The putting stroke is the most individual stroke in golf. There are a number of ways to get the putter to the ball, starting it on your intended line. However, knowing where to start the putt -- with line and speed -- is more science than art, and it's something we can help you with today.
Every putt has an imaginary straight line that dissects the middle of it called the fall line. The fall line of a putt is the true downward direction of the slope of the green. It connects the highest point of the rim of the hole to its lowest point. In other words, it is the exact, straight-line direction water would flow down the slope.
Often times you'll notice the pros on TV walking up to a random spot on the green and start taking practice strokes nowhere near their ball. What are they doing? They're searching for that fall line.
If you want to improve your putt reading ability, you absolutely must train your eye to see this high point on a green.
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Think of the fall line as a clock face, with the highest point being the 12 o'clock and the lowest being 6 o'clock. A putt at 12 o'clock will be straight downhill without break, while one at 6 o'clock will be straight uphill without break. All putts between 12-6 o'clock, or the right of this fall line, will break from right to left with a putt at 3 o'clock having the most severe amount of break. In turn, all putts to the other side between 6-12 o'clock will break left to right. Likewise, a putt at 9 o'clock will have the most severe left to right break.
While reading putts is absolutely critical to getting the ball in the hole, it's also important to know that you're not putting to the highest point. If you putt to the perceived highest point of break, then you'll routinely miss the putt. Rather, you want to think of getting the putt to roll to the highest point, then letting speed take over to run the ball to the hole.
Seth Hill is a contributor at Golf News Net and an instructor at Hozl, a golf instruction company based in Austin, TX that offers a personal swing coach at an affordable price.