• A statistical look at just how well amateurs and pros really putt, and how you can get your biggest putting problem under control
Long putts are your weak link.
Putting accounts for too many of your total strokes per round.
Detailed analysis shows poor lagging of long putts is the most important cause of bad putting. You may have other problems, too, but getting your lag-putting skills in shape is the best place to start.
HOW MY RESEARCH CAN HELP
You can learn from our Pelz Golf Institute/PGA Tour ShotLink reasearch project. ShotLink allowed our team to study amateur players' skills with accuracy never before possible. I presented some measurements and results in the August 2007 issue, and as I continue to analyze the data, I see your overall putting probably isn't as bad as you might think. In fact, your performance on short putts is closer to PGA Tour level than any other facet of your game. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious being that short putting doesn't require the strength, speed and athletic ability to hit 300-yard drives or rocket-like 4-irons. Nonetheless, it does mean your current stroke is reasonably capable of getting the ball in the hole.
YOUR FIRST PUTT IS TOO LONG
If you're a high handicapper, you probably take an average of eight more putts per round than a Tour player [Figure 1]. This is partly because your first putt is played farther away from the hole. This difference shows up when looking at putts on greens hit in regulation, too [Figure 2]. One way to putt better is to chip and pitch the ball closer to the hole, so I recommend practicing those shots rather than giving your putting stroke a complete overhaul.
YOUR 'MAKE' RANGE ENDS AT SIX FEET
But the differences in putting skill between you and Tour pros are not equal throughout the entire range of putt distances. As mentioned earlier, your short putting isn't that bad. If you're a high handicapper you sink 76 percent of your three-footers, which is only 20 percent less than the world's best. You also stay fairly close to the Tour level at six feet (30 percent fewer holed putts). Beyond six feet, however, the gap between Tour performance and your putting widens rapidly [Figure 3].
YOU'RE PRONE TO THREE-PUTTING
The data shows high handicappers three-putt six times more than Tour pros [Figure 4]. Yes, your pitching and chipping need help, but you can overcome some of that with solid lagging. The fact that you three-putt 20 percent of the time sends your putts-per-round through the roof.
For the next four weeks, practice 50-foot lag putts for 30 minutes at least once a week. Putt only 50-footers with a friend, with closest to the hole winning after each time. Once you get a feel for 50-footers, lagging from other distances will become easier. Your first putt will stop closer to the hole on your first putt, and your number of three-putts each round will drop like a rock. So, too, will your scores.