Reading test could determine County Amateur champion

Reading (greens) is fundamental.
Ben Bates putts on the 11th hole during the second round of the 2013 Gazette County Amateur Tournament at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Ben Bates putts on the 11th hole during the second round of the 2013 Gazette County Amateur Tournament at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Reading (greens) is fundamental.

Golfers can’t score well if they don’t putt consistently, and they can’t sink birdies without knowing how to read greens.

The players who understand how the ball breaks once it gets near the hole are the most successful, and they will be ones at the top of the leaderboard this weekend when the Gazette County Amateur Golf Championship is played at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

A field of 66 players tees off beginning at 7:30 Friday morning. The Top 40 and ties make the cut for Saturday’s second round, and only the Top 20 and ties advance to the final round Sunday morning. Former Union College basketball standout and local chiropractor Jerry Brescia is the defending champion.

Schenectady Municipal head pro Matt Daley said the amateurs would be wise not to make the same mistake most duffers do on the green.

“Most golfers put too much stock in the break of a putt as opposed to the speed of a putt,” Daley said. “They are both important factors in putting, but I would say that speed often dictates how much break you have. If you roll the ball with more speed, you won’t need as much break.”

That being said, Daley explained that golfers are usually divided into two different putter types — those who prefer to die the ball at the cup and those who like to roll the ball so that it hits the back of the cup firmly.

“I personally like to roll the ball so that if it doesn’t land in the cup, it stops about six inches past the hole,” Daley said. “If you don’t get the ball to the hole, you will never make a putt.”

There are several ways to determine which way a ball will break on the green.

“The first thing I do when I approach the green is look at the shape of it,” Daley said. “You can often tell sometimes which side of the green is higher than the other and how much slope there is. The ball obviously will roll from high to low most of the time. Another key rule of reading greens is to notice where the nearest body of water is. The ball should roll toward the water, especially if it is a large body of water, like a lake. You can also picture which way the water would roll off the green after it rains.”

On mid-range putts from about 20 feet in, Daley likes to use plumb bobbing to figure out the break of the putt.

“I suggest you stand at least 10 feet behind your ball and straddle it,” he said. “Then hold the putter shaft with one hand between your pointer finger and your thumb. Line up the shaft of the putter toward the hole. Then, if you are right-eye dominant, close your left eye. Cover the ball with the putter shaft and look toward the hole. If the shaft appears right of the cup, the ball will break to the left by about the same amount of distance. If the shaft appears on the left side of the cup, it will break to the right. Do the opposite if you are left-eye dominant.”

Daley suggests that all golfers mark their golf ball with a line or use the brand label to line the ball up toward the spot where you have determined the ball will break from. If by plumb bobbing you discovered the ball should break about three inches to the left, line your ball up to that spot rather than the hole itself.

“Most golfers don’t allow for enough break,” Daley said. “When you are practicing putting, try to allow for more break than you originally think. Pro golfers seldom come up short on their putts, and they almost never miss to the low side.”

Another factor in reading greens is the grain of the grass. In the Northeast, there is less grain than there is in Florida, for example, but Daley said that even places around the Capital Region have greens with some grain in them.

“The best thing to do to find the grain is to look at the cup and see where the grass is frayed. The grain follows the sun. That’s where the grass has been growing, and that’s where there should be a little more grain. The putts will be slower against the green and faster with it.”

Daley had one final tip: Know the course.

“Sometimes, the best way to know which way a putt breaks is simple course knowledge because you’ve played that hole over and over again,” he said. “There are some holes where you would swear the ball should break one way toward the water or another way down a hill. But the ball doesn’t break that way for some strange reason.

“A great example is the old sixth hole at Shaker Ridge Country Club. It looks like the ball should break down the hill, but it just doesn’t. The members who play that course over and over know that because of course knowledge. That’s another factor in being a good green reader.”


7:30 — Mike Hastings, Moe Mroczkowski, Bob Cooper.

7:38 — Brandon Haase, Rob Bigley Jr., Paul Pratico.

7:46 — Ben Smith, JP Hebert, Craig Schoonmaker.

7:54 — Jim Gardy, Joe DeLorenzo, Mario Marino.

8:02 — Tony Cristello, Brandon Cristello, Jeremy Youngs.

8:10 — Derek Brown, Ben Bates, Jerry Brescia.

8:18 — Jay Taub, Kenny Hall, Todd Trepess.

8:26 — Chris DiCocco, Alan Boulant, John Mendrysa.

8:34 — Kevin Halburian, Mike Bayus, Mike Dwyer.

8:42 — Mike Drake, Mike DiGirolamo, Dave DeMarco.

8:50 — Peter Andrikopoulos, Ross Lackey, Aaron Simone.

8:58 — Carl Gilbert, Mike Lucey, Chris Gilbert.

9:06 — Robert Alheim, Joe Plantz, John Cimino.

9:14 — Tom Salmon, Steve Mango, Mike Carroll.

9:22 — Mark Compton, Robert Dufort, Mika Mina.

9:30 — Brendan Jeffes, Jim Mueller, Brandon Alois.

9:38 — Lance Hope, Mike Pollock, Don Blaha.

9:46 — Glen Stopera, Neil Golub, Andy Bennett.

9:54 — Paul Carnivale, Rit Cimmino, Joe Cimmino.

10:02 — Don Dobbs, Alex Olbrych, Walt Peretti.

10:10 — Matt Panneton, Ed Chylinski, Jeff Adams.

12:00 — Todd Czepiel, Chad Stoffer, Jim Fazio.

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