What does ‘grain’ and ‘break’ of a green mean?
When golfers talk about the grain of a green they are referring to the texture the grass makes by the direction it’s leaning.
The break is the direction the green will try and pull your golf ball. Break is mostly influenced by the grain and topography of the green.
For example, if you’re putting on a completely flat green and hit it perfectly straight (ha!) and the green has a grain that pulls your golf ball to the right, your ball will go right. That section of the green would be known as ‘breaking to the right’. To compensate for this break, an experienced golfer would hit his ball a little to the left.
What affects the grain of a green?
The main thing affecting the grain is the direction the grass has been cut. Most golf courses trim their greens from a different direction every day to keep the grain even. If the golf course cuts their grass in one direction every day it will start to grow in a distinct pattern, leaning to the side and pulling golf balls in that direction.
Sometimes grass is groomed to intentionally lay the grain in a certain direction. This might be done to make a green more challenging or to assist golfers on a trickier shots.
The grain of the green is also affected by the position of the sun in the sky. Blades of grass will reach towards the sun as it moves across the sky, so the grain might vary slightly throughout the day. Also keep an eye out for nearby water sources like ponds or creeks; the grain will usually run towards water.
Tip number 1: Analyze the grain
Walk in a circle around the green until the grass behind your ball appears to be slightly lighter; you are now looking in the direction of the grain. When the grass looks darker you’re looking against the grain.
Putting with the grain means your ball will roll 25-30% faster. Putting against the grain will move your ball slower.
Tip number 2: Get a new perspective
The ball moves so fast when you first hit it that the grain doesn’t have a chance to ‘grab’ it and pull it off course. The last 2/3 of your putt closest to the hole is what you really need to pay attention to.
By viewing your putt from the other side of the hole you’ll get a clearer idea of what those last few feet of the green look like.
Tip number 3: Trust yourself
Take a quick look around, use your best judgement, and let your subconscious and muscle memory guide your swing. Trust that you will see all that needs to be seen. Have confidence in your decision by the time you hit the golf ball.
Don’t spend too much time over-analyzing your putting line or you’ll start to see things that don’t exist.