Before we take the eyes out of putting, let’s take a quick eye test. Look at this picture below and answer this question: Which looks longer, A or B?
The correct answer is C!
I know you just read the question again and are screaming, “There is no C!”
That’s because like any great illusion, it’s a trick. The cards you see are EXACTLY the same. Our eyes are just lousy at seeing curves.
Which brings us to green reading in the modern game. Think about golf course architecture — specifically green construction. Courses are now built with modern capabilities, no bare hands and mules dragging soil. So what are some things that happen that upset our eyes’ ability to read greens?
No. 1 is that the architect can tilt the green away from natural drainage patterns. The old saying “it breaks toward the water” actually can be 100 percent wrong because the architect can move the dirt to make it go the other way.
When the PGA Tour was at Torrey Pines recently for the Farmers Insurance Open, I heard the announcers say too many times to count that the players need to take into account the ocean when reading the break for a putt. Lunacy! When the South Course was redone before the 2008 U.S. Open, modern equipment was brought in to move the ground around, and man determined the slopes on the greens — NOT NATURE. It would be very easy for me to build a green that broke completely away from the water, agreed?
Secondly, man-made drainage patterns allow for run off in a minimum of three directions for most greens. So you can have lots of opposite movement on greens that mess with your eyes, also going away from the natural lay of the land. So in Phoenix, putts are not necessarily biased to break toward “The Valley,” and in Palm Springs, they all don’t break toward Indio!
That is why eyesight can be so misleading. There has to be a better way to read greens that does not fool you and make you guess as to what you are seeing?
That brings me to last May when I was hanging around the putting green at The Memorial Tournament. Adam Scott had just won the previous week and made lots of putts including two in a playoff. Before each putt, he held up several fingers and then lined up and hit the putt. It was the first time I had seen Aimpoint Express. I had read about it, but now it was live fire with the No. 1 player in the world at that time. Now here I was watching it up close at The Memorial. I soaked it all in as Hunter Mahan worked the green with his caddy. Then Adam arrived and worked it.
I noticed two things immediately:
- They made lots of putts…and they made the reads quickly in doing so.
- When they missed, they were burning the edge every time.
In fact, you might already be doing Aimpoint Express and not even know it! Have you ever gotten over a putt and felt like it might break more/less than you saw? That is because your feet are feeling the incline and sending your body an adjustment to calibrate to so you stand in balance. That is exactly what Express does.
This gets me to the point of needing to bring clarity to Aimpoint Express for players confused by what they are seeing and hearing on TV. Just last week, Jerry Foltz and Judy Rankin on The Golf Channel LPGA Tour telecast from Ocala had an Aimpoint Express discussion that was full of errors that left the viewer confused and badly misinformed.
So let me give you some facts about green reading with Aimpoint Express. We are going to hit these 3 points:
- Aimpoint Express is quick.
- Aimpoint Express is NOT technical.
- The best players are using it.
Take the last point first because all you have to do is read the list of names that use Aimpoint Express: Adam Scott, Anna Nordqvist, Stacey Lewis, Ian Poulter, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Lydia Ko, the new No. 1-ranked female golfer in the world.
Also, Aimpoint Express is not technical. When you can learn it in less than an hour and immediately make putts from all over the green, that is in no way technical. Quantum Physics or String Theory is technical. Taking apart my computer and putting it back together (and having it work again) is technical!
Here is how non-technical it is.
I had a tour player recently ask me what we do about grain and if I can adjust to play more or less break if I want to with Aimpoint Express? He had been told there is no adjustment for it because it is too technical. Well, that is another false statement and goes to how not technical it is. Aimpoint Express is accurate to 95 percent of the read, while the other 5 percent of the putt is your experience and athleticism, adjusting for things like grain and how hard to strike the ball. It’s literally as easy as that!
The last comment I hear a lot is that Aimpoint takes too long. On the contrary, it’s so fast that if every player on the Ryder Cup teams last year knew how to do it, they could play the event in two days instead of three. I can get the read and have the putt on the way a lot faster with Aimpoint Express than when I read it with my eyes after walking all over the place. My eyes are nowhere near accurate enough for me to get the read quickly!
I prefer to be 95 percent accurate as opposed to just going with my best guess and reading putts with my eyes. Remember the test above, with the curved cards, if you want to trust your eyes.
Our feet are like a pair of highly sensitive levels. They are always seeking dynamic balance to keep us safe by making minute adjustments and sending that message to our brain. So they are very effective at feeling slope because they have been doing that since we started to walk in order to keep us upright and out of harm’s way.
So after learning Aimpoint Express and teaching it to my players and watching them win tournaments, I can clearly see the future of green reading. If you do not want more precision, then keep guessing with your eyes. If you want to get your read faster and make more putts, then find a certified instructor near you and check out Aimpoint Express.
The 19th Hole Episode 170: Grassroots golf and Darius Rucker
Host Michael Williams talks about the benefits of grassroots golf programs in growing the game. Also features a reboot of his exclusive interview with Hootie and the Blowfish.
The Wedge Guy: Have a ‘Plan B’
One of the things that I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers “better” ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONE. In my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio – Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par 4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker wasn’t more than 15 yards wide, and there was a little mott of trees on the green side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least.
That hole drove most of us nuts, and double bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score and bogey wasn’t “bad” at all.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmm.
TWO. At my recent club, the ninth hole just didn’t fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time and turning over a draw was just not reliable for me at the time. That ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 160-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left to right, and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogies and doubles way too frequent. So, it dawned on me one day, finally, that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, that became my new strategy on that hole. I’m a good mid-iron player, so I’m fine with that, and that damn fairway bunker never caught me again.
THREE. My new club puts a premium on accurate wedge play. Most of the shorter holes have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, so distance control with your wedge approaches is critical. And I find that reasonably full-swing wedges are easier to control distance than those awkward 60- to 80-yard partial swings. So, I’ve learned to put a premium on club selection off the tee on those holes to leave my approach shots in the 85-115 range, so that I can “dial in” my approach shotmaking.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin or just doesn’t set up well for your game. When that happens, design yourself a Plan ‘B,’ and change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
Club Junkie: Mizuno T-22 wedge and Cuater Moneymaker shoes review!
Mizuno’s new T-22 wedges are forged from the same 1025 carbon steel with boron as the irons, giving them an extremely soft feel. Very versatile, the sole grinds allow for hitting any shot your heart desires.
The Cuater Moneymaker shoes might be some of the most comfortable I have worn in years. Tons of cushioning, exceptional traction all over the course, and they are even waterproof!
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