In the many years that I’ve been studying putting statistics, at all playing levels, there is one lesson that stands out above all others: There are putts golfers must try to make, and there are putts that only require a two-putt.
Putting to Make: There’s a distance range where line matters much more than speed. From these distances, golfers need to be focused on making the putt, which means they need to get the ball to the hole. Leaving the putt short on these putts is a serious error.
Putts to 2-Putt: There’s also a distance range where speed matters much more than line. On these putts, it’s not very important that you get the line exactly right, because it’s unlikely that you’re going to make the putt. What matters is that you give yourself a realistic chance to 2-putt. Getting your putt to the hole is far less of a priority.
By itself, this information is actually not very helpful. Golfers really need to know what distances require their focus on line and what distances require their focus on speed. In this article, I’m going to focus on the latter, share some critical data, as well a practice strategy for putting that will take strokes off your game.
The Average 2-Putt Range
The Average 2-Putt Range is something I discuss regularly with my PGA Tour players. It’s the distance from which the average player on the PGA Tour will average two putts. It’s also important for average golfers whose shots aren’t measured by ShotLink. Thanks to the real golfer database I’ve been collecting over the last two decades through Shot by Shot, my Strokes Gained Analysis program and App, I can also share the Average 2-Putt Range for handicap golfers.
On the PGA Tour, the average 2-Putt Range is 35 feet. What this means is that putts longer than 35 feet will result in more 3-putts than 1-putts for PGA Tour players. Putts shorter than 35 feet will result in more 1-putts than 3-putts.
As you can see in the chart, average golfers make far fewer long putts – and they also 3-putt with far greater frequency. For example, the average golfer (15-19 handicap) has a 2-Putt Range of 16 feet.
I’ve shared this data with countless golfers through the years, and they’re almost always shocked with how likely they are to 3-putt on mid-range putts. It’s also incredibly powerful and useful. If you’re a golfer with a handicap between 15-19, what I’m suggesting is that you take a conservative approach on putts longer than 16 feet. I’m betting you’ll be amazed with the results.
A “Negative Approach” Disclaimer
I’m going to share a bit more data in this piece, but before I do I want to address the thoughts that some of you might be having about a potential side effect of this approach — “trying not to 3 putt.” Our game is lucky to have several wonderful sports psychologists who advocate against such a negative approach, and I believe that they’re right about this. We don’t want to be negative on the golf course – especially when the putter is in our hands.
Without getting too deep into this issue, I want to make it clear that what I’m suggesting is that golfers adjust their expectations on putts outside their Average 2-Putt Distance. Ideally, they want to hit a putt with a speed that will allow the ball to fall just over the edge of the cup. An approach that’s more aggressive than that is likely going to cost them strokes. That said, when the circumstances are right, uphill and fairly straight, by all means, give the ball a chance to go in.
Putting This Data To Work
As most seasoned golfers have learned through the years, we can shoot good scores without a lot of 1-putts – but we can’t shoot good scores with a lot of 3-putts. For that reason, it’s important that we practice distance control to minimize our 3-putts. But, from exactly what distance should we be practicing? The chart below sheds light on the issue.
To me, there’s no question — at least for amateurs — the optimum practice distance is 11-30 feet. I say that with confidence for three key reasons:
- 51% of the average golfer’s first putt opportunities take place from 11-30 feet. A distance you will face on about NINE greens each round.
- From 11-30 feet, amateur golfers 3-putt SEVEN times more frequently than the average PGA Tour player.
- From beyond 30 feet, average golfers putt much more like PGA Tour players. They only 3-putt four times as frequently.
A Great Drill
Place two tees 20 feet apart on a reasonably level section of your practice green. Roll two balls back and forth between the tees until you can consistently lag 6-8 in a row to within 2 feet. I also like to expand the drill until I can lag 6-8 to or past the hole and within 2 feet. When you can do this from 20 feet, move your tees to 25 feet and then even 30 feet.
This drill is important when getting ready to play a new course and especially under competitive conditions. It will help you to face that first lag opportunity on the course with confidence.
Stay tuned, in my next article I will address the important LINE distances.
For a Complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, go to www.ShotByShot.com
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The Wedge Guy: Speed kills (your short game at least)
Todays’ post is much shorter than usual because this topic is extremely simple but very important to a better short game.
IMHO, one of the most overused and abused pieces of golf advice is that which tells us to “accelerate through the ball.” Not that this is a bad thing—all teachers agree that the club should be on a constant acceleration from the start of the downswing to and through impact. But from my observation, the vast majority of golfers are taking the whole bottle of that advice, instead of just one or two pills.
Think of it like this. You pull up to a stoplight next to a little old lady in her 1988 Cadillac. You–being a young guy in your hot car–punch it when the light turns green and leave her in your dust. But she, who gradually pushes the accelerator and takes a full block to get back up to the 30 mph speed limit, also accelerated the entire way. That’s how I see the proper acceleration of the clubhead when you are chipping and pitching.
The short game is precision work, and when you do anything else in your life which requires precision . . . . you tend to work S- -L- -O – -W. The short game should be no different. If you throttle back your entire swing speed . . . slower backswing, slower transition, slower downswing . . . you will find that you can be much more precise in your contact and distance control.
Just a short practice session, even in your backyard, will show you what I mean. Take a few balls and see how slowly you can hit some short chips and pitches. Try to create a tempo that to you is going to feel like a turtle or snail. Slow-motion even. Practice swinging the club slower and slower and watch what happens. Then take that to the practice area at your course.
If you work on slowing down your entire tempo around the greens, you will be much more precise in your technique and results. The bonus comes from the fact that this new slower tempo will likely find its way into the rest of your game and all your shots will begin to get better.
I promise you.
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