Tom Tucker teaches all aspects of the golf game at The Plum Creek Driving Range & Practice Facility in Batavia. Tom may be found online at http://www.TomTuckerGolf.com
About this time of the year, my outdoor lesson workload slows down, and the indoor
lessons don’t get rolling for about another month. So now is when I review all of my lesson
outlines, notes, and student feedback, and decide where I can make improvements.
After some thought, I decided to improve my green reading skills – for two reasons:
1) As a professional golf teacher, I feel obliged to stay on top of different instruction
2) From a personal perspective, since I usually play the same course for most of my
own play, I pretty much know every break in every green by heart. As a result, my green
reading skills were not being used or practiced enough. To keep your green reading skills
sharp, I think you’ve got use ’em or you lose ’em.
So two weeks ago Sunday, I invested $325 to take the Fundamental and Advanced AimPoint
Green Reading classes presented by John Graham at the Webster GC in Webster NY.
I coached against John when I was with the GCC Golf Team and he was coaching at MCC.
I know John to be a very thorough person, and I had been wanting to look into AimPoint
for quite awhile. I also knew that John had gravitated to specializing in AimPoint at the
expense of almost everything else, and I had personal confidence in him. So, other than
missing the Bills game and the Fedex Cup finals, everything fit my brain and my schedule well.
The Fundamentals class ran from 10 am to 12:30 pm, and the Advanced class ran from
1:15 pm to 5 pm on a sunny but cool day. There were four attendees for the Fundamentals
class, and three for the Advanced class, so we got plenty of personal attention.
John did an excellent job in the presentation of the material for each class,
The big question to me going in was the viability and practicality of the method, so
I’ll give you my perspective as a golf teacher as well as a player.
It was made clear at the beginning of the Fundamentals class that what would not be
taught was speed control, putting mechanics, or putter fit. It did cover factors that control
the break of a putt, how to identify them, and how to begin predicting expected break
amounts. It only covered single-plane putts shorter than 20 feet, and did not cover
advanced topics such as multi-planar surfaces, multiple breaks, and long putts.
The Fundamentals class was conducted on a well groomed practice green.
The Advanced class covered several methods for reading multi-planar putts and how to
use the system on course.
The Advanced class was conducted on the practice green, and on several open
holes on the course – for variety to challenge our newly acquired green reading skills.
The AimPoint method claims that it presents a precise way to read greens, and as a result
where to establish your aimpoint so that you have a better chance to hole breaking putts.
AimPoint utilizes three main factors to establish break: distance, slope, and angle. Nothing
new there, as that’s what goes into figuring your aiming point for all breaking putts.
The Fundamentals green reading skills first involved establishing distance by pacing
off your putt, then finding your “zero” line (essentially your fall line), then establishing the
percentage of slope – usually one, two, or three percent.
After all of that is done, you consult a 4″ by 8″ plastic flip chart that shows the different
distances to aim away from the hole as the angle for the putt, the slope, and the speed of
the green changes.
During the Fundamentals class, we practiced reading putts with pretty much consistent
break, but with varying slope percentages.
The Advanced class dealt with putts on different planes and double breaks. When
reading the greens for these putts, one has to take – or estimate – multiple slope and distance
readings, then do some simple math calculations, then consult the chart to establish an
aimpoint for the putt.
WHAT I LIKED
I personally got a great refresher on green reading, as well as some new information that
I will use in my own Advanced Putting lessons
For me, I felt that the most useful aspect of these classes was developing the ability to
identify a good aiming spot off the AimPoint chart for those putts inside of 10 feet that
have a consistent break. For those 5 and 6 footers, using the system should provide
enough confidence to stroke a relatively short putt with a lot of break in it at the correct
speed vs. slamming it at the hole to take out break because of aiming point uncertainty.
Sometimes those “slams” that miss the hole leave too much meat on the return putt.
WHAT THE JURY IS OUT ON
First of all, the whole system revolves around a player being able to roll a putt at
a speed for a given target that rolls 8″ to 12″ past the target. The player also needs to
be able to start their putt on an intended aimline consistently.
AimPoint clearly identifies these factors in their promotional material.
It’s been my experience as a teacher that these two skills are not present in most
players – especially rolling the ball at a correct, consistent speed. As a result, a
lot of players might not feel that the system works for them – and in fact it wouldn’t
– because the speed of the roll is of paramount importance in the AimPoint method.
The claim to precision relies on several factors that have a lot of variables. You first
have to establish the stimp (speed) of the greens, which you are taught to do on the
practice green with a level and the AimPoint chart. Then you need to get an accurate
distance estimate for each putt, as well as a fall line read and a correct slope
A lot of the estimation involves visual reads as well as tactile reads from your body.
Again, as a teacher I have found that a lot – maybe most – of my students have a tough time
making visual reads and estimations. Making tactile reads with their feet – even with my
more accomplished players – is even more difficult for most, and both types of reads are
absolutely essential for success with this system.
Last but not least are time considerations in making all of the reads and calculations,
then consulting the chart to get your aim point. It takes practice to get these calculations
down quickly. Having noted that, I think it can be done with practice – especially for
uncomplicated breaking putts.
Personally, I see a lot of merit in the system for the player that practices consistent
distance control on their putting – with the caveat that all the reads and calculations need
to be made quickly so as not to hold up play.
However, to be honest, I don’t think this system is for everyone.
I tried the system out in a round last week, and the third time I pulled out the chart
I thought my playing partners were going to de-pants me. Apparently I’m not quick
Seriously – as I said earlier, I think it will be very useful for those mid distance and
short putts with a single break and relatively consistent slope. I think it would take too
long to make calculations – even if you’re quick – with long, multiple plane breaking putts.
It would be very useful if you had the time to go and chart each green for slope areas
ahead of time. That would speed up calculation time considerably. Some courses have
green slope charts, which would make the AimPoint system considerably faster to use.
So … I’m going to practice feeling slope with my feet over the winter – for real, no joke.
I’m making one, two, and three percent slope ramps and I intend to practice standing on
them in my in my golf shoes to get a feel for how the different slopes feel to my feet.
That will speed the process up to where I should be able to use the chart without
causing any unnecessary delay, all things considered.
And I might start wearing suspenders as well as a belt if I use the chart with the
same foursome again, just to keep my pants up. 🙂
Enjoy your golf,