1) Line comes first
Putting constitutes about 41% of your shots out on the course, and while breaking putts can be quite difficult, there are ways to improve how you read putts with big borrows. Although pace and line are obviously closely inter-related, for me, the key rules of putting are, 1) Read the line first of all; 2) Work very hard on lining the putter up so you start the ball on the right line; 3) Think about the pace of the putt.
2) Find the break point
One of the keys to reading severely breaking putts well is to switch your focus away from the hole, and look much more at the break point of the putt. That will be above the hole to varying degrees, of course, but depending on the putt you face, it could be 5ft, 10ft, maybe even 20ft short of the hole too. It’s the point where the ball will start its final turn towards the hole, and you should then putt to that break point.
3) Point of entry
Once you’ve done this, it will be obvious that the ball will not be entering the front of the hole as you look at it, but via one side or the other. So work out your entry point too, using something to help visualise that in practice. I have a little tool that does the job perfectly, but equally it could be a couple of tees forming an entry gate around the hole. The entry point might be at 4 o’clock relative to where you’re standing, or even 3 o’clock on big-breaking putts. But if you look only at the front of the hole, you’re always going to miss breaking putts low.
4) When putts break more
Downhill putts that you hit more gently will break a little bit more, and uphill putts a little less as you’ll be hitting the ball more firmly. It’s the same with green speed. When you go to clubs with greens that are much slower than your club’s, you may need to halve the borrow because there’s more resistance in the grass. Fast greens, where the grass is short, will produce much bigger swings.
5) Find time to practise
Your home club may not have many slopey greens, so if you’re playing away somewhere and you know the greens are going to be slopey, try to get there a bit early and spend half an hour experimenting so you don’t get caught out on the course. If you work hard on getting a feel for slopey greens, you shouldn’t fall prey to too many three putts when you’re out there for real putting on difficult greens.