What Is Lag Putting In Golf? Learn to Avoid 3-Putts!

The primary goal of lag putting is to leave the golf ball near the hole. If you happen to make it, great, but you are simply trying to set up an easy 2-putt.

It is an important skill if you want to improve your golf handicap and shoot lower scores.

Professional golfers are great at lag putting, but high handicappers and weekend warriors tend to struggle with speed control on the greens.

Don’t forget to practice your lag putting. It will help keep the positive momentum going during your round.

golfers lag putting on the green.

Why Is Lag Putting Important?

If you play golf, you know there is nothing more frustrating than 3 putting or 4 putting a green. It makes your blood boil.

This frustration can often carry over to the next hole and all of sudden the wheels have come off your round.

Great lag putting will make golf easier. Leave your first putt close to the hole and you don’t have to stress over the second one.

We have all felt our nerves when trying to make that 5-foot putt for par. We prefer a stress-free “10 incher”.

Do you have a problem with lag putting? How often do you 3-putt? How many putts do you hit in an 18-hole round?

If you want to improve, it is important to track these metrics and spend time practicing.

One of our favorite quotes came from Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player: “The harder you work the luckier you get”.

Listen to Gary – work hard on your lag putting.

A flag casts a shadow on the putting green

What Factors Do You Need To Consider When Lag Putting?

To lag your putt correctly you will need to know how to read the green. There are several factors you need to consider before you hit your lag putt.

Grass Height

Every course you play will be different. They will have different types of grass on the greens and will mow them to different heights.

The type of green and how it is maintained will impact the speed. Knowing the speed of the greens is critical to lag putting.

Always arrive at the golf course at least 45 minutes prior to your tee time to warm up and spend half of your time on the practice putting green.

The primary goal of pre-round putting is to learn the speed of the greens.

Hit short, medium, and long putts. Try some uphill and some downhill putts. Get the feel for the speed.

Severity Of Slope

Yes, it is possible you have a truly flat putt, but most of the time your putt will either be uphill, downhill, or cross-hill.

Lag putting requires you to understand the direction and severity of the slope. This needs to be part of your green reading process.

Never forget that your putt could have more than one slope. This is what makes longer putts more challenging.

The first half of your putt may be uphill, but the second half could be down.

Getting the feel of how your ball will roll up or down the slopes of the green is critical if you want to improve your lag putting.

Golf balls on a green

Wind & Moisture

This is a common mistake made by casual golfers. The idea that the weather won’t impact your putts.

You must consider the wind when you putt. A downwind putt will be faster and a putt into the wind will be slower.

Even more impactful is moisture on the putting surface. Your ball will collect water and slow down much quicker.

The green could be wet from dew, a recent rain shower, or even the golf course sprinkler system.

You must have an understanding of the weather conditions if you want your lag putting to become a strength of your game.

Grain (Maybe)

The final factor is the trickiest. Do you need to factor grain into your lag putting? Actually, what is grain?

Grain is the tendency of certain types of grass to grow in one direction (horizontally instead of vertically). This impacts the speed of your putts.

You see this on Bermuda grass grains. On this type of putting surface, the grain can severely impact the speed of your putt.

If you are playing a course with Bermuda greens you must factor this into your lag putting.

Remember, the goal of lag putting is to leave the ball close to the hole. You won’t be able to do this if you don’t consider the grain.

A golfer makes a putt on the green.

4 Drills To Improve Your Lag Putting

We have talked about why lag putting is important and the factors you need to consider when reading the speed of the green.

Understanding the speed of the green won’t help if you can’t execute the lag putt. Here are a few ways for you to practice your lag putting.

1. 3-Foot Circle

We bet you make almost all of your putts that are 3 feet or shorter. Most of them are probably “gimmies” in your weekend game.

With that in mind, this is a great way to practice your lag putting. Pick a hole on a practice green and place tees around it in a 3-foot circle.

Hit putts from different distances (mostly longer putts) and try to get your ball to stop inside the circle of tees.

You can also take this drill to the course when you play. You can’t put tees in the green, but you can visualize the 3-foot circle.

Any long putt that stays within 3 feet of the hole is a great putt!

2. Challenge A Buddy In The “Fringe Game”

We get it. Practicing golf can get boring. It can be hard to maintain your concentration and focus.

The best solution is to “bring a friend” and turn it into a competition. If you want, play for a dollar per putt or the winner buys the next beer.

The “Fringe Game” is a fun competition that will improve your lag putting. Here is how it works.

You don’t need a hole to play. Pick a spot on the green and both players hit a putt toward the edge of the green (the fringe).

The person that leaves their ball closest to the fringe (without touching the fringe) is the winner.

This is a great way to work on your speed control without worrying about a target (a hole).

You and your buddy will have a blast – you won’t even realize you are working on your lag putting.

A hole on a green

3. Look At The Hole To “Feel” The Speed

The best putters have a feel for the speed. They aren’t born with this skill, but instead, they develop it over time.

You can develop it as well. The next time you visit the practice green spend 10 minutes hitting putts while you look at the hole.

It will feel strange at first, but you will get used to it. This drill will help you get a feel for the green without focusing on hitting the golf ball.

Oddly enough, this drill can also help you get rid of the Yips! It can fix more than just your lag putting.

4. Length Of Stroke Controls The Speed Of Your Putt

This is more of a swing tip than a drill. It is an important component of lag putting.

On long putts, how do you add more power to your putting stroke? A common mistake is trying to “pop” the ball at impact.

This will cause your lag putting to be inconsistent. The key is to keep the same rhythm but make your stroke a little longer.

The length of your stroke should change depending on the length of the putt.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your putting stroke should be the same length back and forward.

Working on the length of your putting stroke will improve your consistency and help you become a better lag putter!

A putter next to a golf ball.

When Should You Use Lag Putting?

As we talked about above, the goal of a lag putt is to leave it close to the hole. If you make it, great, but you want an easy two-putt.

The natural question to ask is, when should you use lag putting versus trying to make the putt?

The first answer is obvious. When you have a long or challenging (big breaker, double breaker, etc.) putt.

It may not be realistic to make this type of putt, but a great lag will leave you with an easy second putt.

The other reason to lag putt is that you don’t need to make the first putt.

For example, what if a two-putt wins the tournament?

You will see this on your TV when watching the PGA tour. The leader is on the 72nd hole on Sunday and needs a two-putt to win. They don’t need to make the first putt.

In this situation, they rely on their lag putting to remove stress from the situation. Would you prefer a 5-inch putt or a 5-foot putt to win the trophy?

Do you ever play match play against a buddy? If a two-putt wins the hole there is no reason to be aggressive. Use your lag putting to get the win!

Up Next: You Gotta Read Before You Can Lag!

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Ray has been playing golf for 35+ years, including being part of his High School and College golf teams. While he still enjoys playing in amateur tournaments, Ray now focuses on growing the game of golf through teaching and coaching. He has two sons that both play golf competitively and loves spending time watching them compete. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +2 handicap.

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