Reading the Green: Bermuda Grass versus Bent Grass

Those who live in colder climates won’t see the distinctive striped pattern portrayed above. That’s Bermuda grass, a common choice in more tropical regions. Golfers in the Northeast, Great Lakes Region, and Pacific Northwest putt on Bent grass. That’s not universally true, but there’s a good chance you’re reading a Bermuda grass green if you’re south of the Mason-Dixon line.

What’s the difference? I could get into the technical aspects of the whole thing (if I actually knew them), but from a golfer’s perspective it’s pretty simple. Bermuda grass is more granular, and you have to take that grain into account when you line up the put. If the grass is darker in color, the grain is facing you. Lighter green means that it’s lying away from you, so the ball will run faster.

The thicker grain of Bermuda grass will also affect the break on the ball, so you need to read the break and the grain. On Bent grass, which is finer, your read is strictly on the break and the speed of the green, which is much faster. Got it? Take a few practice strokes on the putting green to try it out. You should be able to tell immediately what kind of grass you’re putting on.

Putting Tips for Amateurs

Full disclosure. None of us are consistently good at this. We might have good days and brag about how well we can read greens. The truth is that maybe one out of a hundred guys I’ve played with can regularly nail anything outside fifteen feet. The rest of us miss more often than we hit anything longer than ten. Hopefully, knowing a bit more about how grass works will help you be more consistent.

Another tip that I learned from a guy who used to caddy for Mickelson is to line up your putt twice. Read the green and estimate where the break is, then get down on one knee and line up a shot that goes right at the pin. You should be able to see which direction the shot will go. Stand up, line it up X number of cups to the left or right, and putt away. With a bit of luck, the ball will drop into the cup.

Learn by Watching the Pros

I taught my son how to play golf four years ago and he’s already better than I am. I’ve been playing for forty years. How did he do it? Besides being younger and more flexible, he’s also an avid golf watcher. That’s right. He observes what the pros do and emulates them. Try it. The top five putters on the PGA Tour in 2019 were:

1Louis Oosthuizen1.360
2Denny McCarthy1.347
3Patrick Reed1.093
4Jon Rahm.996
5Kristoffer Ventura.959

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