Green reading can be a frightful beast. A lot of amateur golfers dispense with it altogether, just taking general aim in the neighborhood of the hole and hoping for the best. An ingeniously simple new product at the center of the confidently named SmartLine Putting System has the potential to turn that fright to delight.
With SmartLine, Southern California-based teaching pro Nick Kumpis designed a U-shaped ballmarker with a built-in alignment system in the form of several easy-to-see lines embossed into the marker’s top side. The red line in the middle is always aimed at the hole itself, while the two white lines on either side — set at 1-degree and 3-degree angles from the red line, with the space between them at 2 degrees — serve as alignment aids when the golfer bends down to line up his ball after discerning slope and general direction. By visually extending the ball’s built-in alignment mark (or one you’ve drawn on) to and through the appropriate SmartLine’s aiming stripe, the guessing game diminishes: You pick up the marker, put it in your pocket and stand over every putt with confidence that your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you.
The big questions: Why hasn’t someone come up with this palm-to-forehead-simple solution before, and what led Kumpis to finally do it?
“This got started in 2016, when our club underwent a major redesign of the golf course,” he explained in an e-mail. “The new course features expansive new greens with much more undulation. Many members struggled with reading the new greens, which affected their overall putting. I began to think of better ways to help my students with their putting, researching green reading methods from the best players and teachers in the world, and honed in on the two areas of difficulty: ability to judge amount of break and aim. To [help them] improve in these two areas, I created a green reading and ball marker system.”
Instructional videos are available at www.smartlineputting.com, with elaborations on how to account for different speeds, uphill and downhill putts and more. “There is a process to learning the system which takes some practice, but my students have really picked up on the bigger breaking putts, and have shown significant improvement on aiming.”
The SmartLine ball marker has been reviewed by the USGA and can used in regular and tournament play, which is a good thing, because we plan to use it from now on, including on the practice green. Putt for dough? Indeed. And how about for fun, too?
$19.99 for one, $29.99 for two-pack, $34.99 for three-pack. Each marker comes with its own protective carry pouch.