In the golf world, few skills are as overlooked as lag putting.
The ability to roll the ball the right distance from long range is essential if you are going to post good scores round after round. While hitting lag putts in practice is probably not the most exciting thing you can do with your time at the golf course, working on this part of your game is likely to pay off in a big way. Improved lag putting can turn your three putt greens into two putts, and you will save a significant number of strokes as a result.
First, we are going to provide the obvious answer to the question posed in the title of this article – the best way to improve your lag putting is to practice. If you spend time working on this part of your game, it is almost certain to get better. Golf is a challenging game, and you can’t expect to get better by accident. Dedicate yourself to working on things like your lag putting and you will gradually make progress as the weeks and months go by. Not willing to spend time practicing your long-range putting? That’s fine – but don’t expect to get any better.
With the obvious point out of the way, the rest of this article will be dedicated to helping you use your practice time effectively. We are going to provide some tips with regard to the technique you should be using on lag putts, and we’ll also offer some practice games that you may find helpful. Simply walking onto the practice green hitting a bunch of lag putts can help you make progress, but planning out your time and using it as effectively as possible is a better way to go.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Proper Lag Putting Techniques
Everything starts with technique when putting. Sure, there are other important factors such as feel, confidence, green reading, the ability to handle pressure, and more, but it all starts with technique. Build solid technique as soon as possible and move forward from that point.
In this section, we are going to discuss the right technique to use when lag putting. Fortunately, you will find that ideal lag putting technique does not vary much from the basic putting stroke you will use from shorter range. You’ll want to make only minor adjustments to your standard technique when you face a long putt across the green.
The list below contains three key adjustments to consider for your lag putts.
- Stand a little taller. The first thing you want to change in comparison to your standard technique on shorter putts is to stand up a little taller. Bring your feet a bit closer to each other at address and take a little bit of the flex out of your knees. Standing taller is a good idea because it can help you swing the putter more freely during the stroke. One of the big challenges when facing a long putt is managing to make a big enough stroke to cover the distance required without forcing your hands and wrists to get too involved in the action. By standing a little taller, you can make a bigger stroke without as much effort, making it much easier to roll the ball all the way across the green. During your next practice putting session, try making this simple adjustment on your long putts before making any other changes. You may be surprised to find just how naturally your stroke can flow when you stand even a little bit taller.
- Use the entire putter. On putts of a shorter distance, you may like to keep your hands an inch or two down from the top of the grip. That’s fine, but it isn’t going to work very well on long putts. When dealing with a lag putt, you want to use the entire putter – meaning your hands will be placed up at the top of the grip – so you can use the full weight to swing back and through with a nice rhythm. Choking down on the grip is going to make the putter feel lighter, which is not a good thing in this case. Also, since you are now standing a little taller, it only makes sense to keep your hands up at the top of the grip. Just as was the case with the previous point, this is a relatively simple change which you should be able to adjust to in just a single practice session. Feel free to continue using a choked-down grip on your short putts even after you alter your hand placement on lag putts.
- Play the ball forward in your stance. It’s important to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible when hitting a long putt. If the ball skids and hops too much when leaving the putter, it will be quite difficult to judge your distance control effectively. One good way to help the ball roll early on is to play the ball near the front of your stance at address. Try setting up to your lag putts with the ball just off the inside of your left foot. That is a position which should let you hit up on the ball without having to reach too far forward at impact. If you are used to putting with the ball in the middle of your stance, this is an adjustment which may take a bit of time to become comfortable. Be precise in your practice to make sure you are setting the ball in the same spot time after time. Eventually, you’ll start to feel comfortable with this ball position, and position results should follow.
You do not want to change too much between your lag putting stroke and the stroke you use on shorter putts. If you are making dramatic changes, it’s going to be tough to be consistent in either category. Basically, you want to establish solid fundamentals as best as possible with your short putts, and then make the minor adjustments listed above when a long putt needs to be played.
The Basics of Practice Techniques
When you arrive at the golf course with the intention of working on your putting, the practice green is a blank slate. With nothing more than an expanse of tightly-mown grass and a number of holes, you can choose to practice your putting in a variety of different ways. This flexibility is nice, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you know that you are working on things which will actually pay off on the course?
The list below highlights a few basic points that you should keep in mind while working on your lag putting. We hope these points give you enough direction to allow you to establish your own practice putting routine in the near future.
- Use one ball. This is a tip that most golfers are surprised to hear, but it really is a powerful way to improve your putting sessions. Often, a golfer will drop several balls onto the practice green, rolling one after another across the green in rapid succession. This might seem like the best way to fit in as many putts as possible during the time you have available, but you shouldn’t be focused on quantity. Rather, you should be focused on the quality of each and every putt. By using one ball, it will be much easier to force yourself to focus on the quality of each stroke. You’ll be more likely to take a moment to read the putt at hand, and you will watch the ball roll from start to finish. Quite simply, you want to make your practice sessions as much like your time on the course as possible, and you aren’t going to be hitting long-range putts in rapid succession while playing a round. Sure, you won’t wind up hitting as many putts overall if you only use one ball, but we believe the putts you do hit will be of a much higher quality.
- Vary the direction of your putts. Don’t fall into a pattern of just putting back and forth across the green on the same line. That type of practice will have limited use because you are going to face far more varied terrain when on the course. Do your best to pick out many different lines on the practice green, so you can work on your ability to handle uphill putts, downhill putts, and both types of sidehill putts (breaking right and breaking left). Of course, you’ll need to watch out for other golfers who happen to be practicing along with you, as you don’t want to putt through the part of the green they are using. If possible, try changing up where you practice your putting from time to time, as well. Using the same putting green over and over again will let you become very familiar with that green – but your performance may suffer when not on that specific putting surface.
- Finish the job. When practicing your lag putting, you may be tempted to forget all about short putting. After all, you are working on long putts at the moment, so there is no need to worry about the short ones, right? Wrong. It’s always a good idea to finish out and knock in the short putts that you have remaining after lagging the ball across the green. The ability to make short putts is one of the most important skills in golf, yet many golfers don’t give it the attention it deserves. In addition to building confidence in your short putting, always finishing up a practice hole before moving on will provide a break between hitting long putts. Again here, we see a way that you can make your practice more like what you will experience on the course. Long putts are almost always followed by short putts on the course, so practice that way to get yourself ready.
Lag putting practice doesn’t need to be complicated. Our recommended method involves using just a single ball, finding as many different lines across the putting green as possible to attempt, and always finishing out the short putts after your lag. If you get into the habit of spending at least a few minutes working on long putts as a part of each practice session, this area of your game is nearly certain to improve.
Three Helpful Game Techniques
Let’s be honest here – practicing your putting can get a bit boring. Even if you are highly motivated to improve your game and lower your scores, you still may find that your mind wanders a bit while lagging putts across the practice green. Using practice games is a great way to alleviate this boredom. Two of these games can be played alone or with a friend, while the last one will require the presence of a playing partner.
The three practice putting games listed below are worthy of your consideration.
- 9-hole total score. As far as practice games go, they don’t get much simpler than this one. Using one golf ball, you are going to play a nine-hole ‘round’ by hitting long putts across the practice green and finishing out each hole. To get started, you’ll drop your golf ball on the green and pick out a hole on the other side of the putting surface. Hit your lag putt, walk over to where the ball came to rest, and finish out the hole (assuming the first putt didn’t go in). Note your score for the first hole and move on to another. Play a total of nine holes and add up your score to see how you’ve done. If you consider the par for each hole to be two, a total score of 18 would be a nice accomplishment. Even a 19 or 20 would be pretty good, especially on a green with a lot of slope, while anything under 18 is an impressive effort. You can easily play this game by yourself, but it is even more fun when you make it a competition against another golfer.
- Lag and pull back. This is one of the hardest games you can play on the practice green. The basic idea is the same as the previous game detailed above. You are going to play nine holes, and you are going to keep track of your total score along the way. However, after the first putt of each hole, you are going to have to pull the ball back away from the hole by the length of your grip. So, basically, if you lag the ball to two feet away from the hole with your first putt, you’ll pull the ball back by the length of the grip before hitting the second putt – meaning that putt will not be a three-footer (or so). This game is going to require you to lag the ball with great precision, so you don’t wind up with excessively long putts on your second stroke. If you are really up for a big challenge, you could pull the ball back by the length of your whole putter instead of just the grip. As you might expect, posting a good score with this practice game is going to be even more difficult than it was with the previous game.
- Points. This last game is popular in a variety of forms, and you may have run across it from time to time during your experience as a golfer. The idea here is that you are going to compete for points against another player. You’ll each use just one ball, and you will take turns picking out which hole you are going to putt to on the practice green. The scoring is pretty simple, although it may take a couple games before you can keep track of the score with ease. For starters, the player who lags the ball closest to the hole on the first putt gets one point. If that first putt happens to go in, the player gets three points instead of just one. Once the lag putt is settled, you walk up and finish out the hole. Three-putting causes you to lose a point, so the player who lagged closest would be back to zero, and the player who did not get a point on the lag would be at negative one. Many people play this game to a total of 21 points, but you can obviously decide for yourself how many points it will take to win. Also, the game can be adapted for more than two players, and you can alter the point values as you see fit.
You may be surprised to find just how much more enjoyable putting practice can be when you use games to keep it interesting. In addition to adding some excitement to your practice, putting games can also replicate the pressure that you feel on the course when trying to make a putt. Feel free to try out any of the putting games above, and also feel free to experiment with other games that you invent with your friends. This is supposed to be a game after all, so it only makes sense to make practice as enjoyable as possible.
Lag Putting on the Course Techniques
To finish up our article on improving lag putting, we’d like to talk about producing quality lag putts on the course. There are some challenges you’ll face on the course that are not going to be present in practice, and we’d like to touch quickly on those points below.
- Dealing with frustration. If you have to play a particularly long lag putt on the course, you might be frustrated that you left your ball so far away from the hole in the first place. For example, you may have just hit a poor chip shot in order to leave yourself with a long lag putt. You were hoping to chip the ball closer to set up an easy putt, so you’re a bit frustrated at the moment that you didn’t do better with the chip. Those feelings are understandable, but you need to move past them before hitting your lag putt. Take a moment to let the frustration fade away and do your best to focus in on the task at hand – which is hitting a great lag putt.
- Playing it safe. Sometimes, you will face a lag putt which involves a dramatic feature on the green, such as a steep slope which separates tiers. If the hole is cut near to something like a tier in the green, part of your lag putt planning needs to consider how to avoid trouble with that dramatic feature. For instance, if you are putting up the ridge to a hole location on the top section of the green, making sure you actually get up the slope and onto the right section of the green is crucial. Even if that means running the ball a bit past the hole, you don’t want to wind up on the wrong level after hitting your first putt.
- Read the end of the putt. As the ball slows down, it is going to be more and more impacted by the slope of the green. As such, you’ll want to make sure to read the end of your putt particularly carefully – this is the section that is going to have the greatest influence over where the ball ends up.
Lag putting can be a fun challenge, but it can also be frustrating when you can’t seem to dial in your speed quite right. Just like anything else in golf, success in this area comes down to practice. Make it a point to practice your lag putting on a regular basis and you should see progress sooner rather than later. Good luck!