It's a Grainy Issue
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the true arts to be learned to play your best golf is that of reading greens accurately. It's obviously one that can be learned, but those that can dissect breaks to perfection have always impressed me. We have very difficult greens at our club, and you’ll get some putts that seem to defy gravity and logic. But we also have a number of players who seem to have a connection of some kind, as they consistently do NOT get fooled by a putt’s break.
Today's topic was introduced by John, who asked:
"Can you give some tips for reading grain on the greens? The concepts of the grass grain seems very mysterious."Well, John, “mysterious” is certainly a great word to describe the entire art of reading greens, and the fact that the grain of the grass plays into the formula as well complicates it even more. Let’s see if we can shed some light on the subject for you.
First of all, grain plays into the break of a putt differently on various types of grass, and with various methods of manicuring that grass. Bermuda strains are considered the most grainy, as they have a stem/leaf structure that is more pronounced than Bent. What that means is that the grass grows along the ground, sending out stems or runner, from which the leaf grows. Course superintendents can keep the “graininess” controlled by verti-cutting, which takes out some of the “stem-iness” and reduces grain effect. Typically, the thicker the grass, the more pronounced the effect of the grain will be.
It is against the rules to “test” the grain by dragging your putter across the green, for example, but you can do an examination on the putting green before you play a new course. Typically, it’s the same grass, maintained the same way. Go over to the edge of the putting green and take your ballmark repair tool or a tee and gently lift up the grass to see how thick the thatch is and how extensive the grain might be. You can expect the course greens to be similar.
So, now that you understand the grain, how does it affect your putting, and how do you read it?
Some common idioms about grain are that the grass grows toward the nearest water, or away from the mountains, or toward the setting sun. But according to my course superintendent . . . very simply, grass grows in the direction of the natural drainage of water off the green. This means that on any given green, the grain will run in several directions based on that.
Since water doesn’t run uphill, grain doesn’t either. If your putt is downhill, it will generally be with the grain, so speed will be increased by that factor – grainy greens will be faster downhill than the slope would indicate; uphill putts will be slower. Putting across the grain will affect the amount a putt breaks. If your “read” shows a right lip putt, but the grain is going left to right, then it is not likely to move that much. Conversely, if the grain is growing right to left, allow a little more.
One trick for reading grain on any putt is to carefully look at the hole. If it is later in the day on reasonably grainy greens, one side of the hole will still be sharp – the up-grain side. The down-grain side will be somewhat ragged where the roots and stems were cut when the hole was made.
John, I hope that helps you understand the basics of grain, and takes a few shots off your scores. This new EIDOLON wedge you won by asking is sure to help shave some more.
Thanks for reading, and all of you remember, with the link to EIDOLON from the ad at the top, you’ll get special Christmas pricing of $79 – our lowest price ever, and your last chance to get the kind of spin that has helped us earn our reputation. Get’em while they last.
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
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