“I fell in love with the line” is a golf phrase uttered by frustrated golfers when they read the break correctly, but get the speed wrong.
It is a common mistake. You get so focused on the line, you forget about putting distance control.
It takes two to tango. A putt will only drop when you properly combine speed and line.
Putting distance control isn’t all about making putts. The ability to consistently leave your ball close to the hole and 2-putt is critical to playing great golf.
Is there anything more frustrating than hitting a great iron shot and still making a bogey? 3-putts not only hurt your scorecard, but they also impact your next shot.
We have all done it. You 3-putt, storm off the green in frustration, and hit your next drive out of bounds.
We aren’t saying that poor putting distance control makes you hit bad tee shots, but it doesn’t help!
Famous short game instructor Dave Pelz says “The best putters have three things in common: good green reading, starting lines, and speed control.” Let’s focus on speed today!
Below we share the factors that impact the speed of a putt and provide you with several drills you can use to practice putting distance control.
Putting Distance Control: Factors You Must Consider
One challenge with putting distance control is every round is different. Even if you play the same course, the speed of the greens can change from day to day.
You don’t want to lose strokes early in the round while you are trying to determine the speed. Always arrive at the course at least 45 minutes early to warm up.
Spend half of your warm-up time on the practice green figuring out your putting distance control for the day.
As you hit some putts, be aware of the following factors that will impact how your ball rolls. Try to learn as much about the greens as possible.
You need to consider these same factors once your round starts and you are reading putts on the course.
Length Of The Grass (Green Speed)
Every golf course mows its greens, but that doesn’t mean they all use the same process.
Greens might be mowed daily or only a few times per week. The superintendent can also set the mowers at different heights.
Instead of mowing the greens, some courses will roll them. This compresses the grass and will make them quicker.
It is also possible that the greens are different on each hole. Some may have more grass than others.
To master putting distance control you need to learn to assess the greens. First when you arrive at the course, but also from hole to hole during your round.
Slope Of the Green
The slope of the green will also impact the speed and make our putting distance control more challenging.
- Step 1, you need to determine if your putt is uphill or downhill.
- Step 2, how severe is the slope?
The most challenging putts go up and over a hill. These types of putts will challenge all players.
It is quite simple. You can’t have great putting distance control if you don’t understand the slope of the green.
The Grain (Type of Grass)
Did you know that not all greens are built with the same type of grass? The type of grass can impact the speed of the green.
The vast majority of greens are built with 1 of 2 types of grass. They will be referred to as “bent” greens or “Bermuda” greens. Bent grass or Bermuda grass.
Cool, but why do you care?
The greens will behave quite differently depending on the type of grass that was used to build them.
Once you play on both, you will be able to tell when you reach the putting green, but if you aren’t sure you can always ask the Pro Shop.
Here is the trick: Bermuda greens will have “grain” that impacts the speed of your putt. This type of grass tends to grow in one direction and that is referred to as the “grain”.
If you are putting down grain (with the direction the grass is growing) your putt will be faster. You must factor this into your putting distance control.
The same is true if you are putting into the grain. Your putt will be slower.
Reading the grain of a Bermuda green is tricky and does take practice, but here is a high-level concept you can use.
If your putt is “down grain” the putting surface will typically have a sheen to it and the color will be a lighter shade of green.
Conversely, if the putt is “into the grain”, the surface will look darker and the grass will have a coarser look to it.
Learn to read grain to improve your putting distance control on Bermuda greens.
It may sound strange, but you need to consider the weather conditions when assessing the speed of your putt.
The first thing to check is the wind. Your putt will be quicker downwind and slower into the wind.
The faster the greens you are playing, the more the wind will impact how your ball rolls.
You also need to consider moisture on the green. This can be from the morning dew or a rain shower.
Water on the green will slow down your putt. This requires a two-step process.
First, is there moisture of any kind on the green? If the answer is “yes”, you need to determine how much.
The more water on the green the more it will impact the speed. You must factor in the weather if you want consistent putting distance control.
6 Ways To Improve Your Putting Distance Control
We have talked about why putting distance control is important and the factors you need to consider when you reach the golf course.
Now it is time to review how you can get better. Just like other parts of your golf game, putting distance control can be improved with practice.
#1: Feel The Speed
Great putters have a feel for putting. They can look at a putt and quickly understand how hard they need to hit it.
This isn’t an innate skill. No one is born a great putter. You can develop this “feel” on the practice green.
Here is a quick drill:
- Place three golf balls at various distances from a hole. 10-feet, 20-feet, 30-feet, and 40-feet.
- Hit all 12 putts. Don’t worry about how many go in, but how many stay close to the hole. You are simply trying to get the feel for the speed of the green.
- Repeat this drill a few times and you will start to develop putting distance control.
#2: Manilla Folder Drill
No, we are not asking you to use a filing cabinet. You simply need your putter, a few golf balls, and one manilla folder.
This is a simple drill to work on your putting distance control:
- Lay the manilla folder anywhere on the green and hit putts toward it.
The goal is to stop your ball on top of the folder. It is hard than it sounds. Try it from different distances.
The other thing we love about this drill is you can do it at home. Try it on different surfaces in your house.
Your carpet is great practice for slow greens and your hardwood floor can simulate fast ones!
#3: Aim At The Fringe
The best way to work on your putting distance control is to ignore the hole (or holes) on the green. Instead, try to roll the ball from different distances and get it to stop near the fringe.
The hold can be a distraction. The goal of this drill is to get to the feel of how hard you have to hit different-length putts.
We love this drill for your pre-round routine. It is the perfect way to learn the speed of the greens on a new golf course.
#4: The 3-Foot Circle
We think you can make a high percentage of putts that are 3-feet long or less. With that in mind, do the “3-foot circle” drill.
- Bring several balls to the putting green and hit different putts from different distances.
- Your goal isn’t to make the putts, but instead, you are trying to leave the ball within 3 feet of the hole.
If your putting distance control always leaves the ball inside this “circle” you will almost always 2-putt.
As we mentioned above, eliminating 3 putts is a quick way to lower your scores and decrease your golf handicap.
#5: Same Distance Back & Through
Instead of a drill, this is some quick technical advice about your putting stroke. Casual golfers make two mistakes when trying to hit lag putts.
- First, they take the putter back way too far and decelerate into the ball. This will cause you to come up short of your target.
- They also do the opposite. Take a short backstroke and then “pop” the putt at impact – this type of stroke is hard to control and will cause wild, offline putts.
To fix these mistakes, take the putter back and follow through the same distance. The length of your stroke will depend on the length of the putt.
Control your stroke and your putting distance control will improve.
#6: Hit Your Approach Shots Closer
Yes, this one is a bit “tongue in cheek”, but it is true. Shorter putts are easier to make or leave close to the hole.
With that in mind, one way to improve your putting distance control is to hit your iron shots closer to the pin!
Of course, we are kidding, but it does highlight a key fact: to improve in golf you need to develop a balanced golf game.
You need to improve your putting distance control and your ability to the hit the fairway with you driver.
Good luck and play well!