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Reading the Grain
January 8, 2010 - Steve Anderson
Many times your golf buddy or TV announcer mention 'the grain' when they're reading the putts. It can be confusing if you don't know what it is so here's a quick explanation.
Grain is the way the grass lays or grows. It's not the hills or slopes in the green. Grain/grass just doesn't grow straight up, it lays one way or another, much like the grain in a piece of wood. Grain can affect the direction and speed that your ball rolls so analyzing it can help you make more putts.
Some times the grain grows toward the water. I say sometimes because you have to next to an ocean or big lake for it to affect the grain. That little pond on your 3rd hole is not a big enough body of water to pull the grain that way. If you were playing the 18th hole at Pebble Beach with the Pacific Ocean crashing right up next to the fairway then yes, the grass would be growing toward the water.
All you have to know is that the grain grows toward the sun and the trick is that it follows the sun. At 8:00 in the morning when the sun is rising in the east, the grass on the green will be growing due east. If you have a putt that is going toward the sun this will be with the grain or downgrain and will be faster, about 10%. If you were putting west, or away from the morning sun then you'd be putting against the grain or into the grain and your putt will be slower. At noon time when the sun is straight up the grain will be growing almost straight up. At 5:00 in the afternoon when the sun is setting that will be the fast direction as the grain has followed the sun.
A breaking putt may break more or less than you think too if you have grain so be careful to be attentive to where the sun is. Reading the grain is not the most important thing for most golfers but it can refine your green reading abilities and let you make a few more putts.
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