How to Improve Your Lag Putting Skills and Avoid 3 Putts

How to Improve Your Lag Putting Skills and Avoid 3 Putts

If you’ve ever faced a long, daunting putt and proceeded to an embarrassingly three-putt, you know the frustration that comes with poor lag putting. Lag putting is the skill of accurately judging distance and pace to get the ball close to the hole on long putts. Mastering it is crucial for any golfer looking to lower their scores.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn what factors into quality lag putting and discover actionable tips and drills to help you drain more one-putts and avoid the dreaded three-jack. Read on to enhance your feel for distance control and become a lag putting wizard!

What is Lag Putting and Why Does it Matter?

Lag putting refers to attempting to get the golf ball within a reasonable proximity to the hole on a long distance putt, rather than aggressively trying to hole out. The goal is to “lag” the ball near the cup and tap in for an easy two-putt par or bogey.

This skill is often overlooked by amateur golfers but lag putting proficiency is a key component of any sound short game. Here’s why it’s so important:

  • Avoids Three-Putts – Nothing tanks a scorecard faster than a three-putt. By lagging it close, you convert more one-putts and eliminate those momentum-killing three-putts.
  • Saves Strokes – Even if you just lag it to 2-3 feet, that’s an easy next putt. Lag putting turns potential three-putts into two-putts and saves you strokes over 18 holes.
  • Takes Pressure Off – Long lag putts are much lower stress than holing out from 30+ feet. Lagging it close takes pressure off making the long putt.
  • Builds Confidence – Seeing putts consistently finish near the hole boosts confidence in your distance control for all putts.

Now that you understand why lag putting matters, let’s explore some proven tips and techniques to sharpen your distance control.

Assessing Long Putts Properly

The first key to quality lag putting is thoroughly assessing the putt before hitting it. You need to obtain accurate information to judge distance properly.

View the Putt from Behind the Hole – Walk behind the cup and visualize how the ball will travel along the intended line to get a sense of speed. Crouch down to putt level to match your eye line.

View the Putt from the Side – After walking behind, step to the side of the hole and assess distance from this angle. You may be surprised how longer or shorter putts look from the side.

Take Practice Strokes from the Side – As you’re viewing the putt from the side, take practice strokes to ingrain the feel of that distance and pace. This trains your distance control.

Spending time assessing long lag putts from multiple angles gives you a better sense of the required speed and tempo. Don’t rush this process.

Aiming Small and Matching Pace to Length

Once you’ve assessed the putt, applying these two strategies will improve your lag putting accuracy:

Aim Small – Rather than generally aiming at a 5-foot radius around the cup, pick a small target just beyond the hole. This focus on a precise target improves your distance control.

Match Pace to Length – Longer putts require a smoother, slower tempo while short putts need a quicker stroke. Adjust your pace based on the distance so you match speed to putt length.

Many lag putting mistakes happen because golfers don’t aim small enough or improperly pace the putt. Dial in these factors and your distance control will tighten up.

Reading Greens from Afar

Reading subtle breaks is obviously easier on short putts. On longer lag putts, focusing on the last third of the putt is key:

  • Start Line – Pick your intended starting line based on the early break you read. This sets the proper path.
  • Middle Portion – This segment likely has little break. Focus on rolling the ball end over end on your start line.
  • Last Third – Now read the remaining break into the hole. Adjust pace if needed based on the break.

Attempting to read every inch of a 50-foot snaking putt will make your head spin. Simplify the read by focusing on the last portion near the pin.

Drills to Improve Lag Putting Feel

In addition to technique, lag putting requires tremendous feel and experience estimating distance. Here are two excellent drills to help develop this critical skill:

Pendulum Drill

This classic drill improves your sense for green speeds:

  • Find a flat putt and place tees the same distance from a hole as a typical lag putt at your home course (30-50 feet).
  • Take rhythmic practice strokes like a pendulum, focusing on establishing feel for that distance. Let the putter swing freely.
  • Hit putts aiming to roll the ball over the tees to simulate lag putt length. Don’t worry about holing it.

Repeat this drill often to ingrain your home course’s speeds. Make adjustments if you consistently come up short or long of the tees.

Closed Eyes Drill

This advanced drill removes sight to improve feel:

  • Set up to a straight, uphill lag putt and take your grip.
  • Close your eyes and take your practice strokes picturing the putt’s path to the hole.
  • With eyes closed, stroke the putt trying to roll the ball into the hole relying only on feel.

Removing visual cues forces you to rely on your sense of feel and tempo. This trains the “touch” required for proper lag putting.

Advanced Lag Putting Strategies

If you’ve mastered the basics of lag putting, applying these advanced strategies will take your skills to the next level:

Ideal Setup – Widen your stance slightly and play the ball back in your stance. This promotes a smooth, arcing stroke and shallow angle of attack ideal for lag putting.

Square Alignment – Align your shoulders, feet, and clubface perpendicular to your target line. This prevents any glancing blows that cause mishits and poor distance control.

Varied Practice Games – Create games that challenge your feel and distance control around the green like targets or lag putting contests with a friend.

Manage Nerves – Take extra time on pre-shot routine to calm nerves before lag putts. Believe in your read and commit to your stroke.

Uphill & Downhill Nuances – Factor in how uphill and downhill putts impact distance. For example, hit uphill putts slightly harder than normal.

Study top pros and mimic how they masterfully lag putt in pressure situations. Their world-class feel can inspire your practice.

Employing a Lag Putting Strategy

The final piece of the puzzle is having a lag putting strategy for deciding when to be aggressive from long range or play it safe:

  • Early Holes – More conservative on opening holes. Lag to 2-3 feet and avoid an early three-putt.
  • With Lead – Lag aggressively when holding the lead. Get it close without jeopardizing the advantage.
  • Down Stretch – More aggressive when trailing late to try gaining strokes. But avoid risky putts that could lead to big numbers.
  • Based on Recent Putting – Lag more aggressively when your stroke feels dialed in. Play it safe if your stroke feels off.
  • When in Doubt – Default to safety. It’s better to lag a bit short than risk long putts racing by the hole.

Lag putting boldly when the situation dictates can pay dividends. But most times, the percentage play is to safely lag it close and walk off with a par or bogey.

Final Thoughts

The next time you encounter a downhill 50-footer, don’t panic. Implement these proven lag putting tips:

  • Assess long putts thoroughly from behind and side.
  • Aim small and match pace to putt length.
  • Focus green reading on the last third of the putt.
  • Sharpen feel with drills like the pendulum and closed eyes.
  • Utilize advanced strategies like ideal setup and managing nerves.
  • Employ smart lag putting strategy based on circumstances.

Mastering the art of lag putting reduces three-putts, builds confidence in your distance control, and ultimately lowers your scores. Test out these pointers at your next round and watch your buddies start asking for advice!

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