RENSLOW: Tough break? Uncle Plumber can help |

RENSLOW: Tough break? Uncle Plumber can help

Everyone who plays the game has an Uncle Plumber. He’s not really an uncle and he’s not really a plumber, but many believe that he can help your putting.

As most of you know, the slope of a putting green will cause a rolling ball to move or curve. This is known as ‘break.’ In most situations, this slope can be fairly easy for your eyes to pick up, similar to seeing the rise and fall of sand dunes on the beach. The ball will move from higher ground to lower ground.

However, there are instances in which the slope is so subtle is difficult to make out. Especially near the hole, flatter areas can have very soft breaks that will cause your rolled putt to slide past the hole, while you assumed the putt was straight.

Long ago, a clever golfer decided to implement a type of contractor’s “plumb” to help decide if an upcoming putt had any break and, if so, approximately how much. The technique relies on the putter shaft dangling loosely to provide a vertical perspective to a relatively level putting green.

By holding the end of the putter and allowing the putter to hang, the shaft is supposed to become a vertical line which will allow you to evaluate the horizontal slope of the green.

Facing the hole, hold the putter grip lightly (perhaps with just your thumb and index finger) and visualize the ball through the hosel or neck of the putter. Position your view point so the hosel appears to cover the ball and, as a result, a portion of the shaft covers the hole.

Here is the tricky part. Even though it appears to be a direct line from your eyes to the hosel and on to the ball, one of your eyes is dominant. Close one eye. If this is way off, no worries, it’s not your dominant eye. Open both eyes, align yourself again. Then, close the other eye. This dominant eye has the best line.

Now you should still be able to see the hosel and the ball. Yet, your perspective of the shaft has likely moved to one side or the other of the hole. This is the break or slope. It’s not perfect, but we’re looking for a different way to look at the same thing.

Again, for most putts, visualizing the slope is not difficult. However, determining the exact amount of break to allow for (with the speed of the putt being a large factor) can be a challenge. Which is why you will see the tour players walking around the green or positioning themselves half way between the ball and the hole. They are looking for different perspectives.

So, when you get one of those relatively short putts that you don’t believe is straight. Call your Uncle Plumber. Also known as “plumb-bobbing,” it may provide a new point of view.

John Renslow is a PGA Class A Professional and Instructor at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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