Accurately reading break (a task that includes gauging both the starting line and the speed of the putt) is one of the most difficult things to do in golf, as evidenced by the high percentage (about 9 in 10) of missed putts that tail off below the hole. And the difficulty factor flies off the charts when you have to deal with more than one break.
Check out the roll track we recorded for a double-breaking putt at Summit Rock Golf Club in Horseshoe Bay, Texas (photo, near right). When you play any Jack Nicklaus–designed course, such as this one, you’re sure to run into at least one of these putts in every round. It took me several attempts to make this putt so we could record its actual roll track into the hole. But the more I rolled it, the easier it became to understand and “see” how to get it close each time. Here’s how you can do the same thing on the course.
Handling The Breaks
Walk behind the hole and imagine how the ball will roll—and turn—as it slows near the cup. Try to “see” what the ball will be doing as it approaches the hole. For example, if you imagine it will approach the hole from the right side (as is the case in the first photo), then work backward along that line to see where it should be at about the middle of the putt’s overall roll. Then, look back to the putt’s origin and imagine how the putt should start in order to get close to the desired halfway point. Don’t worry at this point about making the putt. Just think about rolling it close enough to the hole to avoid three-putting.
Next, walk behind the ball (photo, far right) and again imagine what line you must start the putt on in order to get it rolling in the right direction at its halfway point. Once you can visualize the complete ball track, turn your attention to speed. Make a few practice strokes from behind the ball to feel the power required to traverse the green all the way to the hole. This challenge is difficult, but doing it well is likely the difference between two- and three-putting. If you can perform the steps above without holding up the group playing behind you, take some extra time to try the putt again several times. Rolling three or four balls once your group finishes putting out will really help you begin to see the true line—valuable information for when you face double-breakers in the future.