In the summer of 2011, while filming an instruction segment for Golf Channel, I drained a 210-foot putt. Some say it's the longest holed putt ever captured on video. Was I lucky? No doubt. Truth is, I would have been happy with a two-putt, which is my goal on anything beyond 30 feet. While the Tour average for three-putting from beyond 30 feet is a mere 3%, it's more like 18 percent among recreational golfers— six times as likely!
That stat, which comes from putting studies I've done using PGA Tour ShotLink data, should scare you. Say you face 12 putts of 30 or more feet per round (which is about right for a mid-handicapper). According to three-putt figures in my study, you're coughing up, on average, about two strokes each round on lag putts alone.
I want you to make a lot more putts, so here's my stroke-saving method to get you down in two rolls (or less) from long range, in five simple steps.
According to studies I've done using PGA Tour ShotLink data, you're six times more likely than the pros to three-putt on long lags. That number should scare you.
HOW TO LAG IT CLOSE
1 Don't try to "make" 30-plus footers. Instead, imagine that the hole is in the center of a circle that's six feet in diameter, and leave your lag inside that circle. This removes the pressure to make it, so you'll putt with more feel and less tension in your hands.
2 Lose your bent-over putting stance. Stand taller and closer to the ball (photo, above left). It's hard to give longer putts the needed oomph when you're in a crouched position.
3 Don't "stroke" it. Hit a "chip-putt." From longer range, a chipping-type motion gives the shot enough gas. It's easy: Let your arms swing down from your taller stance. (Save your "stroke" for shorter putts.)
4 Spend 15 minutes on the practice green once a week, rolling putts from 40, 50 and 60 feet (common first-putt distances among mid-handicappers). Hit three balls from each length, getting a feel for how big each chip-putt motion should be in order to lag all nine putts within that imaginary circle.
5 Finish your session by attempting the toughest putt you can find on the green—and I mean tough. Look for a double- or even triple-breaker stretching from one end of the green to the other. And putt it six times using three balls.
With a little practice, you'll vastly improve your feel on testy lags while also building the confidence to handle any putt the course throws at you.
Oh, and keep the cameras rolling. If you bury one longer than my 210-footer, good on you—but I'll want to see proof.