How to Improve as a Lag Putter in Golf
Improve Your Putting Skills
If you found this article then you are in the right place to improve your golf game. One of the most challenging skills in golf is long putting or what has been named “lag” putting. Inevitably every golfer is faced with long putts of over 20 feet and every golfer knows 3-putts are scorecard nightmares. Surprisingly, “lag” putting is one of the easiest strokes to improve.
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Why Long Putts Are Challenging
Long putting is an area in golf where both amateurs and Pros suffer equally. Long putts are psychological landmines. You can be playing a great round of golf and one or two 3-putts in a row will cause you to lose confidence which leads to more bad shots. Bobby Jones (one of the greatest golfers ever) once said “…golf is played on a five-and-a-half inch course, the space between your ears”. As golfers, we are always looking to blame a part of our game for a poor round or a bad score and “lag” putting is an easy target.
Long putting does not receive attention by most golfers. Think about it. You will hear the announcers on TV talk about Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy, Greens in Regulation, Sand Saves and Total Number of Putts. These become the “sexy” skills. And when we amateurs sit around in the clubhouse, we talk about hitting a long drive, a great approach shot or even a long putt we sank but we rarely talk about our “lag” putting skills.
For amateurs and recreational golfers, long putting presents an additional challenge: Practice. The occasional golfer (like me) simply does not have the time or the facilities to practice long putting. We have countless driving ranges to practice our swings but far less practice greens for putting drills. And when we do find an adequate practice green, we are often limited to shorter putting drills because of other golfers on the green or limited by the time required for effective long putting drills.
Best Long Putting Drill
The best long putting drill is Google. Let me say that again,,,Use Google to improve your putting skills! I know we are tired of hearing about Google but this drill will improve your putting and lower your scores. Spend an afternoon researching “lag” putting. Watch as many videos as you can. Fortunately, most of the videos are less than 5 minutes long. Using a golf pencil, mark down the author (Golf channel, Golf.com, Dave Pelz, etc.) and their basic message or tip. Here is my list:
40/50/60 foot drill - Develop Distance Control
Backswing Low to the Ground - Follow through
Hand Toss Drill - Use your Eyes
Too small, Too big, Just Right
Look at target 3-4 times - Don't think - Let it go.
7-8-9 Iron distance drill
Walk the Putt - Pick a target - Hit the ball square
Hand Toss Drill - Hold until rolls out
Focus on Distance not direction
Follow Up Research
At first you will look at your list of long putting tips and realize that none of them are exactly the same. Your first reaction may be to dismiss these putting tip videos as being useless. However, watch the videos a second time and pay attention to how many of the basic tips are being used in nearly every video. Also pay attention to tips that appear in only one video. If you want to learn how to improve your putting then watch people who are very good putters.
Lag Putting Drills for Amateurs
At this point, we will focus on the recreational golfer, the “duffer” per se. Do not be embarrassed to admit your golf skill set. Remember, we make up the largest sector of the golf industry.
- The best long putting drill is the “Hand drill”. Practice throwing a golf ball to the hole. This drill can be accomplished anywhere-at the office, at home or on the practice green. One item to add to this drill is using your left and right hand. No matter which putting grip you use, each hand plays a different role in the putting stroke. Thus, it is important to practice the “Hand drill” with both hands. Watch this video.
- The next drill is the “chip-putt” stroke. For many years, I used the same putting stroke for long putts and short putts. Teach yourself the “chip-putt” stroke where you swing the putter like your chipping stroke. Again, this is a drill that can be practiced almost anywhere. Dave Pelz teaches this stroke exclusively at his golf schools. If you watch the videos again, you will find that most of the Pros use this stroke even though they may not specifically note the “chip-putt” stroke.
- The final drill is to hold the putter until the ball rolls out. Learning this long putting drill is best performed on a practice green. Eventually, this habit will become part of your putting routine for both short and long putts.
Long Putting on the Course
Now comes the moment of truth-Applying these drills on the golf course. Like with many strokes in golf, your swing routine is important. Develop a specific routine for long putts. Again, go back and watch the videos and the specific routine each golfer uses for the “lag” putt demonstration. You will discover similarities in all the videos.
- Pick a target on the green. Do not focus on the flagstick, focus on your target.
- Look at the target line 3 to 4 times before striking the golf ball.
- Strike the ball with a “chip-putt” stroke.
(Notice how high the putter ends up at the end of the stroke)
Common Lag Putting Mistakes
Most amateurs (myself included) make three common mistakes when approaching a long putt.
- Direction versus Distance. The amateur will spend too much time analyzing the subtle breaks in the green, the slope of the putt, the grain on the green and the condition of the green. This is too much analysis, too much thinking.
Simple cure: Walk the putt from ball to hole and back again. Develop a target line and a target spot in your mind as you walk.
- Short versus Long Debate. The amateur will debate in their mind “I don’t want to leave it short but I don’t want to go way past”. The debate should never occur in your head. This debate will lead to indecision during the putting stroke and will result in a poorly executed putt.
Simple cure: Debate one thought. “How do I make this ball travel X number of feet?” I like the suggestion offered by Glenn Whittle-Practice swing too short, practice swing too long, then putt somewhere in between. See video below.
- Remembering Bad Putts. Amateurs tend to remember their failures. One bad putt leads to more bad shots on the course.
Simple cure: Do not think of a bad putt as a failure. Focus on what you did wrong during the putt. Did you forget to pick a target? Did you not hit the putt square on the face? Did you misread the green? Find the mistake in your putting routine and rely on your drills to correct those mistakes.
Long Putting Recap
Lag Putt Drills
- "Hand Toss" drill
- “Chip-Putt” drill
- "Hold the Stroke" drill
Long Putting On the Course
- Pick a target, not the flagstick
- Look at the target 3 or 4 times
- Use the “Chip-Putt” stroke
Common Lag Putt Mistakes
- Too much direction analysis before the putt
- Indecision during the stroke
- Remembering Bad Putts
One of Favorite Putting Tips
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Bobby Jones.
"No putt is too short to be despised!"