Putting is one of those things in golf that seems like it should be super easy. It’s not a power shot, so it seems like anyone should be able to do it well. If you’ve played golf for any significant amount of time, you know that’s not true. But putting seems to be the most frustrating part of the game, especially lag putting.
One day, it feels like you can make everything. The next, you’re racking up three putts faster than you can say, “go.”
There are three general types of putts; short, mid, and long. The difference between the three can be a little fuzzy, but you know exactly when you’ve got a long putt. Those are the ones that you don’t expect to make. You might even mutter to yourself, “just get it close.” We call those “lag putts.”
Even the name gives me a little bit of a shiver; lag putt. Why do we have to use the same word we use to refer to someone falling behind? It’s such a negative word in my mind. I think we call it that because most people aren’t naturally great at lag putting.
It’s what separates the good golfers from the bad. Let’s talk about how you can improve your game through better lag putting.
What is lag putting? Why is it important?
Lag putting is when you’ve got a long putt, don’t expect to make it, but want to get it close, so you can tap the next one in. We could call it a long putt, but we don’t. Unless you miraculously hit every approach shot to under 15 feet, you’ve probably had your fair share of lag putts.
That’s why they’re so important; we’ve all had them. Again, it’s one of those things, you can hit a great drive, a solid approach shot, and still find yourself 25+ feet from the hole.
You need to lag putt well in order to walk away with a par. There are few things worse than a three putt and lag putting is typically the reason one of those raises its ugly head. Want to eliminate three putts forever?
Learn to lag putt well.
Lag putting is a skill that a lot of people don’t practice and, like I said earlier, few people are naturally good at. It’s just a fact. Humans have really bad depth perception. You might think you have good depth perception, but that’s just in comparison to other humans, who I’ll remind you, have bad depth perception.
There are other creatures in the animal kingdom that are significantly better than us; the eagle, for example.
Don’t believe the lie that you do. Just accept this fact and work with what you have.
How to do it?
Now that you know what you’re working with, let’s talk about what you can do to make the most of your natural talent.
- Assess the Putt from Behind and the Side
- Aim Small
- Don’t “Over” Read the Putt
The first thing I’ll say is, there is a great way to gain better depth perception and it doesn’t take any extra practice. When you get a long putt, simply walk to the side of the putt, so you can view the entire length in front of you; you should make a triangle with your ball and the hole. This allows you to actually see the entire length of the putt.
Most amateur golfers only view the putt from behind, thus relying on your terrible depth perception. If you view the putt from the side, you aren’t using depth perception, you’re just looking at the actual length of the putt.
While you’re viewing the putt from the side, take some practice swings. Continue looking at the ball, line, and the hole. Imagine and feel how hard you need to hit the putt in order to get it to the hole.
On lag putts, the speed is the most important factor. Get the speed correct, and you’ll have a really great chance of hitting a good putt.
Next, you need to aim small. As the saying goes, “aim small, miss small.” When I was younger, I had someone tell me to imagine a hula-hoop around the hole and try to get the ball inside it. That’s terrible advice. What if you miss the hula-hoop? Then you’ve almost guaranteed yourself another three putt.
Instead, don’t be afraid to look at the hole and aim for it. Maybe you’ll make it, maybe you’ll miss, but if you miss the hole, you’ve got a better chance of making the second putt.
Finally, don’t try to read every inch of break. In the first half of the putt, your ball will be traveling the fastest. When a ball is rolling fast, break has less of an impact on it.
When a ball is moving slowly, break will take a putt more. So, focus on the final third of the putt and where it will be breaking. That’ll give you a better feel for where you need to aim the lag putt.
Drills to Improve Your Lag Putting
Those three tips above will greatly improve your lag putting. To improve your lag putting even more, try out some of these drills to give you the best chance of eliminating three putts from your game.
Most amateur golfers play most of their golf at one or two golf courses.
- Go to that course and take a bucket of balls onto the putting green. Don’t take two or three balls, take closer to 20 or 30.
- Then, set up on one side of the putting green. Put a tee in the ground 20 feet, 25 feet, 30 feet, 35 feet, and 40 feet. You can do even more if you want. To be honest, the more the better. Be sure to view each tee length from the side, so you accurately judge the distances.
- Then start hitting some putts.
- Try to focus on the pendulum, back and forth, of your putting stroke.
- Make a mental note of how far back you take your putter when the ball rolls 30 feet. Do the same at each distance.
You’ll eventually get a good feel for how far each swing will travel. Then, when you get on to that same course, with green the same speed, you’ll get a better feel for how hard to hit the ball.
Closed Eyes Drill
The next drill is a little bit of a pop quiz.
- Go to the putting green and set it up the same way you did in the previous drill; bucket of balls and tees spaced out at different distances.
- Then, set up to a golf ball and close your eyes.
- Hit the putt like you normally would, but keep your eyes closed the entire time.
- Both before and after you hit the ball, guess to yourself how far, or which tee, the ball went to.
At first, you’ll probably be really bad at guessing the distance of your putts, but after a bit, you’ll get a better feel for lag putting because you are taking your eyes out of the equation.
For more putting drills, head over to our list of our favorite putting drills.
If you’re frustrated with three putting too much, lag putting is probably one of your biggest issues. You’ve hit the green, and struggle to get it in the hole in a reasonable number of strokes. Most amateur golfers are terrible at lag putting. Use the tips and drill above to dramatically improve you’re lag putting and lower your scores.
For more putting instruction, check out our post on putting fundamentals.