Learn to read break

Train your aim to align putts correctly and avoid the resulting errors
By Malcolm Young

Putting is a skill that’s often neglected by the average golfer, which is strange because it’s the area that the majority of professionals focus most intently on. Holing more putts can galvanise your score, not just because they turn fives into fours, but because of that priceless golfing commodity – momentum. Most amateurs I know often resign themselves to relying on luck when it comes to putting.

We know that putting is all about line and pace, and what’s demoralising for golfers is that when they get the line wrong, even well struck putts that are going at the right speed will miss. Typically what I see most often is that golfers under-read the amount of break in any given putt. The most common error is visualising the curvature of the putt then aiming at the apex point (the point furthest from the straight line from ball to hole). In reality, your eyes don’t quite see the slope well enough and as a result you aim well off target, particularly when side slope increases and the amount of break gets significantly higher.


As a knock-on affect, the tendency is to get into the habit of striking putts too firmly (to negate the lack of allowed break) and watch the ball shoot past the hole, or worse, to actually manipulate the putterhead at impact, leading to inconsistency in stroke patterns and ball roll.

Accurate green-reading is the foundation for good putting.

A simple way to assist green reading on any putt is to use tee pegs, as pictured here, at four-inch intervals from the hole. Finding a fairly short, breaking putt on the practice green and learning to adjust your alignment to factor in the true break can be revealing – you might find that your tendency is to under-read the putt by almost half the necessary amount.

Malcolm Young is the senior professional at Arabian Ranches Golf Club. He teaches regular AimPoint Express clinics to help golfers master green-reading. Email [email protected] for more details

Photograph by Kristina Nabieva
Photo Illustration by Clarkwin Cruz