Better Lag Putting
The Short Game Survey showed me that many of you have difficulty with your lag putting . . . putting your approach putts close enough to the hole to ensure a 2-putt most of the time. Let’s talk about expectations, then get into techniques and thinking that can improve your lag putting.
First of all, 3-putts are just part of golf – even the pros have their share. And sure, sometimes you’ll follow a really good lag with a jacked short one, but that’s another topic altogether. In most cases, the cause of a three putt is a lag putt that did not finish close enough to the hole to give you a high degree of certainty on the follow-up putt. Lag putting can be divided into two aspects – distance control and break, and each deserves detailed attention. This post deals with the former, and in a few days I’ll be back with some ideas on how to handle those big breaks.
In my own experience and observation of other golfers, distance control is more often than not the main cause of three-putt greens. Most golfers play their rounds on courses that have reasonably level greens so big swinging breaks that are difficult to read are not that common. Most problems stem from the inability to accurately roll their putts the right distance. I know how frustrating it is to roll a putt 8-12’ by the hole or leave it that distance short, making the two putt likelihood not very good. You chalk it up to poor touch or having no feel.
Well, guys (and ladies), there is hope, because you all have great feel and it comes naturally. The key is to learn how to channel your natural eye-hand coordination into your putting. I’m actually writing a full-length book called “The Natural Approach to Better Putting”, but let me share with you these concepts and techniques for improving your putting touch.
Realize that all of us have natural eye hand coordination. We use it every day in our lives – eating with utensils, reaching for a doorknob, tossing a paper wad at a trash can, pitching something to a friend . . . . the nerve path between your eyes and your master hand is the most familiar connection in your body, and it is the key to putting, particularly approach putting. Good putting touch begins with the grip and you must have the thumb and forefinger of your master hand controlling the stroke – these are the most sensitive nerve endings in your hand and they must be lightly engaged.
A good putting grip has your left hand (for right hand golfers) providing club stability – your last three fingers of your left hand have a firm – but not tight – controlling hold of the putter. The right hand must cradle the putter grip very lightly, so that the fingertips are in contact with the grip, particularly the sensitive areas of the thumb and forefinger. In fact, hold a coin with your finger and thumb and that will show you the exact placement of those two on the grip.
To me, it feels like the left hand is holding the putter and the right hand is moving it back and through at the proper speed. Experiment with this without a ball down, just feeling the putter in your hands and practice holding the putter lighter and lighter until you sense that it is a delicate instrument of precision.
The second aspect of good lag putting is to fully engage your eyes. Just like if you were tossing a ball to a friend, you’d “soak up” the distance the ball needs to go, so that your eyes and hands can achieve the desired result. The same applies to lag putting. Stare down the hole so that your senses can fully assess the challenge. Make a few practice strokes back and through while looking at the hole, not focusing on technique, but allowing your body to “inhale” the challenge. I even like to release my right hand from the putter and make a few “air strokes” with just my right hand to get the feel for how it needs to move to impart the correct power to the stroke.
After you figure out the line you want to start the putt on (which I’ll address in the next post), focus all your attention on the speed. Don’t think about “how hard to hit it”, but allow your senses to work together to figure that out.
Go to your practice green and work on this for even 15-20 minutes, rolling three or four balls to the hole from distances of 25-50 feet, or longer. I think you’ll see that your touch is better than you thought it was, and that you’ll quickly figure out how to “feel” the right force for any approach putt.
Let me know your thoughts on this post and I’ll chime in the dialog where appropriate.
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[ comments ]
This makes a lot of sense to me. I often find myself overthinking putts. When I step up and just whack the ball- my body's natural coordination does seem to take over. Anyone who's golfed with me has heard me bitch about how I putt better when I don't try. What I'm really saying is I putt better when I just do it.
Kickntrue- I agree I catch myself saying the same thing. If I spend less time thinking of the putt and just putt I am usually 1.7 putts per hole.
I'm going to try the 25-50' range when it warms up. I'll use the 9' putting machine I got for Xmas :) for now.
Look forward to your next column!
1-This is analogous to telling the struggling pitcher, "Stop aiming and just throw the ball!"
2-One difference from the analogy of throwing a ball with a friend is that the friend tries to stop the ball! If he misses it, it keeps going!
3-Is there any value in doing a drill like the following?
--without a putter, use your hand to just roll a golf ball to the hole
The idea would be that our "natural", and well-practiced, eye-hand
coordination will quickly calibrate distance control this way.
After strengthening/honing this, then grab a putter and further refine.
Travelling Golfer says:
It's 7 degrees outside today, so I'll have to wait a few weeks to try this ;-)
Wait a minute, weren't you saying in the last column that we should grade out putting accuracy by the total number of feet of putts that DROPPED? Someone ELSE suggested that accuracy in lagging up close enough to ensure a 2 putt was, just as, or more, important. If we have to use the thumb and forefinger to putt properly, then what about those that use the CLAW that seems to be so popular now? I'm so confused.
Your ideas and suggestions are valid. I would add the following discovered after 50 years of playing this game: Putting well is a subconcious action developed through practice and the "confidence you can do and will do the objective at hand". Don't allow the concious mind and negative thoughts intrude. Over the years I made good "side money" putting for $ and I use "vintage putters" not the "giant garbage" on the market today. JWHpurist
Good comments all, guys. The time for putting mechanics is on the practice green. When you are on the course, you have to be thinking of "the putt", and your objective, which is to make it. The more clearly you focus on the objective, not the process, the better you will perform on the greens.
As for "the claw", to me it is a crutch for those that just can't get the putting demons exorcised. I don't think it will catch on broadly, as it is just that. And where are the multiple winners who use it?????
All I know is that when I played basketball I looked at the rim. Now when I putt I look at the hole and my 'feel' has improved dramatically.
Terry, I went back and read all of your posts on puttng technique and have adjusted my stroke accordingly. I have a 16' section of carpet in my office to practice on & a placed a ring down that is one inch smaller than an actual hole. I've been doing this for 2 1/2 months now. I managed to play 23 holes last month and I am putting so much better. The holes on the greens seem much larger to me and along with my improved feel my confidence is through the roof! Can't wait for spring!
WG, I got in 18 holes on vacation this weekend and used your lag techniques and mentality during the round with great success. I only had one 3 putt and I had everything working against me (Heavy wind pushing the downhill 30' putt, that went 6 feet past the hole). Right hand holding the putter on the tips of the thumb and index finger really helped control the pendulum pace.
Tim Horan says:
I have a long history of long putting woes. I went to Spain over the weekend to Desert Springs. The greens were slick and very true. I certainly did not leave any putts short! I guess some of you guys have that all the time. One of the problems with my putting is that I play a lot of different courses and my own club has two distinct green specifications. I cannot seem to find any consistency with pace.
I think a good tip is to "walk the putt". Rather than just go to the ball or behind it and look at the hole a few times...actually walk the lenghth to the hole. I think this gives you an extra feel of distance. An while you are at hole side look at the putt the other way and walk back.
I also think, especially for newer players, it is best to start off with a more traditional sort of putter. Whatever they say I just don't think you develop feel with the oversize moderm mallett style.
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