WHO: Robert Garrigus
WHAT: A missed three-foot par putt
WHERE: 520-yard par-4 first hole at Kapalua
WHEN: Second hole of the sudden-death playoff at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Golfers who putt the best rely primarily on their feet, rather than their eyes, to read greens. That’s the mistake Garrigus made when he missed his par putt in the playoff to lose to Jonathan Byrd. Had Garrigus read the putt more with his feet, and not relied almost exclusively on his eyes, he would have felt the slope of the green better and known that he should not have aimed so far to the right of the hole.
THE DRILL: Most amateur players read greens by using 100 percent eyes, but the best players in the world use a combination of their eyes and feet. Here’s how to practice learning to read greens with your feet. The goal is to learn to feel the putt’s inflection point — where the slope changes from uphill to downhill or vice versa — and then to use that knowledge to gauge how much break your putt will have.
Practice by tying a 10-foot string to a flagstick that is located on an area of the green that has a definitive slope. Begin walking around the hole holding onto the string — when you sense the shift from uphill to downhill (inflection point) or vice versa, stop and take a step back. You are now standing very near the “straight putt.” Next, use your eyes to discover the exact straight putt. This is the basis for green-reading 101; essentially, the farther your ball is from this straight putt, the more it will break. Is it that simple? Yes, it is!
Using this technique takes practice. But once you learn to do it, it becomes instinctual. And it’s no gimmick. Every good player uses his or her feet to read greens. You should do the same thing.
Jerry King is the director of instruction at Kapalua Golf Academy.