Putting Distance Control – The Key To Success on the Greens
Putting is arguably the most difficult part of golf. In order to make a putt you need to pick the correct combination of line and speed, and make a good stroke. This is exactly why the percentages of made putts are far lower than you would think (which we explored in this article). If you want to lower your scores, I believe that putting distance control is the most important skill to have. In other words, you have to control your speed.
There are a few reasons why this is so important, which I will cover for you.
Bonus Content: Check out our putting drills guide
Don’t Make the Hole Smaller
Golfers are given all kinds of tips everywhere they look. Unfortunately, many of them just aren’t true. If there is one concept I would love for you to learn from this article it is the following:
Hitting putts harder in order to make them does not work. In fact, you will only make it more difficult for yourself because you will effectively make the hole smaller.
Take a few minutes and watch the video, I believe it can save you strokes on the course…
Scott Fawcett from Playing Lessons does a great job of conveying some info from the book Lowest Score Wins (which is a great read). The more speed the ball is carrying, it actually makes the hole smaller. The conventional wisdom of “banging putts in” isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
There are low hanging fruit in everyone’s golf game. I consider these the easiest things to fix in order to lower scores quickly. Three putting is easily at the top of the list for golfers looking to break 100, 90, or even 80.
Your putting distance control is the most important part of the solution. If you can control your speed more effectively on the greens, you will keep the ball closer to the hole, which gives you a much better chance of making your second putt. One of the great putting books of all time from Dave Stockton discusses this concept further. His contention is that on longer putts your line is not nearly as important as your speed, which I agree with.
Putting is all about proximity. When you get outside of 10 feet your chances of making putts dramatically falls. This is exactly why focusing on your speed from these distances is crucial.
Most golfers don’t pay attention to this skill, and it is costing them multiple shots per round. There is really no excuse for excessive three putting; it is within everyone’s reach to fix.
How Do You Improve Putting Distance Control?
Make no mistake, improving your speed on the greens has to be earned. You simply can’t understand these concepts, and expect to improve on the golf course. You have to put some work in.
That means spending some time on the practice greens working on your speed. One of the best ways to do that is to play games which will challenge you to lag putts to certain distances around the hole (we have some great games in our Insider library).
Bonus Content: Be sure to check out my complete guide to putting.
Additionally, improving the quality of your putting stroke will help. There are two ways to think about this – hitting more putts closer to the center of the face, and the timing of your stroke.
Striking the center of the putter face more consistently is one of the keys to putting distance control. One great tool that I have used is TIBA Putt (you can read the full review here). I highly recommend using this at home or on the practice green to help improve the path of your putting stroke.
Additionally, the best putters out there have a remarkable ability to repeat the timing of their stroke. Blast Motion Golf is a product I have been using recently to hone in on my timing, which in turn will make it easier to improve distance control on the greens.
Wrapping It Up
Improving your speed control on the greens is an absolute necessity if you want to make more putts and reduce three putting. The only way to do it is to practice it effectively, and using some of the tools listed will help.
Spend more time challenging yourself on the practice greens with your lag putting, and start to build your feel. I can pretty much guarantee you that you will see improvement in your scores if this is an area you have paid no attention to in the past.
Michael P says
Watching the US Open, Brad Faxon, who was one of the commentators, said an interesting thing about putting that made an impression on me. He said you can tell if a golfer has a good feel for speed by his uphill putts. He said feel for speed on fast downhills won’t tell you that much since so often you’re just getting the ball started. But on uphill putts, you will quickly see how dialed-in your speed feel really is. This then reminded me of a drill that I think is helpful (I picked this up listening to Spieth once). Line up two tees about four or five feet apart – with one closer to you and one farther away in a straight line. Set up with four balls however far away from the tees you want to be. Try to roll the first one just past the first tee, then try to roll each of the remaining three putts just past the ball you just hit while staying inside of the back tee. This is a great drill, and very challenging. When I do it routinely, I putt better. And it’s good to do on tournament days when there are forty golfers trying to putt to the practice green holes.