Green reading: The go-to putting guide for Stenson, Rose and Mickelson
Sitting in the players’ lounge at any European Tour event is fascinating enough but over the past 15 or so months a man with a small pile of books has become the first port of call for all manner of star names. Former architect Paul Homersham is the founder of the Green Book, a course planner-like book which measures all the slopes on the green to within 0.5mm accuracy. If you are unsure of which way a putt is likely to break then you need to look no further.
Not surprisingly now at the beginning of any week there is a very steady stream of players and caddies all happy to part with a small sum of money that could make the difference between ending your career with a Major victory or not. Or gold medal…
We speak after Paul has just worked through the night and dropped off the books at Heathrow airport, just in time for 10 of the European Ryder Cup team to take a copy. A book was also done for half the American side, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler are long-time big fans and Fowler was the first to register a victory for the Green Book team at last year’s Scottish Open.
Which of the Europeans used the Green Book?
Ten of the Europeans, two never have – Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello. Rory McIlroy has been on and off with it, he started and then stopped for a while but he is now working with Phil Kenyon who is a big fan of our book. I think they will use it in the future but they have a lot going on with his putting now.
And the Americans?
The drive behind them being allowed to use it came from Mickelson and Fowler so they will be. Also Brandt Snedeker and JB Holmes will have one. Dustin Johnson was using one at East Lake, we were hoping Kevin Chappell might have got a pick as they have been using it for a while and he is one of our most keen advocates.
How did it come about to do a book for Hazeltine?
We were formally asked by the European team. One person can do it on their own and should be able to do it in two days on site. We just need the greens to be clear of people. We then have a tripod with a 3D laser scanner and that scans the surface of the greens to a huge amount of detail.
What did you make of the Hazeltine greens?
Compared to a lot of courses in the States the greens aren’t particularly big, they might be 30 yards in depth but they are quite different to East Lake so it was quite strange to play there the week before. At East Lake the greens slope back to front and are hard to read on some in what is uphill or downhill. At Hazeltine there are quite large areas where there are a number of very subtle breaks, with lots of little hollows and rises.
How many angles do you take?
We typically take three to four angles, one is good enough unless you can’t see everything so we make sure we cover it from every angle. A scan can take from three or four minutes up to 15 minutes.
We will work out some key points on the greens, locate what is the front and back of the green and have a centre line through the middle which is aligned with the most likely approach from the centre of fairway. We will put some markers down, put some cones on the sprinklers and set the scanner going.
The Green Book looks quite mind-boggling, how long do they take to understand?
About two minutes, the arrows point directly downhill and the contours do what the contours do and they join up the points that are equal height. Most players identify where the pin and their ball is and then turn the page round to where the ball and hole is – and if the arrow is coming from the right the putt will do the same.
The first time I showed it to pros it looked so much detail, on our most detailed book there are thousands of arrows but you are only interested in the ones between you and the hole.
Do you do different books for different levels of detail?
We’ve got seven different types of book on the European Tour and two or three players have their own book which is developed how they want it. Some want percentage fall numbers because they understand them and what it is to putt across a two per cent slope, others use AimPoint, some want simplified information and quick and easy and the main stuff. It varies a huge amount.
How can you measure speed?
We don’t, we just measure the physical characteristics of the greens.
Are your books just for Tour players?
We are starting to get into some clubs and have developed a book that is way simpler than the pros’ books and gives a quick understanding of the green. We have developed a book to speed up green reading and stop stupid errors.
What is your putting like?
No comment! But my green reading is getting better. We have done tests with players and caddies and I’m probably average compared to them. The only way to get it right is to look from every angle. If you look from just one side you can be stupidly wrong.
You have already been involved with some pretty big wins since the Green Book started?
Obviously the Open Championship with Henrik Stenson was massive for us, they used a new extra large book at Troon. We had the winner, Inbee Park, at Turnberry for the Women’s British Open last year.
Then there was the Olympics with Justin Rose which was brilliant but diplomatically caused me a real headache.
In what way?
The IGF denied me access to the course so the British team contacted them and said they were taking it seriously and Rose’s team have been paying someone in the States to do this work for them. The IGF actually backed down so we were allowed to visit but only for GB. So the other teams were aware that we had done a book for Team GB but nobody else. So that wasn’t great news for the likes of Stenson, Kuchar, Pieters etc
Justin’s caddy Fooch played a huge part in that win. He was up at 5am as the sun was coming up and checking the pin positions. It is critical to know exactly where the pin is, at East Lake you had these fellows in grey suits and they are saying where the hole is when it isn’t there. It would take absolutely no effort to have a tape measure, walk up the middle of the green and measure it.
Have you faced much opposition from any of the leading bodies?
It is hard to know what they are thinking as they don’t really talk to you. The European Tour were sceptical at first, the R&A initially didn’t want us on site but Martin Slumbers came back from the US Open and had a U-turn and to be fair said sorry to mess us about.
Now we work on the Alps, Challenge and EuroPro Tours, the Open and Final Qualifying and the LET so the books becoming more popular. Sixty players took a book at the Open this year.