Too often, amateurs make lag putting seem like guesswork. 

Genesee Valley Golf Course Head Pro Andy Myers knows how to take the guesswork out of it. “We do that by controlling how far we bring the putter back and how far we bring it through as opposed to how fast we try to swing the club,” he says. 

Myers demonstrates with an alignment rod (for the golf uninitiated, an alignment is one of those skinny, reflective poles that are used to keep snow plows from going off the road. Though, any straight item can work). He puts a small line in the middle of the rod and then adds more equidistant from the middle line in each direction. Each set of lines is the size of a putter width apart. 

The drill is to adjust the backswing so it stops at each of the lines behind where the ball is positioned. “Moving (the point where the backswing stops) the width of a normal putter head will generally get you about 2 or 3 feet more of roll,” Myers says. “My tempo and pace never change, just the size of the putt.” 

The problem Myers sees too often is an amateur trying to control putt distance based on how hard the swing is. Trying to swing softly may be the worst putting stroke a player can make. 

“If you stop and decelerate, you’re likely to leave the ball short,” Myers says. “If we bring (the putter) back to the first line, we want to bring it through at least to the first line with the same tempo. If we go all the way back to the back line, we don’t want to stop when we get to the ball. We want to continue through and finish out the other end.”

The first question this drill prompts is how to take the backswing control out on the course without the alignment rods. Myers says we have two alignment rods available on every single putt. 

“What I do when I get to a putting green is figure out ‘Ok, if I putt from toe to toe, how far is that ball gonna go today?’,” Myers says. “That’s my baseline. I know this distance. When I get to the golf course, if I know that today it’s a 15-foot putt–toe to toe–and I have a 20-foot putt, I’ve got to go a little bit farther. When I say a little bit, it’s the width of the putter head. So, instead of just outside my toe, it might be another inch. And that will get me another three or four feet.”

The more time to practice on a putting green, the more distance checks a player can make. “If you just ran from the car to the putting green,” Myers says. “At least know the toe-to-toe distance.” Players can build to shorter and longer putts from there. 

Amateurs should concentrate more on avoiding three-putts, than producing one-putts. Without having to guess on how far a putt will go, that can happen more consistently.