Distance Control Putting Drills

Developing Feel for Speed on the Greens

PGA Tour golfer Justin Rose practices his putting
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What's more important in successful putting: Speed or break? Well, it's best to be great at judging both, of course, but almost all the great putters say that speed is the more important of the two.

If your speed is right, then there's always a chance the ball will find the hole. And with good speed control, you should at least be left with a manageable second putt if the first one doesn't drop. But if your speed if off, you'll be leaving it short - and balls left short never go in the hole (it's true!) - or risk running the ball way past the hole.

Another way of putting it: More bad things can happen if you can't control your speed on the greens; fewer bad things can happen when you improve your distance control.

Below are some examples of distance control putting drills that will help you hone your feel for speed on the putting green:

String It Out Lag Putting Drill
This drill is from instructor Neil Wilkins, who describes it in more detail in this article. But the basics are these:

1. Cut multiple pieces of string, each about three feet long.

2. Lay the string out on a putting green, evenly spaced, each string about three feet apart, across your chosen putting line.

3. Start about 10 feet behind the first string. Now putt a ball and try to roll it just over the first string. Putt a second ball and try to roll it just over the second string, and so on. When you reach the last string, start working your way back to the first string.

4. Once you become good at stopping balls in-between the string, start varying the distances - put to the first string, then the fifth, then the third, then the last, and so on, varying your distances.

This drill takes your mind off the line (and also off a target) and allows you to focus on speed and feel.

5-Ball Mix-Up Drill
This distance putting drill is similar to the string drill above, except that in this one we are putting at a hole.

1. Drop balls at 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 feet from a cup.

2. Start from 10 feet and putt to the hole.

Make sure that if you don't sink the putt, you leave the ball no more than three feet from the hole.

3. Now go back to 50 feet and do the same. Then continue from each distance, but don't go in order - mix up the distances, from 10 to 50 to 30 to 40 to 20 to 40 to 10 to 30 and so on, in random order.

The goal is to leave yourself no more than three feet on your misses. Great distance control equals great lag putting, which means no 3-putts.

Close Your Eyes to Improve Feel
This drill is recommended by instructor Michael Lamanna, and you can read more about it here. But the basics are these:

1. Place three balls each at distances of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 feet from your target (putt toward a hole, a tee in the ground, the fringe, a dropped headcover, whatever).

2. At each station, putt the first ball as you normally would. But for the second and third balls at each station, set up with your eyes open, but then close your eyes just before making the stroke.

This drill will help hone your feel on the greens.

2-Putt Distance Drill
When golfers talk about lag putting, we mean that while we hope to make every putt we also want to make sure that if we miss we are left with a short, easy putt. Good lag putting means never 3-putting.

This drill forces you to control your speed in order to guarantee a 2-putt.

1. Set up 30 feet from the hole.

2. Putt five balls at a time. Then walk to the cup and knock the balls in.

3. Make 50 consecutive 2-putts. If you 3-putt, start over.

This drill not only teaches lag putting, it also gets you into pressure situations. Imagine making 48 2-putts in a row. Putts 49 and 50 are really going to test your nerves.

If you have too much trouble making 50 2-putts in a row from 30 feet, then start from a shorter distance. Try 20 feet, and move out to 30 once 2-putting from 20 is comfortable.

Fringe Benefits Drill
1. Get five balls and drop them 10 feet from the edge of the green.

2. Putt toward the fringe (don't worry about putting at a hole, just focus on speed and feel). Try to get each ball to roll about one foot onto the fringe without leaving any short and without running any beyond the fringe into the rough.

3. Back up to 20 feet and repeat, and repeat again at 30 and 40 feet.