Archive for Putting

Become a Better Lag Putter

There are a few areas that high handicap or beginner golfers should focus on to most quickly improve their game. Hitting the ball in the fairway off the tee might be the first and most important. Improving your pitching and chipping around the green is another one.

Today, we will be discussing an equally important area of focus for high-handicap golfers which is eliminating three putts. Of course while the goal is to eliminate three putts, no one ever does, but the point is to drastically reduce the number that you have. While hitting a ball out of play off the tee can derail your hole before it starts, nothing is more deflating than hitting a green in regulation only to three putt for a bogey. Worse yet is to three putt after struggling from tee to green and ending up with a blow-up hole. The ability to putt well can make up for earlier mistakes on a hole but there is nothing to cover up for bad putting.

The most important skill to develop when working towards eliminating three putts is effective lag putting. Lag putting is not trying to make the putt but instead getting it close enough to insure that you can make the second putt. So we’re talking about getting within a few feet of the hole. The chances of a high handicap golfer making a putt outside of 10 feet are low, while their chances of making one outside of 15 feet drop down to almost nothing. You obviously will make a long putt now and then but outside of 10-15 feet you are much better off to concentrate on getting the ball within a couple feet of the hole instead of trying to make it.

Quite possibly the biggest difference between the putting of a professional golfer and that of an amateur is the amount of feel that a professional golfer uses in putting. Many high handicap golfers have a very mechanical putting swing. While it’s very important to have proper mechanics while putting, there is a great deal of feel required in putting especially for distance control.

Check out the video below from Charlie King. He provides three great drills to develop your feel for lag putting.

There is another, just an important, skill required to be a successful lag putter. You need to be able to make short putts! A successful lag putt to within two to three feet of the hole is wasted if you don’t make the putt. The best way to make more short putts is too practice making more short putts! Check out this next video from short game guru Dave Pelz with tips for if you continue to miss short putts.

Change your practice routine if yours currently consists of putting a few 10 to 15 footers before your round. Dedicate regular practice time for working on your lag putting and you can drastically reduce the number of times you three putt.

Putting is the Foundation to Improving your Golf Game

A solid golf game is consistent in three areas – hitting fairways, hitting greens in regulation, and putting. Continual issues in any of these areas can prohibit a high handicap golfer from elevating their game to shooting bogey golf.

Driving accuracy and hitting greens in regulation are important to scoring low. You can, however, miss fairways or greens and still recover through other areas of your game. Miss a fairway and still hit the green in regulation by hitting a good approach shot. Miss the green in regulation and salvage the hole with a nice chip or bunker shot.

Putting is not as forgiving. Good putting can help you score low on a hole or help you salvage a hole on which you have made mistakes. But there is no recovery from poor putting. By three putting a hole, you will either waste a great scoring opportunity or compound previous mistakes on a hole resulting in an unwanted score. Even if you hit the green in regulation, three putt and you’ll end up with a bogey. You need to take advantage of hitting greens in regulation by making pars and an occasional birdie. Pars are needed to offset the double bogeys or worst that you will score in your round.

High handicap golfers should work on eliminating three putts to move towards consistently shooting 90. The goal for high handicap golfers should be to make every putt within 15 feet. The probability of a high handicap golfer making putts outside of 15 feet is low. Lag putt every putt outside of 15 feet. Lag putting is putting the priority on leaving the ball within a few feet of the hole to insure making your second putt instead of trying to make the first putt. During time on the practice green, be sure to practice lag putting from 15 to 50 feet. As your golf game progresses and you hit more greens in regulation with your approach shot, you will be faced with longer putts than if you were chipping or pitching onto the green. Successful lag putting will be important to take advantage of hitting greens in regulation.

The other end of successful lag putting is making short putts. No matter how good your lag putting is, you still have too many three putts if you miss short second putts. Strive to make everything within three feet of the cup. Every time at the end of practicing your putting on the practice green, challenge yourself to make ten three footers in a row. If you miss one start over at zero. Work on a full follow through and avoid “stabbing” at the short putts. One of the most frustrating things in golf is to play a hole great and then miss a short putt at the end.

Make putting the strong point of your game no matter what level your game is at. Good putting can help you score low and can also bail you out of trouble. Three putts will lead to frustration. Reduce your number of three putts and see your golf game improve!

Reading Putts

While correctly judging the speed of your putts is the most important factor in avoiding three putts, correctly determining the break of your putts is crucial to making more putts. Scratch and low handicap golfers rely on making putts to score low. High handicap golfers are too inconsistent to score low, but making putts can offset other miscues and help in shooting 90. Strokes with your putter make up a bigger part of your score than any other club. Knowing how to judge the break of your putts is necessary for sinking more putts.

The first key to making more putts is to know the speed of the greens. Visit the practice green before your round. Hopefully it is a similar speed to the course greens. Take a couple balls and putt from 5, 10 and 15 feet. Finally putt to a few different  spots on the edge of the fringe. Putting to the fringe is a great way to confirm you have a good idea of the speed of the green.

It is also important to know the overall terrain of the golf course. If there are mountains nearby, every green will most likely slope away from them. Likewise, the greens will most likely slope towards the lowest point in the area. The greens on most courses will slope down from the back to the front. As you walk up to each green on the course, use this knowledge to examine your upcoming putt. Based on where your ball is sitting on the green, determine if your putt will be uphill or downhill and which general direction it will break.

When on the green, you will want to look at your putt from multiple views. The first thing you need to verify if your ball is above or below the hole. The easiest way to do this is to look at both your ball and the hole from a side view. Knowing whether your putt is uphill or downhill is important for both judging the speed and break. The best view to read the break of a putt is from below the hole. So for an uphill putt, you should view the putt from behind the ball looking up to the hole. Conversely, for a downhill putt, view the putt from behind the hole looking up to the ball. If you have the time, look at the putt from above the hole. Having multiple looks at your putt will give you more information and will help your decision making. Crouch down and be as low to the green as possible when viewing your putts.

When lining up your putts, you are visualizing the path your ball will take going in the hole. The curve(s) of this path is determined by many factors including whether the putt is uphill or downhill, the slope of the green and the speed of the green.

The ball will break more or less depending on how fast it is going. A slower moving ball will break more than a faster moving ball. This is because gravity has a greater affect on an object the slower it goes.

It is important to recognize circumstances where your ball will be travelling more slowly and taking more break such as:

Downhill Putts – You hit your ball more slowly on a downhill putt as it needs less speed to make it to the hole.

Fast Greens – The ball needs less speed to reach the hole on a fast green.

When Approaching the Hole – As your ball approaches the hole, it loses speed thus being affected more by the slope of the green. Conversely, your ball will take less break after it is first hit.

Probably the hardest part of a putt with a lot of break is getting the ball rolling on your visualized path with the right speed to keep it on the path. This is where a lot of the “feel” you here about in putting comes into play. Knowing the right direction and speed for a putt to get it on your visualized path largely comes down to practice and experience. One tip is to putt “around the clock” during a practice session on the practice putting green. Find a hole on a slope and putt balls from 12 o’clock all the way around back to 12 o’clock. This repetition will help you hole more putts from these same positions during play.

Putting is the key for both the professional and high handicap golfer working on shooting 90. Practice reading and making putts with break and you will find yourself sinking more on the course.

Eliminating Three Putts

Too many three putt holes during a round are one of the major roadblocks in the way of high handicap golfers shooting bogey golf. Even if we do everything else right on the hole and hit the green in regulation, we still only reach our goal of scoring a bogey if we three putt. We need to take advantage of hitting greens in regulation by making pars or better yet birdies. High handicap golfers are not going to hit most greens in regulation. Three putts on these holes will lead to double bogies or worse. Too many of these holes, no matter how well we play on the other holes, and we can never recover to shoot a round of bogey golf.

How do we minimize three putts?

Speed is the number one factor in reducing three putts.

The speed of the putt determines how far the ball will travel. Except for a few putts with extreme slope that will break a tremendous amount, you will always be within a few feet of the hole for your second putt if you have the correct speed regardless of whether or not you judge the break correctly. Obviously the key to reducing three putts is to leave yourself high percentage putts for your second putt if you don’t sink your first putt.

A consistent putting stroke is key for having the correct speed on your putts.

There are several different putting styles, grips and putters one can use. I do not believe any of these has a major advantage over the others. The putter you choose comes down to what feels most comfortable to you.

There are things you will want to do consistently regardless of the putter you use.

  • Your eyes should be over the ball. The putting stroke and stance are much different than the full swing setup. Your head should be directly over the ball and you should be looking straight down at the ball. From this position, it is easiest to create the pendulum motion needed for a consistent putting stroke. Your shoulders act as the base of the pendulum if you are using a short putter. Your wrists remain still unlike in the full golf swing. The end of the putter acts as the base of the pendulum and is anchored to your body if you are using a long putter.
  • When putting, your follow-through should be as long as the backswing. Many high handicap golfers do not follow all the way through on their putting stroke. This is important for all putts but especially for short ones. The length of your putting stroke should also relate to the length of the putt. The longer the putt, the longer your stroke should be.
  • Try to putt the ball 12 to 18 inches past the hole on every putt within 15 feet. You’ll never make putts that do not reach the hole. The more putts you can make means less short ones to finish up and fewer strokes on your scorecard. Consistently leaving your putts 12 to 18 inches past the hole puts the ball at the ideal speed to go in when it does catch part of the hole.

Get a good read on the elevation change from your ball to the hole.

Most high handicap golfers I see only read the break of the putt from behind the ball looking toward the hole. I do what you see most professionals do. I read the putt from both behind the ball looking toward the hole and from behind the hole looking toward the ball. Sometimes the break is much easier to see from one side over the other. When walking to the other side, I pause and look at the putt from the side. This view provides the best look of any elevation change from the ball to the hole which is crucial in judging the correct speed of the putt. You may be thinking this will take too long but there is actually plenty of time on the green to do this while others are lining up chips and putts.

Judging the correct speed of your putts will get you close to the hole if not in but there is another thing needed to minimize three putts.

You need to make short putts.

You can do a great job of judging speed, but you will inevitably misread the break on a lot of putts leaving two to three foot putts. You have to have the mindset that you are going to make all of these. The biggest help in making short putts is to practice them. I see people practice their putting on the practice green all the time but how many of them do you see practicing short putts or at least finishing up the putts they leave from their long attempts? Include some time on the practice green to practice three foot putts.

As we touched on earlier, remember to follow through on every putt – especially the short ones. I have a tendency of not following through on short putts. I end up “stabbing” at the ball and pushing the putt to the right.

Three putts can wreck an otherwise good round. You can shave a lot of strokes from your score on the green. The correct speed of putts and the ability to make almost every short putt will reduce the number of three putts you have.