Seriously, you might want to bookmark this page. This is the ultimate, simple, and complete guide to nailing your lag (distance) putting.
Forward – this lag putting guide is not for everyone
This website is NOT for golfers who simply wish to bang away at the ball.
Nor am I writing for those who are looking for a “quick tip” or a “magic fix” to suddenly make them better at golf.
If that’s what you are looking for, with all due respect, bounce on over to YouTube and enjoy.
I TOTALLY get it, by the way. I understand that bashing out long drives and hitting high, spinning iron shots is SUPER fun! I don’t blame you, have fun, I will see you on the course, and I wish you the best.
If this is you and you do not wish to seriously build your putting lag skills and lower your golf scores through smarter practice techniques then you are in the wrong place. It’s not going to be quick, magical, or easy to build these skills and lower your scores.
It’s just not.
I suppose if you are still reading at this point, you are probably one of those who realizes by now that golf doesn’t work that way.
Are you really willing to put in some work? If so, you WILL see results when you apply the practice techniques in this guide.
Your golf scores will go down.
If you seriously devote yourself to master the lessons presented in this guide, you will be equipped with a lag putting skills that will be good enough to help you break 80.
Are you with me?
Bookmark this page right now and consider leaving a comment at the bottom of the page. Reply to your own comments to track your progress. I’ll be watching and I can’t wait to see your progress and your success.
Introduction: Improve your lag putting skills and lower your golf scores
Fairly recently, the golf instruction community plugged in modern technology to track and analyze tour pro statistics. Since then they have learned a few things about what actually helps us to score lower at golf.
Much of this (somewhat) new data opposes commonly taught ideologies.
One recent finding, I’ll admit to be honest, is that good approach shot skills are potentially more important than putting skills when it comes to low scoring. I will be making a guide for better approach skills soon.
Still, the old saying “putt for doe”, has held to be true and solid advice, and the statistics are indisputable. You spend over 40% of your total shots putting. Many of those are lag putts.
At about 8 feet or so, there is less than a 50% chance that a tour pro will hole a ball in one putt. As a non-pro, it is imperative that any putt from 8 feet or longer is left to where a 2-putt will be very likely.
If you want to break 100, 90, or 80, you will need to have the lag skills to 2-putt consistently whether you are 15 feet, 30 feet, or 50 feet away from the hole. The more consistent you get, the lower your score goal can be.
The ability to become consistent with this is a total game changer, by the way.
Unless you are a low handicapper, it is likely that you do not realize just how many strokes you are giving up by leaving the ball more than 3 feet from the hole.
The good news is that you can GREATLY develop your lag putting skills through smart practice techniques. It doesn’t take a great amount of natural talent to be able to improve and to eventually be really good in this area.
An improved lag putting skill is a “gimme” that will grab you an easy 5 to 10 strokes per round depending on your current skill level.
Do you have just average lag putting skills and shoot a 94 last week? Devotion to improving lag putting will get you to 89 with little trouble and in a reasonable amount of time.
It is a big difference to be known by your friends as “a golfer who usually hits a 94” as compared to one who “usually hits an 89”.
Get ready to grab a fistful of greenies if you bet with them because they are soon going to see you as a legendary putter who can lag the ball close to the hole nearly every time from anywhere you play the flat stick. They will see you as a golfer who shoots 5 shots or more from your current average score.
Did you bookmark this page yet? Let’s do this.
How to use this guide
You can read through the entire guide if you like or take it piece by piece. I’m not going to micro-manage how you go about this and I don’t think it is necessary or reasonable to do so.
Some golfers have 1 hour a week to practice and some have 10. It just depends on your situation and how much it means to you to get better at lag putting and lower your scores.
One thing I will suggest is that you take some notes, perhaps in your phone’s memo app, and bring them out to the practice green.
Lag putting skill summary and assessment
Let’s start off by seeing where you are with your lag (distance) putting.
I want you to hit 18 balls from varying places on your practice green.
No two shots should be alike and you should definitely hit only one ball from each spot at a time. When you putt 3 or 5 golf balls from the same spot, you are certainly practicing (drilling) your skills, which is good, but it doesn’t give you a good idea of how good or bad you are at lag putting on the course (testing). For example, when practicing more than one shot, you make corrections starting from the 2nd shot.
Start by hitting a putt from 5 paces, and then walk in a random direction out to 8 paces to putt another, then walk out to a random direction and putt one from 12 paces. If you are in or slightly off the fringe on the 15 yard shot, just like real life.
Repeat this 6 times for a total of 18 putts.
Make sure you mix up the shots in several different directions. Downhill putts tend to be more difficult than uphill puts. Putt each ball into the hole, with no gimmies, and keep track of your score relative to par. Let’s call each putt a par 2.
Relax and go slow. For example, if you hit a ball from 5 paces and you get it in the hole in 2 shots (a two-putt), then you are at even par. If your next try from 8 paces takes 3 putts to sink, then you are now 1 over par for the assessment game.
Play this game right from the start before you begin to apply any new practice techniques and instructions. This way you know where you are starting from and you can monitor your skill improvement progress. Record your progress in your comments thread at the bottom of the page and in your cell phone’s note pad.
What did you score before you started practicing? What did you score after your first practice? After your tenth practice?
Play this game from time to time to monitor your progress and to see your improvement.
Attention golfers who are having trouble breaking 90 most of the time:
If you go through and practice according to this guide, you will see lower scores on the course as soon as after your second practice session. If you don’t see rapid lag putting improvement, I’ll eat my socks.
Lag putting skill assessment results
Level 1: 9 or higher over par. You are a beginner or you need some serious lag pitting practice. 8 three putts per round just isn’t gonna cut it. The good news is that increasing your lag putting skills by practicing these techniques is going to quickly take 5 to 10 strokes off of your game. Here comes 99. 95 even.
Level 2: 7 to 8 over par. You can break 95, but you probably struggle to break 90 on all but your best days. You have some work to do. Spend a lot of time an energy practicing with these techniques until you can increase your skill level.
Level 3: 5 to 6 over par – not bad. You have the lag putting skills to break 90 regularly. Put your nose to the grindstone and make it to level 4.
Level 4: 3 to 4 over par – you are almost there. You have the lag putting skills to break 85 on a regular basis. Go through and practice the techniques offered here and see if you can get to level 5.
Level 5: 3 over par or less – you either had a lucky round or you are already a great lag putter. You already have the distance putting skills to break 80 and it would probably serve you better to spend time improving a different putting or other golf skill. If you still wish to improve at lag putting, see a local pro for putting lessons.
We will be taking you at least to level 4. You will be equipped with a lag putting skill that will be good enough to help you break 80.
Here we go.
Lag Putting Skill Practice Guide #1 – Create a LEGENDARY Set-Up
If you are going to be a lag putting legend, you will need a legendary set-up.
90% of each shot is made or lost in the set up.
Read that again if you need to.
Have you ever noticed that you can hit balls really well on the driving range, chipping green, and putting green, but then you get on the course and triple bogey?
Of course – we all do.
These shot routines and swing thoughts are created to reduce this “slippage” from practice to actual game play.
Once you gain solid set-up routine habits and solid putting swing thoughts that you can “count on” on the course, you are going to LOVE the results.
Of course you will seldom play as well on the course as you can on the range, but you will likely see results form this technique on the course as soon as with the very first practice session.
Let’s start with the set up routine.
I have an acronym for you:
GPAR means grip, posture, alignment, relax.
I want you to go through your GPAR with every single putt.
Your grip should be light and deliberate. Give the putter a squeeze and then bring it back to a 1 out of 10.
1 out of 10 is OK too.
Seriously – a “1” on a scale of one to ten. The putter should nearly fall out of your hand.
Why so low? Because “tension” is an automatic death sentence to consistent putting. You can’t putt well when you are tense and this is the primary reason as to why we are masters on the practice green and yet we suck on the course.
A good posture means one that allows your arms to hang down comfortably. To be technical, your lower hand should be lined up below your shoulder socket. Be sure not to be too far away from the ball. This causes excessive arc in your putt, which can lead to directional problems.
Check out this great 4-minute video on putting posture for you to watch from David Leadbetter – click here to see it. This video will open in a new tab.
Since 90% of shot success depends on the set-up, it’s worth your time to have a good putting posture.
Adding posture into your pre-shot routing routine will help to make sure that you do not “fall apart” on the course as compared to while at practice like we all tend to do.
If you do not have a preference, I would recommend a very “square” putting set up. It’s OK to be slightly open in your stance, but according to many instructors, it’s probably not OK to be closed.
With alignment, EVERYTHING should be aligned. Feet, knees, waist (check them during this routine), hips, shoulders, head. Also, importantly, the ball should be played perhaps a half of a ball’s distance forward, or toward your front foot. For a good roll, the bottom of your putting swing should happen just behind the ball.
This pre-shot thought is perhaps one of the most important lessons that you can take from this guide.
As we all know much too well, we struggle with “bringing our range game to the course”.
Making it a point to relax just before every stroke will help with this problem.
Tension is perhaps the biggest killer of golf swings, including putting. If I had to give one tip to every player for all golf shots, it would be to make sure that there is no tension in the stroke. It is the most important part of the GPAR.
You job with this first practice technique is to train yourself to learn and apply GPAR until it rolls off of your subconscious with a natural ease.
Grip, posture, alignment, relax.
Grip, posture, alignment, relax.
Grip, posture, alignment, relax.
Go through it with every putting stroke without fail.
Lag Putting Skill Practice Guide #2 – Drain More Lag Putts with a Better “Roll”
I have another acronym for you, the contents of which should be in your head as you stroke the putt.
On the course, it is a big mistake to load your head up with a bunch of analysis thoughts. You just can’t play well that way.
But you must think of SOMETHING. These “swing thoughts” are your something.
Dial, sweet spot, don’t look
In a previous lesson, we covered just how important it is not to have tension. That was your final thought of your lag putting pre-shot set-up routine. With that in mind, let’s continue to keep it simple as we actually start the putting stroke to hit the ball.
“Dial” refers to dialing in the length of your putting swing – which we will soon discuss in great detail.
For now, however, just think of “how far back you will take the putter”. Also remind yourself that the follow through will be as long as the takeaway. If the putter goes back 10 inches degrees, it should go forward 10 inches in the follow through.
Dial also refers to your mind being “active” with the distance to the target – but we’ll get to that soon.
The next swing thought is “sweet spot”.
Have you ever golfed with a person who rolls the ball perfectly and seems to drain nearly everything?
Do you know why that is?
It can be due to many reasons, of course, but I will guarantee that this golfer takes full responsibility for their contact with the ball when they putt.
Their putter is square to the ball – every time. Their putter’s head hits the ball right in the spot as indicated on the top of the head – every time. Their results is a roll that is flawless – every time.
Why are they successful at this?
Because they TRY to hit the ball with the sweet spot of the club, that’s why.
And guess what… the more they do it, the better their sweet spot skill improves and the more confident they become. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Your putter is not going to square itself and hit the ball right on the dot every time by itself.
You have to do it.
It takes effort!
You have to work on it, and you have to get better at it. Be honest with me, do you think about this when you hit putts?
It’s not that hard to do, actually, but it DOES TAKE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT.
Speaking of a conscious effort, no one will argue that your eyes should follow the ball away after it is struck by the putter. This brings us to…
Many golfers seeking to break 80 go as far as to refuse to look up at all for the entire putt. Their only reward for a good putt is to hear it hit the cup.
I do not suggest going that far. I like to see feedback of my read and how I might have to hit the ball to get back to the hole coming back the other way when I miss long.
Instead, my final swing through is to look at the vacant ground where the ball used to be. Once I see that, then I’m free to look up at the ball.
So that’s what you can practice thinking about when you actively swing the putter.
Dial, sweet spot, don’t look
Dial, sweet spot, don’t look
These are your thoughts while you are actually in the process of swinging.
You really do not need anything more than that to think about as you stroke the putter.
Hone this skill well and bring it to the course to help transfer your lag putting practice skills to an actual round and to minimize “slippage” (disappearing of skills from practice to the actual game).
Do you remember what to practice? If not, read it again.
Go try this practice method and please leave a comment to let me know if you saw improvement in these skills. Better yet, if a golfing buddy notices your pro-like roll, please let me know.
Lag Putting Skill Practice Guide #3 – Dial Your Stroke According to a Tempo
Now we are getting to the nitty-gritty of lag distance putting.
Instead of guessing how fast to stroke the putter and how big to make your stroke, we are going to affix them scientifically.
The plan is to use a metronome (an instrument that measures tempo or beats per minute) to swing at the same exact tempo every time.
When we do this, all we must do is modify the length of the putting stroke to hit the ball a specific distance.
Download a metronome application for your cell phone. I like “simple metronome” (for my android) because it is free, requires no “permissions”, is very light on your phone’s resources, and contains no shareware.
Step one – find your personal tempo.
This should rest somewhere between 70 and 85 beats per minute.
Grab your putter and set your cell phone’s metronome to 70. Swing the putter back and forth in a medium length stroke. With every click of the metronome, your putter should reach it’s further point in either direction. Do this for a bit and then adjust the metronome to 85.
Do this for a bit and now move it to 77 and try a few swings. Pretend you are actually putting at these stroke tempos.
How do these setting feel? Go with what you are comfortable with, and then keep it for a (long while).
After several hours of practice at this tempo you may choose to modify it once, but try to avoid making several modifications to your tempo. This tempo must become ingrained in your memory and second nature to you.
You already know that I don’t like to micro-manage and that I don’t like too much structure in your golf techniques, but as a quick note I must tell you that if your tempo is way outside of these guidelines, you are probably doing it wrong and it’s going to seriously hold back your distance putting skills.
If you are most comfortable with 60 BPM or 95 BPM then something needs to change. If you are not great at lag putting and your current stroke is at these extremes, the time to fix it is now.
Swing speed will increase with longer strokes at the same tempo
A forward swing that is two feet in length at a tempo of 70 beats per minute will be much slower than a forward swing that is four feet in length at a tempo of 70 beats per minute.
Since your tempo is fixed, all you have to do is modify the length of your stroke and you can putt a specific distance every time.
If you swing the putter two feet in length at a specific tempo, you can pretty much count on the ball going the same distance repeatedly.
Distance putting problem solved? Of course not!
This is no magic pill – it’s just a baseline. There will be dynamic factors affecting distance, especially slope, but now you should have a reasonable starting point. You will need to make adjustments for slope, green speeds, wind, grain, etc.
Metronome tempo is not an exact science
What I do NOT want you to do is to actually hit balls while the metronome is playing.
This creates problems with the timing of the swing, as the takeaway is not going to be on pace with the forward swing, which will lead to all kinds of jerky movements in your swing that will totally KILL any distance consistency.
If you do a search, you will find that there are many methods to metronome timing for lag putting, and some of them are quite complex.
Forget all of that crap. Lag putting is a skill based around “feel”, and feel is a skill that can be improved.
So I want you to practice swinging the putter back and forth with the metronome. I want you to play your metronome on your drive to the golf course a bit and you should also turn it on as you walk up to the green.
But when it comes time to putt, even when practicing, turn it off. The tempo will be en-trained in your head, and that’s good enough. It’s great actually – you’ll see.
Step two – track and record your putting distances using your new tempo
Drop a ball on a level area of a practice green and set up just behind it for some practice swings. Make your stance shoulder width or just a bit more narrow – wherever you are comfortable.
Turn on your metronome and set it to your personal tempo. Practice some swings (without hitting the ball) – back and forth – from one toe to the other in length – changing the swings direction at every click.
Now turn off the metronome and putt the ball at that same tempo and swing length.
How far did it go?
Do it again on the way back to make sure the green is level. Do this drill a few times, back and forth, and jot down your distance. If the green is slightly sloped take the average. Congratulations, you now have an easily repeatable putting stroke for this exact distance.
Anytime you are faced with a putt that requires this amount of force in a real game you can repeat it nearly perfectly. Just turn on your metronome as you walk up to the green to get your rhythm in your head.
Now do the same drill again – but this time make your stroke go 3 inches further, or about one additional foot’s width on each side of the stroke. I’m not talking about taking it out another actual foot (12 inches) here in measurement, I just mean take it out the width of one more of your shoe (about 3 or 4 inches). See the illustration below. Let’s call this the “plus 1” length.
If you swing at the same tempo for this increased length, the putter will move faster from end to end and the ball will go further. Record your distances from each position (from +1 to +4).
For accuracy, mark the longer swing targets with a tee so you know how far to go back (and forward). I tape my recorded distances to my putter because I don’t want to make any mistakes and to avoid 3 putts at any cost whenever possible.
My distances at my tempo are 5, 7, 9, and 14 yards, though yours may be different. Knowing this, I can set up to any putt, from 5 to 14 yards, and I am confident that my lag control will be somewhat accurate.
Obviously you will need to adjust for fast/slow greens and up/down hill putts – but this is not too difficult. If you are 7 yards away but you are putting up a hill, simply dial in the 9 yard putt, etc.
It takes a couple of practice sessions and a couple of games for this to translate into lower scores – but by your third round of implementing this tempo strategy, you should be a much more confident lag putter.
Please leave a comment and let me know if this guide helped you at all.
I appreciate that.