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.
Ways to Win: Hideki Matsuyama from Low Am to low man at the Masters
They say the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday, but by that time, this year’s iteration was all but wrapped up. Hideki Matsuyama stepped onto the 10th tee with a five-stroke lead and the volatile back nine in front of him. The Augusta pines would be void of roars, though, as Matsuyama’s pursuers near the top of the leaderboard struggled to mount a significant charge. The closest challenger was a late-charging Xander Schauffele, who made four straight birdies to get to within two of the lead heading to the 16th tee. His hopes were then quickly dashed when he dunked his tee shot in the water and eventually made a triple-bogey. Augusta National Golf Club played difficult this spring. Contrary to the record-setting November version, the greens were more brown and firm than typical and required precision. Luckily for Matsuyama, precision has made him one of the elite golfers in the world. He earned this green jacket. He just happened to earn it on Saturday where his 65 was three strokes better than the next-best round. Using V1 Game to analyze his Strokes Gained performance shows Matsuyama gained 6.7 strokes on the average PGA Tour field on Saturday and 4.2 of those were from his iron game.
Matsuyama has always been a premier ball striker and, if anything, poor putting has held him back from winning more. Augusta National is no place for a balky putter and Matsuyama has made some significant strides in that category. While he did not gain strokes on the field in putting this week, he managed to get to average and, with his elite ballstriking, that was enough. Augusta National’s lightning-quick, undulated greens reward a properly-struck shot and punish even the slightest mishit. Matsuyama made 96 feet of putts Saturday (the PGA TOUR average is around 70 feet), including birdie putts of five, 19, 10, four and 10 feet. He also made a six-foot eagle putt on 15. You don’t have to be an elite putter when you have opportunities that close. Good for Matsuyama, because while he filled it up on Saturday, for the week, his putting was sub-standard.
V1 Game breaks down putting performance by distance from the hole, where we can see that Matsuyama lost strokes to the field in all but four distance buckets. He gave significant strokes back to the field from 4-6 feet, 11-15 ft, and 31-50 feet. Matsuyama had four 3-putts on the week, including one on Saturday and one Sunday. That’s progressing in the right direction, but still with room for improvement for the 29-year-old Matsuyama.
If you are going to win the Masters, it always starts with the par 5s and Matsuyama took advantage, playing them in 11-under for the week. He played the par 3s in +1 and the par 4s in even par for the week. Clearly, the par 5s were vital to him being able to get to the required -10 to win the tournament by just a single stroke. Augusta National has arguably the finest set of par fives in golf, each of them scorable and each of them dangerous. With V1 Game’s Hole History, Hideki played the 13th the best at -4 and the 8th the next-best at -3. Hideki made three eagles on the par 5s and averaged 4.3 strokes on the par 5s. That even includes the near-disaster on 15 on Sunday. Matsuyama was consistently in play off the tee and able to challenge the greens with his approach shots throughout the week.
All of the above added up to a healthy lead and afforded Matsuyama some cushion coming down the stretch, cushion that he needed as he got closer to earning his first green jacket. The golf tournament could have turned out significantly differently if young Will Zalatoris could have found a way to play better around Amen Corner, but instead Matsuyama was able to stumble a bit down the stretch and still maintain a two-stroke cushion until the final putt was holed. The Strokes Gained Heatmap from V1 Game for his final round scorecard shows exactly which part of his game became unsteady. Matsuyama overshot the 15th green into the lake and made bogey (Approach). Then three-putted the 16th green and missed a short putt on 18 (putting), knowing bogey was enough to win the golf tournament.
Still, a well-earned victory for Matsuyama. He struck the ball better than anyone else this week and did enough to claim the victory. Augusta National showed its teeth with firmer, faster greens and challenged the field to be precise. Matsuyama has made a career out of being precise. The same strength that brought Hideki Low Amateur honors more than 10 years ago brought him the green jacket as low man in the 2021 Masters.
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Starting the outdoor golf season with minimal damage
With all the courses opening in the Northeast and the Northwest, we are transitioning from the indoor training facilities to the great outdoor abyss. This talk will help you stick to your guns with conviction and avoid all the new distractions that are going to come your way.
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