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Why you shouldn’t lag putt

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Frank Akey has been a teaching professional specializing in the short game since 1989, having taught students that ranged from raw beginners through mini-tour players, all ages, male and female. He served served as the Short Game Director for a major golf school for a brief time as well. His career prior to golf was in the weapons/tactics field, also as an instructor, so teaching accuracy seems to follow him.

I have some Core Beliefs and Absolutes when it comes to putting and the short game in general. This article is related to putting, so here are my “absolutes:”

  • Only two things can happen when you stroke a putt, no matter if it is a 1 footer or a 100 footer … you make it or you miss it, it is that simple.
  • Only two things you can have control of when you stroke a putt … you roll it on the line you intended and you roll it the speed you intended, also that simple.
  • You can make EVERY putt that you look at, no matter how long or how many breaks in the putt, BUT, not all putts will go in.
  • Imagination and feel is more important than having pure mechanics.
  • DO NOT LAG PUTT!!

Now, having said that, I can already hear the people yelling, “Blasphemy!” and “This guy is a flake/moron/idiot …” Or whatever description comes to mind, so let me expand a little on each of the above absolutes.

Let’s tackle the lag putt. This subject matter could take pages of discussion, but I will keep it short and sweet for the purpose of this article. My reasoning for teaching my students NOT to lag putt is more by definition of what most, including the majority of TV announcers, define as lag putting. When I hear someone say that the golfer is just trying to get the ball within a 5-foot circle, or that they would be happy if they kept the ball within X amount of feet, it drives me crazy! I am ALWAYS looking to MAKE the putt, no matter how many breaks, how far, degree of difficulty … I want the ball to stop within the magical 4.25” circle…the hole. There will always be a line and speed combination that will allow the ball to go in, and sometimes there is more than one combination that will work. Using the other definition, a lag putt is an intentionally missed putt that hopefully is close enough for an easy next putt. Using that logic, on a tough driving hole, do you lag drive hoping to keep the ball within 40 yards of the fairway? How about from the middle of the fairway 120 yards out, do you lag approach just trying to keep the ball within 40 yards of the green? Putting is all about confidence, and a lag putt is a lack of confidence in either your first putt or the ability to make the second putt from wherever the first putt stops.

That takes us to knowing you can make any putt that you look at, yet, not all putts will go in. That is the confidence that you build by practicing all kinds of putts, long and short, straight and breaking, uphill and downhill. Once you start seeing a lot of putts falling, your confidence starts to increase on those types of putts. Now when you have a 50 foot putt, you aren’t worried if you miss knowing you will make the next one, so you will start trying to make the longer putts. Believe it or not, they will occasionally go in … whodathunkit? It is a simple theory, but once you lose confidence in your putting, your chances of making anything dwindle dramatically. What some do not realize, is that a perfectly struck putt on a perfectly manicured green on a perfectly straight line will go in perfectly dead center … but not 100% of the time. The ball can have very slight imperfections that cause the ball to veer off line. The blades of grass are growing by the millisecond, and a small grain of sand may move ever-so-slightly and knock the ball off line. Something can make the ball take a small hop, which will change the roll and possibly alter the path. On the flip side, those same things can happen to a putt that is slightly OFF line and end up causing the ball to take the CORRECT line and go in … have you ever had that happen to you? It has happened to me.

My absolute that says only two things can happen is pretty much self-explanatory. After you strike a putt, the only results are a missed putt or a made putt. There isn’t really much than can be expanded on, so let’s look at this absolute’s cousin, only two things that you can control … speed and line. If after spending time reading the putt, you determine the line you think the ball must roll on, you can control whether or not you roll it on that intended line. Also, after determining what speed you think is necessary for the putt to go in, you can control the pace of your stroke to produce that speed. At the end of the putt, your ball rolling on your intended line on your intended speed will have done one of two things … you made it or you missed it.

The last of the absolutes is more of an opinion than a scientific fact. I believe that you will be more successful at putting if you have a good imagination in visualizing how the putt will roll, and able to use feel to duplicate that visualization. One cannot be taught either, but both can be developed. One of the methods I use in teaching imagination and visualization is to have you look at the green as if it were a hard, shiny solid sheet of granite. Seeing the undulations in the granite, if you were to roll the ball like a marble, how would the ball react to the various slopes and breaks? To help a student develop better feel, I have them stand on the green facing the hole, hold the golf ball in their dominate hand using only the thumb, index finger, and middle finger, and roll the golf ball to the hole, trying to get it to stop as it falls into the hole. After a few successful rolls, they then will take their putting stance and repeat the procedure. Some students are continually doing these things as drills when their putting goes sour.

Next time we will go into the hot topic of standard vs. belly vs. broom/long putters and how to determine which is best for you … if the USGA will let us. Until then.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. md

    Jul 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I think he’s just refering to putting here not your entire course management. And all he’s really saying is if you believe you can make every putt you will try to make every one. If you do that, the result will be that you will generally be within that 3 foot circle alot more often. Its just the principal of setting specific goals not general ones.

    • Leroy Potgieter

      Dec 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      The point of lag putting for me is more about speed control. One should always go for the hole, but with precise power management so that misses become tap ins

  2. nwri

    Jun 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Lag Putting = Hitting Irons to the middle of the green imo. Some pins you just do not go for. Just like some putts you have to respect.

  3. cwang

    Mar 10, 2012 at 6:16 am

    But isn’t there a big difference between leaving yourself 3 feet uphiller breaking toward you and a 3 foot downhiller breaking away from you? There’s a reason pros like to leave it below the hole on long putts…

  4. Techvan4Life

    Mar 9, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I don’t know if I would agree with much of this article. The author asks if you would “lag” on a tough driving hole or “lag” from 120 yards out. Yes I do both, I’m not afraid to grab a 3 wood on a tough driving hole, or aiming away from a sucker pin to the center of the green. Shot placement from anywhere on the golf course is the equivalent to lag putting, I am intentionally not hitting the ball directly at the pin. Lag putting is an important part of the game that every player should know how to do successfully. It doesn’t have to be a complete putting philosophy but if you remove it from your game you better be ready for some three putts, and the skill has saved my ass in a couple pressure situations. Since the author hates lag putting and calls the shot an intentional miss I can only assume he never plays a shot that could be considered an intentional miss. He goes for it in two on every par 5, never pitches out of trouble, hits low percentage shots all day long, and never lays up to a position, angle, or yardage that he might like. He aims directly at the pin, hits it and hopes that it goes in, like he said he is hoping the ball lands in the magical 4.25″ circle.

  5. teddyt

    Mar 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I think you may have a career in sports psychology … in teaching putting, the jury is still out.

  6. David Fayard

    Mar 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    LOVE the article… I hope people keep believing to “get it close/LAG it” so I can keep beating them….

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Instruction

How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Instruction

Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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Instruction

How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location

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One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:

Observations

  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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