Green reading guide for golf

In this video, Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach Keith Wood offers his exclusive Green Reading Guide For Golf with some handy tips for spotting subtle slopes!

Green Reading Guide For Golf

One trap that many golfers fall into is to get obsessed by the line of their putt without seeing the topography of the green as a whole. You miss the putt, step away and suddenly as you look at the green again, you spot a slope you had previously missed. We’ve all been there. The key is to think about your putt as you walk towards the green. Look at it as a whole – identify the swales, high points and general slopes of the green. Once you get reach your ball you’ll have a much better idea of where the green wants your ball to go.

Hidden slopes

Slopes, especially subtle ones, can be hard to spot on a large expanse of featureless green. That’s why it helps to look out for markers that better signify where the slopes are. If your playing partners golf balls are on the green, look at them in comparison to the hole – are they higher or lower? To help even more, place the flag down on the opposite side of the hole from the balls that are on the green. You can use these items almost like props to help you gain a better appreciation for what the undulations are going to do.

Water ways

A great way to think about the slopes on a green is to picture how water would drain away. Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to pour a bottle of water on the green during the competition but it doesn’t stop you trying to picture it. Also, look out for any drainage – green keepers are tasked with managing the water on their greens so the clues are all there, you just have to look out for them. If you can find the drainage spots, you’ll better see the breaks.

How to read breaking putts

How to spot grain

On a warm day, the direction the grass is growing will have a huge part to play in the speed of your putt. Likewise, the way the grass has been mown is important to look out for. Take a look at this image – you can see from the way the grass has been cut that there are lighter and darker patches. Stand behind your ball and identify whether the route to the hole is lighter or darker. If it’s lighter, you are putting down the same direction the grass is growing and it will be a little faster than usual. If the line is darker, you are putting towards the direction the grass is growing and it will be slower. On particularly quick greens, this can have a huge impact.

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Obvious clues

My final green reading guide for golf is a basic one but it would be remiss not to emphasise it. The slower your ball is rolling, the more break it will take. If your playing partner is chipping onto the green or putting from outside you, take note of what the ball does as it rolls towards the hole. It doesn’t matter what direction that ball is coming from, the clues it will offer about the slope are essential as it slows down. You might spot a little more break than you thought and you’ll be able to allow for that with confidence when it’s your turn to putt.


Neil Tappin

In July 2023, Neil became just the 9th editor in Golf Monthly's 112-year history. Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he has also presented many Golf Monthly videos looking at all areas of the game from Tour player interviews to the rules of golf. 

Throughout his time with the brand he has also covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSR2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons: PING Blueprint S (4&5), PING Blueprint T (6-PW) Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X