What Is a False Front on a Putting Green?

Plus How to Avoid False Fronts and Options for Playing Them

The 9th green at Augusta National Golf Club has a false front
The 9th green at Augusta National has a false front: See how the front portion of the green slopes down to the fairway (where the golfer in yellow is standing)?. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In golf, a "false front" is a front portion of a putting green that slopes down to the fairway, so that golf balls that hit that section of green often don't stay on the green.

Key Takeaways

  • A "false front" is a front portion of a putting green that consists of a ledge or drop-off — the surface of the green in that area slopes down.
  • A golf ball that doesn't fly over or have enough speed to roll over a false front is likely to roll down off that part of the green and back into the fairway.

What Makes the Front of a Green a False Front

Hitting the front of a putting green with your approach shot, or with a pitch shot or even a chip shot, is rarely a bad thing. After all, a golf ball that hits the front of a typical green is likely to roll at least a little deeper into the green, getting closer to the hole position.

But when a green has a false front, that doesn't happen. A false front, if it slopes enough, might even repel an approach shot. A golf ball that doesn't land beyond the false front, or have enough juice to roll up it, may roll down the false front and even trundle back down into the fairway.

Yet, the false front of the green looks like any other front of a green in terms of turfgrass and maintenance: It's mowed at putting green height, rolled and manicured just like the rest of the green. It is part of the putting green. Except that unlike a typical front section of a putting green, the false front won't hold your ball on the green if you hit it. And, obviously, the hole location can never be placed on a false front.

So basically a false front is a bank or ledge that carries a golf ball back into the fairway (or rough) in front of a hole, but one that is cosmetically part of the putting green.

How to Avoid the False Front

Clearly, the false front is not something you want to deal with. How do you know if a golf hole has one? Some false fronts are obvious, assuming you have a good look at the green from back in the fairway. The more severe they are, the easier they are to spot.

But if you have access to a yardage book or pin sheet for the golf course you are playing, or a good golf GPS system, any false fronts should be noted. Likewise, a local caddie, or simply the local knowledge you or your playing partners have about the golf course, will help you avoid them, too.

Assuming you know the false front is there, the key is to not think of it as part of the green: Be sure to play your shot to a yardage that will carry your ball beyond the false front, onto a flat(ter) part of the green. (Or if your shot is along the ground, whether by design or accident, make sure it's rolling with enough speed to get up and over the false front.)

What If Your Ball Hits the False Front and Rolls Back Off the Green?

Well, that's what makes false fronts dangerous. Because then you have to play another shot over the same false front.

Your choices, after your golf ball has rolled off a false front, are:

  • Use your putter (or fairway wood or hybrid with a putting motion) and run the ball up the slope. Don't be wimpy: Hit it hard enough to make sure your ball gets beyond the false front and will safely stay on the putting surface.
  • Use a mid- or short iron to play a bump-and-run. This is risky because you might be bumping the ball into the false front. Miscalculating can again cause the false front to catch your ball and send it right back to your feet.
  • Use a higher-lofted wedge to pitch or lob the ball over the false front, beyond it to a more level part of the green.

Probably the best advice for dealing with false fronts is what we said earlier: Don't be wimpy. Take enough club on your approach shot, make a big enough swing, that you can be confident of carrying the slope and keeping your ball on the putting surface.