Explaining 'Lag' (or 'Lag Putt') in Golf

Why it's important to practice your lag putting

Golfer Sarah Jane Smith hits a long putt during an LPGA Tour tournament
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

A "lag putt" is a long putt which, because of its length, the golfer does not expect to make but hopes to get close to the cup. If it goes in the hole, great! But if it doesn't, you want to make sure you are left with a short, manageable second putt that you won't miss. A good lag putt positions the golfer to have a simple and easily makeable follow-up putt, thereby avoiding a 3-putt.

Improved Lag Putting Leads to Better Scores

Improving one's lag putting is a great way for golfers to shoot lower scores.

Because if you can improve your lag putting, you'll be turning three putts into two.

In his book titled (buy it from Amazon), Chi Chi Rodriguez said this:

"The first thing a player should do on a putting green before a round is hit a half dozen or dozen lag putts to get a feel for the speed of the green. Making them is great, but concentrate more on the speed of the putt and getting the ball to stop hole high."

"An old and excellent guide for lag putts is to try to hit them into a washtub instead of the hole," Rodriguez says in his book. "Aiming at the bigger target will ensure no more than a two- or three-foot second putt."

A few words about technique on longer putts from Rodriguez:

"On longer putts, I open up my stance a little bit, stand a little farther from the ball, and loosen my grip on the club a little bit. These little changes can make a big difference because on a lag putt what you want is to free the arms and shoulders up to swing back farther and come through harder and give the ball a good strong rap without pulling it off line. A good tip for reading long putts is to go halfway between your ball and the hole, and look both ways. You should be able to see the slope, if there is any, clearly from that spot."

Usages for 'Lag' and Drills for Lag Putting

"Lag" can be applied to any length putt (whereas "lag putt" usually implies a lengthy first putt) and is often used as a verb, or after the fact to describe the second, shorter putt that results after not making the first putt. Example of verb usage: "I need to lag this putt up close" or "Just try to lag this one up by the hole." Example of an after-the-fact usage: "Nice lag," or "way to lag it up close."

Lag putting is something that can be practiced by focusing on distance control (a k a speed control) in your putting. For examples of lag putting drills, see:

The Other Type of 'Lag' in Golf

"Lag" is a term that doesn't just apply to putting. Golfers also talk about something called "clubhead lag," and you might hear snippets of conversation such as, "You have some great lag in your swing," or "you should work on improving your clubhead lag."

What's that about? "Clubhead lag" basically refers to a golfer's hands being behind the clubhead - trailing the clubhead - into impact. See our article, "Clubhead lag: What it is and drills to help you feel it" for much more on this topic.