Explaining the Putting Green Terms 'Break' and 'Borrow'

Putter playing for the borrow on a putted golf ball
This golfer aimed out to the left of the hole on this putt to account for the putt's 'borrow'. Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

"Break" can refer to the amount the path of the putted ball curves in response to the contours of a putting green, or to the amount the green itself curves or slopes.

"Borrow" refers to the distance right or left of a straight line to the hole that the golfer must start his putted ball to account for the slope of the green.

Hey, 'Borrow' and Break' Sound a Lot Alike!

You might have noticed that "borrow" sounds a lot like "break." And you're right!

They are essentially the same. Golf isn't complicated enough, we had to invent multiple words for the same thing.

But there's a reason, in this case: "Borrow" is the traditional term in British golf; "break" is the traditional term in American golf. In the modern golf world, with tournaments on many continents broadcast around the world, both terms are used more interchangeably by all golfers.

A Difference in Usage Between Borrow and Break

One difference in usage between the terms: "Break" is more likely to be used as a verb than is "borrow." For example, you might say:

This putt is going to break two feet.

But if using borrow, that statement is more likely to be rendered thusly:

This putt requires two feet of borrow.

Sometimes, both terms might be used in the same sentence:

He needs to play two feet of borrow to account for the break.

Which is kind of redundant, but you hear it. That's because "break" has a second meaning in which it is applied to the putting green rather than to the putted ball.

Saying "there's a lot of break in this green" means that the golfer will have to play a lot of borrow (starting the ball above or below the straight line to the cup) to account for the slope of the green.

So again: "borrow" is the deviation from a straight line to the cup that a golfer putts his ball in order to account for the slope of a green, and can be used interchangeably with that same meaning of "break."

Return to Golf Glossary index

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Kelley, Brent. "Explaining the Putting Green Terms 'Break' and 'Borrow'." ThoughtCo, Dec. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/borrow-and-break-1564083. Kelley, Brent. (2016, December 22). Explaining the Putting Green Terms 'Break' and 'Borrow'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/borrow-and-break-1564083 Kelley, Brent. "Explaining the Putting Green Terms 'Break' and 'Borrow'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/borrow-and-break-1564083 (accessed November 22, 2017).