What is Plumb-Bobbing

NCG’s Golf Glossary: What is Plumb-Bobbing?

We take a look at the green reading technique known as plumb-bobbing used by a few players, including JB Holmes and Rickie Fowler


This entry of the NCG Golf Glossary delves into the green-reading technique of plumb-bobbing.

Plumb-bobbing or ‘Plumb Bob Golf’ – it’s something you may have heard about golf, but you’re not entirely sure what it is. You’re in the right place!

Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a curious enthusiast, our glossary aims to enhance your understanding of the game’s many nuances

Plumb Bob Golf | What is plumb-bobbing?

Plumb-bobbing is simply a green reading technique used by the likes of JB Holmes, Rickie Fowler and also by one of the best putters the game has seen, Ben Crenshaw.

How would you use plumb-bobbing during a round?

It’s a pretty simple technique which involves a player using the shaft of the putter and their ball to help read a putt.

The technique is mainly used on putts where there isn’t an obvious slope and it determines which side of the ball is higher, effectively telling you which way the putt will break.

To plumb-bob correctly:

  • Crouch between 5 and 15 feet behind the ball but for longer putts, you may want to stand upright
  • Hold the putter just below the grip with the club head just off the ground
  • The shaft should form a straight line from the ball at the bottom of the shaft to the hole (top of the shaft)
  • Looking through one eye with the other eye closed
  • Note whether the green is higher on one side of the shaft
  • Whichever side is the high side, the ball will break in the opposite direction
  • For example, if the high side is to the left, the putt will break right
  • You may also notice that the hole tilts in one direction.

Why has plumb-blobbing caused controversy?

JB Holmes was criticised for using the technique on every putt at the 2019 Genesis Open. There were examples where Holmes used plumb-bobbing on 18 inch putts when in theory he could simply tap the ball in.

Despite the fact there wasn’t anything in the Rules of Golf to punish slow play, people believed the American should have received a penalty, mainly due to his overuse of the method.

That has recently changed, and now there are rules in place to make sure pace of play. Rule 5.6 now states: “A player must not unreasonably delay play, either when playing a hole or between two holes.”

NCG’s Golf Glossary: Plumb-Bobbing FAQ

What is Plumb-Bobbing?

Plumb-Bobbing is a method used by golfers to read the break and slope of a green by using the golf club as a vertical reference.

Where did the term “Plumb-Bobbing” originate?

The term originates from the “plumb bob” tool used in carpentry and masonry to ensure vertical alignment. In golf, the technique involves using the club to judge the line and slope of a putt.

Is it an effective method for reading greens?

It’s subjective. Some golfers swear by it and find it beneficial, while others prefer other techniques. The effectiveness can also vary depending on the individual’s proficiency with the method.

How do I use this method?

Stand behind your ball, facing the hole, and hold your club vertically in front of you. Close one eye and align the bottom of the club with the ball and the top with the hole. This can give you an indication of which way the green might break.

Do professional golfers use the Plumb-Bobbing method?

Some professional golfers have been known to use the Plumb-Bobbing technique, but it’s not universal. Each golfer has their own method and preference for reading greens.

Are there any downsides to this method?

Critics argue that it’s not the most accurate method due to potential inconsistencies in club alignment or individual interpretation. As with any technique, it requires practice to be effective.

Can beginners benefit from Plumb-Bobbing?

Certainly! While it might seem complex at first, with practice, many beginners find it a helpful tool in understanding the break and slope of greens.

Are there any courses or instructors that teach the Plumb-Bobbing method?

Many golf academies and instructors are familiar with the method and can provide guidance on its application. It’s always a good idea to ask your local golf professional for tips and demonstrations.

What are your thoughts on Plumb-Bobbing? Have you ever tried this technique? Let us know with a post on X, formerly Twitter!

Matt Coles

Matt Coles

Mention a European country, and Matt will tell you which resorts make the National Club Golfer Top 100s: European Resorts list. He might even throw in who designed the golf course and how many rooms the hotel has got at each one…

Matt got into the game of golf from a young age, following his old man to the local golf club. He fell for the sport, and now can’t seem to go a day without thinking about how to improve his game (Thanks Dad!). Matt has been a member of Howley Hall GC in Leeds since 2020, and is just about managing to maintain a single-figure handicap. He likes to remind people that he once broke 75, but won’t tell people that it was on a shortened course during the winter.

He moved to Leeds after graduating from the University of Central Lancashire with a First Class Honours degree in Sports Journalism. Matt joined NCG after almost five years travelling the world with the Professional Squash Association, working on events in all four corners of the globe.

Matt currently plays a Cobra King LTDx driver and RadSpeed 3-wood. TaylorMade monopolise the rest of his bag, with a SIM UDI, M5 irons and both Milled Grind and HI-TOE wedges, along with a Monza Redline putter. He uses a Vice Pro Plus golf ball, because he’s a bit different…

Away from golf, Matt is a Manchester United fan, and a keen runner, having ran the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon (his first and possibly last), in May 2023.

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