slope value of typically 1-3 for any putt. When you use your fingers to see the Aimpoint, you actually get a mathematically correct read.
TS: You have many top tour professionals using your system. How does this make you feel?
MS: Tour pros using Aimpoint is a nice validation that the read works and is reliable, something that I always knew but was difficult to convey to people who haven’t used it.
TS: Can reading greens really be broken down into a science? Or is there still some art to it using your system?
MS: The read is definitely a blend, much like getting a yardage. It isn’t as simple as just laser-ing it. Club selection always depends on lie, wind, shot shape, etc. Green reading is the same; there are feel variables like how hard you want to hit it, but the majority of break is dictated by the amount of side slope in the putt.
TS: What was the most amazing thing you have learned about reading greens since inventing Aimpoint?
MS: The most amazing thing I learned is how much geometry there is behind how putts break on a green, more than you would ever see or discover simply by putting. The computer can show you every break on the green simultaneously and those always look like macro-geometric patterns, nothing random.
TS: Is this system really necessary if you play the same course day in and day out?
MS: I think so. I used to play the same course every week and my green reading was still terrible. (With Aimpoint) I can generally get better reads on a golf course than the local players. Every time the angles and green speeds change all the breaks will change and it’s almost impossible to learn them all by experience.
TS: What is the best green reading tip you can give to the average players?
MS: Green reading is actually very simple if you focus on the amount of side-slope in the putt. When they first see Aimpoint reads, most people can’t believe how much break there actually is until they learn to trust it. After learning breaks, they spend most of their time learning speed control.
TS: What is the answer you give to the people that say your system is too complex or too technical?
MS: The original system using zero lines were highly complex and impractical. The chart system is the most accurate read, but is still too technical for most people. There is nothing technical whatsoever about the Express Read; it was designed for second-grade aged kids.
TS: What is your greatest player success story?
MS: For pros, I would say Lydia Ko. She fully committed to learning and using Aimpoint and finished first in both putting categories last year. Her putting consistency while using it has been very strong, especially inside 10 feet. On the amateur side, I have loads of players who have improved as much as five putts per round after learning Aimpoint and reached new scoring and handicap levels.
TS: Thank you for your time, Mark!