Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Aimpoint Express

Turn on the TV coverage of any golf tournament across any of the tours and you'll see a bunch of players on the green waving their fingers in the air. Are they checking the wind or sending some weird semaphore signals? No. What they are doing is reading the break in the green using Aimpoint Express.

As a regular reader reader of this humble offering (what do you mean you aren't?) you will know that several years ago I attended an Aimpoint clinic to learn the original chart based method of reading greens (Aimpoint Clinic) which has transformed the way I read greens and being universal has allowed me to get accurate reads even on courses I've never seen before.

However times have changed and so has Aimpoint. What you see on the TV is the latest incarnation of green reading which has taken the time taken to get an accurate read down to a matter of 15-20 seconds and has done away with the necessity to carry the chart with you. Like the graph based system it's accurate and universal to any green and any stimp speed.

My course was at Downshire Golf Centre and the class consisted of Jamie Donaldson, Aimpoint's Senior European Instructor ( who works with a number of tournament professionals to use and understand the process, Rhys ap Iolo, teaching professional at Downshire, and one other pupil which meant we got a lot of expert one on one tuition. In essence the Express system allows a player to use his feet to gauge the percentage of slope and then relate that to the number of fingers to use in the read. Of course it isn't quite as simple as that and there are differing techniques based on this principal for reads from 1-6 feet, 7-20 feet and over 20 feet. We also learnt how to deal with those annoying double breaking reads too.

Adam Scott looking at another Aimpoint read
Now I know what all the naysayers and doubters will be saying. It's mumbo jumbo and sticking fingers in the air can't possible work. I can't give you the mechanics and science behind it, and if you have any questions I suggest you either a) book a lesson and try it for yourself, b) contact Jamie directly (or a US based teacher at or c) google it. The bottom line is simple. The chart worked and Express works equally as well and is much quicker. If it was a fad or rubbish, why would Scott, ladies number one Lydia Ko and a host of others put their chances of winning in jeopardy with something that doesn't work?

The session started with learning to feel how slope changes on a green and getting a personal reference point for gradient ranging from 1-5% and once we practiced making a decision on the percentage on a number of putts on Downshire's undulating practice green, it was time to start with those pesky 1-6 foot putts. We learnt how to make the read and then wandered around the green, making various reads and then more importantly trying to sink the putt. Even moving out to the 5-6 foot range, usually a problem, I was making a good number of these and those that missed were good reads and usually a result of not starting the putt where I aimed. That of course isn't unique to Aimpoint and it doesn't matter how you read a putt, if you can't start the ball on line regularly then you won't make many putts.

There is a different way of taking the read for those mid distance putts which again we learnt and then put into practice trying to make putts. I knew from using the chart that sometimes the amount of break you are being told by the Aimpoint read seems huge and there could be no possible way it was that big a slope. However time and again, we all set the ball out where the read told us and time and again the ball took the break and all scared the hole and left a tap in of a few inches, or dropped. It's wonderful for the confidence to see the ball disappear and you only need a couple of these per round to really make a difference to scores and handicaps.

The longer putts follows the same methodology of using the feet to gauge the percentage of slope but again the way the break is actually read is different and spread over the length of the putt. The expectation of holing anything over 20 feet is low, even for tour professionals and so at my humble mid-handicap level, it's about not three putting and making the second putt as stress free as possible. As slope percentage increased, so does the amount of break and having finally found a vicious side hill putt I gauged at 5% slope I needed Jamie to explain how to read it. I'm not planning on leaving too many of these and in truth, my putt wasn't great but that was down to pace and not the read. Second time around I put the ball next to the hole so the read wasn't the culprit.

Once we had a final round up and a question and answer session to clear any remaining problems it was a case of staying out there and working on green reading and making the putts. Now as I've alluded, while Aimpoint is proven to give repeatable and accurate reads, it still requires the player to make a solid stroke on the putt which relies on solid technique. That comes down to me getting out there and working on my stroke, something that will happen more now Spring is in the air and I am over my recent illness. A good read and a good stroke are a recipe for success. Last season I got my putting average down to 31.71 per round. If I can make this closer to 30 in 2016, I can save valuable shots and hopefully get those crucial handicap cuts.

Aimpoint isn't a fad and will only continue to grown in both the amateur and professional game and the proof of the pudding really is in trying it. Yes, the course could be seen as expensive at £90 but for two hours of tuition and something that you can use on any green it is money well spent, especially when you consider how much of the game is played on the greens. I'm confident the new method will see me in equally good stead as the chart did. I simply haven't played enough golf yet, something that is going to change, but this will really help going forward. Time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. good luck with it Martin.
    im a bit more than sceptical of how it works but hey ho each to their own.