Could Perfect Aim Improve Your Putting? – Golf Myths Unplugged

How Much Does the Read Matter?

Golfers spend a huge proportion of every round staring at the subtleties of the ground between their ball and the hole.  From Aimpoint and plumb bobbing to apps and green books, there’s an entire mini-industry built around finding the “perfect” read.  But does it matter?  Would golfers actually make more putts if they had the perfect read?  We tested that for this edition of Golf Myths Unplugged.

The Myth

Myth #1 – Golfers would make more putts if they were given the perfect read

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together eight golfers who ranged in ability from Tour professional to mid-teens handicappers.  Using a Virtual Green by Full Swing Golf putting green, we set up putts at eight feet breaking both right-to-left and left-to-right.  We chose eight feet because it’s a distance at which golfers can reasonably expect to make a putt.  Each golfer hit at least twenty putts – half with the “perfect” read projected on the green (as shown above) and half without any aid.  We recorded made putts for each condition.

All testing was done at and with the help of Club Champion.

Results

At first glance, this seems like a slam dunk.  How could players not make more putts if they have the perfect read?  However, among our eight players we had almost every conceivable result.

Half our players made the same amount of putts, or were +/-1 make, with and without the perfect read.  The other half were dramatically better either with or without the read.  One player made four more putts with the read than without.  Another made five more putts without the read.

In total, our group made two more putts with the perfect read than without.  That’s a far smaller effect than anyone in our group anticipated.  We were particularly surprised that some players were dramatically better without the perfect read.

Additional Findings & Future Testing Opportunities

Most of our Golf Myths Unplugged offer opportunities for more testing, but perhaps none so much as this one.

The first thing that we discussed was the issue of speed and whether or not the read was perfect for everyone.  Our “perfect” read was calibrated for “perfect” speed, meaning the ball would stop 18″ past the hole.  That simply didn’t fit all of our testers.  Some stated that they like to slam the ball into the back of the cup, and those players were often better without the perfect read.

We also discussed the visual aids that were presented.  For this test, we gave our golfers every aid the system has, as you can see above.  In talking to our testers, each one liked and disliked different elements.  Our Tour Pro was focused solely on the line behind the ball.  Others stated that they found themselves too caught up in the line on the ground and couldn’t focus on the cup.

The other question that stands out relates to the type of putt.  Would the perfect read lead to better results if the break was more severe?  What about a longer or shorter putt?

Again, future testing opportunities abound.  We could alter the perfect read to suit each player’s preferred speed.  The visual aids may be altered or simplified.  We can also look at the effects of “perfect” reads at different distances and break severities.  What do you want to see?  Let us know in the comments section.

Conclusion

While having a good, or even perfect, read is important, it’s far from the only ingredient in good putting.  Even our best putters made only 80% of their putts at eight feet when given a perfect read.  Controlling speed and start line are critical skills that can only be developed with practice.

Putting is also intensely personal.  A visual aid that works for some players may not work for others.  Figuring out what works best for you is a key part of becoming the best putter you can be.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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9 Comments

  1. I like where this is going; puttview offers lots of options to help players determine how they putt best. Have seen some online videos with the various lines that the software can display so I think it would be a great test to see/show players how can best read the putt. Is a player really better with die at the hole vs. 2 feet past, do they putt better if just given the startline and not the entire path, curved line vs. straight line, a spot left or right of the hole, the putts apex, etc. Ultimately, can a player become a better putter by changing/optimizing how they target. This video by David Orr shows the application: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2VNib–Dis

  2. Kyle Knutson

    A separate color for the start line and the line the ball will travel may help for focus. And having optional lengths to the start line might visually help the golfer determine speed.

  3. Your last paragraph sums up the real truth: putting IS PERSONAL and EVERY golfer must find out what WORKS BEST FOR THEM! After moving to Fl. my handicap went from 16 to 21 but only because spraying the ball into the stuff that passes for “rough” is killing me. Still get calls to be a part of a scramble team for my putting skills though. Virtually NEVER 3-putt even though my first putt is rarely inside the 8-10 foot range. My style is to have the ball “die into the hole” (instructors cringe when I mention this). – They want my miss to go 12-18″ past the cup. Why? Any putt (successful) is always a combination of speed & line; miss either one and – in virtually all cases – you have a miss. Don’t want to hear all the crap about a putt that “gets past the cup at least had a chance”. NO IT DIDN’T!! If it didn’t go in, you either had the speed or line wrong – regardless, it did NOT have a chance!
    Wonderful article though – reinforced what I have always suspected, putting is not the same for all golfers! Readers, want some really good advice????? GO PRACTICE and with an extra set of eyes! Don’t just stroke a few prior to a round but actually go practice and track what your putts are actually doing. We all know this but how many of us actually do it! (On a personal note, did see my local pro. Had tracked 20 rounds and found 77% of my misses which did go past the cup missed on the left. Told him I was not about to change my “die” philosophy but could he look at what I was doing. He quickly noted a shoulder alignment issue & a drill to correct WITHOUT messing with my die in the hold philosophy. )
    Keep up the good work with your efforts to keep me informed.

  4. So you have a perfect read, and you hit it on line, what does that mean. It all depends on what the Green does to the Putt and the Green has more injfluence to what the Ball does and no Green is as perfect as the testing surface. Then comes distance which is also very impotant. So to make the Putt requires skill of the read, the Green and the distance. The fact that no big read works real well is that our senses read the Green whether we now it or not. So there are good Putters and Bad Putters and that a fact. In my view was too much time is spent “reading” the green when others make as many or more putts without wasting time. They do what they see, I have always said you don’t need a long time analyzing to miss a Putt.

  5. Using players whose preferred speed did not match the definition of the read makes this difficult to evaluate. Perhaps selecting testers who at least strove for similar speed would yield more useful results.

  6. I love this test because amongst ALL Tour Pros, on average, 8 feet is the 50/50 putt. 94% make at 3 feet, and it plummets to 20% at 16 feet. ..Moral of the story…..practice those 8 footers.

  7. Love your Golf Myth tests they are always interesting & give plenty of food for thought. This putting dilemma of line & speed is perennial. Please do more testing: perhaps future tests should involve perfect line images varied for each putter based on speed, dieting at cup or going past cup as the variables. Any meaningful miss rate in spite of speed adjusted perfect line would really demonstrate that putting truly is more an art than a science.

  8. The test is really interesting. I learned to putt from a teacher who believed that concentrating too much on line made putting more difficult, and instead taught that speed and distance control are more important. In other words a putt that goes the intended distance is a good putt. While I am not a great putter, I rarely 3 putt. I was also taught to pick a spot in-between the hole and my starting point and by hitting the spot I make the putt. This works for me.
    Thus I would like to see a test marking just a spot between the hole and starting point rather than the entire line, which perhaps is distracting.

  9. In addition to my last comment, it might be interesting to test how far away is the optimal mark to hit through if one chooses that method of putting. This brings to mind that various “methods” of putting could be compared for effectiveness (like between picking a mark in-between the hole or finding the break by that method of holding various numbers of fingers up etc.)

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