Why You Can’t...

(and how you can)

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...lag it close from anywhere

Learning to lag putts close is a great way to save shots during your round. There’s a stat on Tour called “3 Putt Avoidance,” and trust me, nobody wants to be near the bottom of it.

If you’re going to be a good distance putter, I believe you need to do two things very well. First, you need to be a good green reader. As you approach the green and survey your putt, look for high and low points in the green complex. Imagine where water would flow if it were dumped on the green. Remember, all greens are built for drainage, so look for those spots, and they’ll tell you where your ball is going.

The second (and most crucial element), however, is distance control. It doesn’t matter how well you read your putt if you leave it 15 feet short. In the photo at left, I’m faced with an uphill putt over a small tier. It also appears as if the ball is going to move a little from left to right. To make sure I get the ball to the hole on this uphill putt, I visualize a pin 10 feet past the hole so I can make sure I hit my putt with enough pace.

...make it all day from 3 to 6 feet

The key to making tons of short putts is to develop a consistent putting stroke. In my opinion, the simplest type of stroke should give you the best chance to make those so-called 3-6 foot “knee knockers.”

Here you can see I’m working with a training aid made by Momentus called the “Inside Down the Line Putting Track” to help me groove a stroke. You can use either this type of aid or any other tracks that help you get the feeling of what a good putting stroke should feel like.

One thing to remember while practicing either with or without a training aid: Tour pros work incredibly hard on these putts, and while it’s not as much fun as hitting drivers on the practice range, the time you put in on the green will pay big dividends on the course.

...chip it off the tightest lies

For many players, tight lies are the kiss of death. When the grass is really closely mown, you need to trust that your technique will give you perfect contact (remember you always want to hit the ball first, then the turf), or all sorts of things can happen: fat contact, skulled shots across the green or, worse yet, the “chip yips.” When we watch Tour pros play these shots, they don’t seem like that big a deal, but they are.

Don’t tell your greenskeeper (or mine), but a great way to gain confidence when playing off tight grass is to hit a couple chips off the practice green. To begin, first lay a club down a couple feet in front of your ball. The goal is to hit the ball over the club. If you aren’t confident with this shot, you’ll probably try to “lift” the ball, your wrists will flip, and the ball will skid into the club (see below right).
If your technique is good (see below left), however, you can make a confident stroke, pick the ball right off the green and control its trajectory, distance and spin. To do this, make a small swing with your weight leaned slightly forward before and throughout the swing. Wrist action is the enemy in this shot, so keep the left wrist flat at impact, and good contact will occur.

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