All golfers want to hit greens in regulation, but what do you do when you are left with a 50-footer? The ability to putt from distance or lag-putting is an important skill to develop as you improve your golf game. 3-putts during your round kill your momentum and hurt your scorecard. How do you approach a long, breaking putt? Here are some long putting tips for you to consider.
1. Speed is Critical
When you approach a long putt, start with reading the speed. Is it uphill or downhill? How much? Even if you miss the direction on a long putt, if your speed is accurate, you will have a makeable second putt. The best way to assess the speed of a lengthy putt is to walk around it. Walk from your ball to the hole and feel the slope. Look at the putt from behind the hole as well.
2. Practice Pre-Round
You can prepare for long putts before you reach the first green. When you arrive at the course, always give yourself fifteen minutes on the practice green and use part of this time to perform a speed drill. Do not putt to a hole, instead hit a 40-50-foot putt and try to stop your ball as close to the far fringe as possible. This allows you to feel the speed of the greens without worrying about a hole. This is a great way to warm-up your flat stick.
3. Read Break from Multiple Spots
In most cases, long putts break more than one direction. So how do you determine where to aim your ball? Cut the long putt into a few segments and read the break from each spot. Remember, the break in the 2nd half of your putt is more critical than the first half. The ball will be traveling faster in the first half, so it will not break as much. In the second half, your ball will be slowing down, so the break will force it to curve more.
4. Different Goal: 3-foot circle
Alter your goal when you are standing over a lengthy putt – you are not really trying to make it. Try to get it inside a 3-foot circle around the hole – if it happens to drop, great. Any long putt you leave this close will most likely end in a 2-putt and you should treat that as success.
5. The Texas Wedge
If you are a beginner or high handicap player you should leverage the “Texas Wedge” as much as possible. If you are unfamiliar with this term, it means you use your putter from off the green instead of trying to chip. This can be a huge shot saver. In certain conditions, it can even work from the sand trap.
The key to properly using the Texas Wedge is the judge the different grass conditions you are putting through. You might be putting from the rough, through the fringe, and on to the green. Three different lengths of grass. Pay attention to how the grass is laying and if there are any clumps or bumps in your way. Quite often the ball will bounce when you putt from off the green.
6. Feel the Weight of Your Putter
A long putt requires a longer stroke and a common mistake is jabbing at the ball, which can cause you to miss your line and/or your speed. Focus on feeling the weight of your putter – this will help you execute a long and smooth stroke. Take some practice strokes with the same length of stroke you plan to use. Feel the putter go back and through.
7. Pay Attention to Your Playing Partners
Always be aware of your playing partners and the putts they hit before it is your turn. Have you ever watched the guys on the PGA tour? They will run behind their playing partner as soon as they hit a putt to see how it reacts on the green. You can learn both speed and break by watching how their putt rolls.
If you want to learn speed from someone else’s putt, play close attention to how they strike the ball and how hard they hit it. You need to know how long their stroke was and if they hit it solid. Paying close attention to other player’s putts can be the difference between a 2-putt and a 3-putt.
8. Same Distance Back and Through
This is true on all putts, but especially important on long ones. You need to avoid a quick stroke and you do not want to decelerate. The most common mistake on long putts is taking a long backstroke, only to shorten your follow through. If you take the putter back 12 inches, your follow through should be 12 inches. Same distance back and through will ensure you make a nice aggressive stroke.
9. Stay Down
Since a long putt requires a longer stroke, it is very easy to pop-up and out of the shot. This can make you make pull the putt or hit the top part of the ball. A mis-hit putt will not go the distance or direction you want it to go. When you are putting from distance, focus on hitting the ball solid. Stay down through the stroke.
Long Putting Tips: Final Thoughts
The next time you play and are facing a long putt, give some of these tips a try. You might find that you can leave more in that “3-foot circle” and walk off the green with a two-putt. Always consider the “Texas Wedge” an option – there is no shame in using the putter from off the green. The best way to reduce the score of amateur golfers is to save strokes on or around the greens.