By Lance Patterson, Special to Lone Star Golf
Becoming a rock star at lag putting is easy once you know the right way to practice this skill.
Skill development is the key to becoming a great golfer, and this particular skill might be one of the most overlooked parts of the game. I’m not sure the last time I had a student walk in and say, “Hey Coach, let’s go work on my lag putting.” That just doesn’t happen, but it should!
In my academies, it’s one of the first skills we teach, because I know it’s a great way to lower your score. It also greatly reduces those dreaded three-putts.
There are two important keys to lag putting. Let’s talk about the first one: rhythm. Rhythm is defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. In your putting, you should have the same rhythm on every stroke, no matter the length of the putt.
How do we develop this repeatable rhythm? The answer is the phrase, “One thousand, one.” Say it out loud: “One thousand, one.” Pretty simple, right?
The “one thousand” part represents the backswing of the putt, and “one” represents impact. The cadence of the “one thousand, one” is the same for a 3-footer as it is for a 30-footer. The distance doesn’t change your cadence. The length of the swing will adjust based on the distance you’re hitting the putt, but not your rhythm.
Here’s a great drill to sync up your rhythm. Get four golf balls and two tees. Put a tee in the ground 3 feet away from you and another one 30 feet away from you. From your starting spot, hit a ball at the 3-foot tee saying out loud, “One thousand, one,” and then immediately hit another ball to the 30-foot tee saying out loud, “One thousand, one.”
The cadence with which you said “One thousand, one” should be exactly the same for both putts. When you hit three out of four balls within 3 feet of the 30-foot tee, you have completed this drill.
The second key to lag putting is creating a mental picture of your target. Your brain needs to be able to self-select the length of swing to be able to hit a putt the proper distance. If I’m throwing a ball to someone, my brain, because I’m looking at my target, immediately selects the proper amount of energy to use to throw the ball to the other person.
In golf, we aren’t looking at our target when we make the actual stroke, so we have to give our brain a target image in order to allow it to self-select. I like to take a few practice swings looking at my target and allow my brain to feel what it needs to do. While I’m doing this, I’ll intensely focus on the cup to create a strong mental picture of the hole.
When I look back at the ball, in my minds-eye, I keep that picture of the hole as my visual and then hit my putt. Your brain can hold on to a feel for about nine seconds, so after my practice swings, I get into my putt and take two quick looks, therefore reinforcing my mental picture and then make my stroke.
Here’s a drill to help your brain self-select better. Stand in the middle of a practice green and hit a ball to the fringe, trying to get the ball as close to the fringe as possible without going over.
Once you have a good feel for this, do it with your eyes closed. Create a strong mental picture, close your eyes and hit the putt. Before you open your eyes, tell yourself whether the putt is short, long or perfect and check out your results. This drill forces your brain to really work hard to create a strong mental picture, which is what we want.
Now get out there and dominate the greens and watch those scores drop.
Lance Patterson is the PGA Director of Golf at the Dallas Athletic Club, site of this summer’s 110th Texas Amateur Championship. Lance has been awarded numerous NTPGA Section Awards, including the 2007 NTPGA Horton Smith Award, the 2008 NTPGA Teacher of the Year Award and the 2012 NTPGA Merchandiser of the Year Award. He has taught players on every tour in the world and enjoys working with all levels of golfers.