Grain on Putting Greens

Hi Frank,
I am sure you have answered this question before, but it would be nice to hear from you again on this subject.

How does a player read the grain? I just returned from a golf trip to Barbados and I had a great deal of trouble reading the greens. I was told that it was because of the grain. All attempts to help me failed and I became a timid putter which only made the situation worse.

Cranky Yankee

Other than having problems with reading the greens and blaming grain I hope you had a good stay in Barbados. We are sometimes inclined to find some excuse for our misfortunes on the green and blaming grain is as good an excuse as you can find. I do suggest that you get a copy of our latest book – “The Fundamentals of Putting” – which will ship in early January and will certainly help in green reading as well as making a good stroke.

Having said this, there are a couple of ways to read grain.

First and probably the most reliable way is to take a close look at the edges of the hole. The grain will run in the direction from the sharp edge toward the ragged edge. You can verify this by gently brushing your hand over the surface into the grain direction – i.e. from the ragged edge toward the sharp edge – BUT don’t do this during a round of golf as it would be a violation of Rule 16-1d Testing Surface. You will feel the grain if there is any.

The second way is to look for the sheen. Generally, the shiny sheen will be looking down-grain or with the grain and the dull sheen into the grain. This is not as reliable as examining the edge of the hole because the way and direction the green was mowed may affect the sheen.

The other thing to remember is that the entire green may not have the same grain direction.

Certain types of grass such as Bermuda have more grain than others and how close the green has been cut will influence the effect of the grain.

Most grasses will want to grow toward the sun so in the winter months in the northern hemisphere when the sun is low and toward the South at noon the grass will be inclined to grow toward the South . This means that putting in a southerly direction will be with the grain. Putting East or West will then be across grain where the grain will have most effect on direction.

If you don’t know where South is in the northern hemisphere, here is a way to find it. Stand up facing toward your shadow at noon and you will be looking directly North, so South will be behind you 🙂

Do you have any special ways you look for grain on greens? Share them here with other Frankly Friends, by replying below.

Hope this helps

3 thoughts on “Grain on Putting Greens

  1. With the different types of grasses and expertise of the superintendents there is very little grain on most greens today. If there is any grain it will be going down hill

  2. I can certainly agree with the Cranky Yankee. Living in the north and west of the US all of my life, visits to the southern areas with more grain can be just amazing and totally baffling. Out west, the greens at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs used to have a definite grain that affected break. After a while, one wondered if a break would follow slope or follow grain? Putts with grain and slope aligned would break tremendously. I wish the TV broadcasts would show 3D contour plots of the greens with grain indicated as well.

  3. I frequently play early morning rounds where the greens are so freshly cut you may have to wait a minute or two for the mowerman to leave the green. In these situations, we frequently find the grain can be in opposite directions for each width of the mower. This causes a right, left, right, left, etc putt depending on how many mower widths you cross on the way to the hole and the speed the ball is travelling when it hits the next width. The easiest putt to read is one that is in the same swath as the hole. The others are either plus one to the right, plus one to the left or even.

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