The vast majority of golf players around the world would agree that putting is one of the most important shots in a round. Once you get into the green, it’s all about how soon you can hole the ball. Reading green correctly is one of the skills that come in handy while putting. However, it’s not enough by any stretch.
To increase your chance of putting more efficiently and hopefully lowering your score in return, you need to focus on judging the distance. It’s another component of the whole putting paradigm.
In this guide, we’re going to go through the process of judging the putting distance correctly. In the end, we’re going to share a few drills that you can practice to fine-tune your instinct.
The Feel of Golf
Among veteran golfers or experienced players in general, the concept of feel is very highly regarded. The feel you sense has a lot to do with how you play and how your shots pan out. For longer clubs such as the driver or the fairway wood, the feel is prominent.
You can feel the impact through your hands when you hit the ball. If you hit hard, the feedback would be hard. If you swing slow and impact the ball with a lower force, the feedback will be milder.
Subtle changes in long-distance shots don’t impact the result much. However, the subtlety is everything when it comes to the short game.
The best way to improve your feel is to build yourself up. You need to consciously analyze the feedback you’re getting from each of your hits. If you put in enough hours, there will be a time when you would be able to tell the distance you’re going to cover the moment you hit it. If you are accurate, it would certainly be in the ballpark of the right number.
That’s why feel is your biggest strength in judging putting distance. You need to spend time on the green and on different lies of green to truly master the instinct of putting judgment.
How you strategize the feel training is up to you. You can work your way from low to high or vice versa. If you’re trying to go low to high, then you need to find the flattest part of the green and set up the primary lines.
From there, you need to work your way up, hitting every distance with as much consciousness as possible. With each of your shots, the past the hole distance would come into play.
In laymen’s terms, past the hole is the distance your ball would roll if you miss the hole. Past the hole distance is used as a unit for putting speed. To enter the hole, you need to hit the ball at such a speed that if you miss, the ball would roll for 17 inches.
Now, 17 inches is the standard practice. The PGA Teaching Manual from 1990 lists the ideal distance as 1 foot or 30 centimeters. What we advise is that you find your own past the hole distance.
The reasoning is simple. Every player is different. Hence, the way they handle putters or approach each shot is different. When you take on the duty of figuring out what’s the best past the hole distance for you, you automatically develop your feel for the right putting distance.
The Putting Speed
Speaking of putting speed, you need to strategize it as well. There are two main schools of thought when it comes to putting speed. You can either die in it (you hit the ball on the slowest point of your swing and stop right there) or go Tiger Woods (hitting the ball firm).
Both of these strategies have their merits and demerits.
Dying into the Hit
These shots result in picturesque moments if you manage to pull it off. On a downhill sidewinder, the ball entering the hole is a magnificent scene. Basically what happens is when you die in the impact, the ball is going at a slow pace. Based on the condition of the green and what lie you’re on, the ball can enter the ball from all directions.
It’s something that’s not possible if the ball has momentum while entering the hole. This approach works best when you pair it up with the feel. When you know exactly how the club should feel during impact and you know you have all the openings, you improve your chances of scoring dramatically.
To succeed with this kind of shot, you also need spectacular green reading capabilities in your arsenal. If you do, you’ll be able to judge the condition of the surface and predict the path your ball is going to take accurately. Taking the information in and processing it will allow you to further tune your swing speed.
Dying into the hit strategy works best when you’re playing on downhill shots. It reduces the chances of you leaving the putt short. Also, we know that downhill slopes are more predictable than uphill shots.
Hitting it Firm
Hitting it firm is just the opposite of what we’ve discussed in the previous section. You don’t want the ball to fly out. But you don’t want to go too gentle as well. The best example of this shot is Tiger Woods.
He likes to keep the shots straight. When you have immense club face control at impact, you can easily master this strategy. The higher speed of the ball helps resist the interference from out-of-place grass and debris. If your aim is correct, you’ll land right into the pocket. That’s why you need very good direction control.
One of the obvious drawbacks of this strategy becomes prominent when you miss the hole. Due to the higher rolling speed, the ball will roll further away from the hole. On an unlucky day, you may need to face a four or five-footer putt!
However, this is a spectacular shot to play on uphill lies. The higher speed helps the ball climb the slope more easily. Also, the front edge of the hole will be higher than the back edge. It’ll help catch the ball and pocket it right away as long as your aim was good.
The Blend of Both
The best approach for any player who is trying to master the putting distance would a blend of both. Depending on the condition of the green and the lie, you’ll switch between hitting it firm and dying into the putt.
For example, if you’re playing on an uphill lie, you can go with the firm hit. If you’re on a downhill lie, go with the slower approach. As both of these strategies have their merits and demerits, we can’t discard either of them from your potential putting strategy.
The Short, the Middle, and the Long
Putting in golf is usually divided into three distance groups. The short putts, the middle length putts, and the long putts. Each of them will require you to tweak your understanding of putting distance.
10 feet or shorter distances from the hole are considered short put. Skills such as green reading and understanding the lie come more in handy in short putts. Also, this is the shot you have the most chance of holing.
Middle length putts usually range between 10 to 15 feet. Although the distance jumped only 5 feet, your odds of cupping the ball have gone down significantly. These shots usually require the hit it firm approach.
Putts from over 30 feet are considered long putts. These are the hardest shots to master, even for experienced players. While you can’t expect to hole the ball in one go, you need to set a target of maximum of 2 putts!
Drills to Help Your Middle & Long Putt
Short putts are the closest to the hole. There’s no way to build up the feel from that distance without playing over and over again. However, there is room for improvement in middle and long putts.
In this section, we’re going to look at 2 drills designed for the short and long putts respectively.
Alignment Sticks Putting Drills
Whenever distance is concerned in golf, alignment sticks come to the rescue. You simply place the alignment stick 17 inches past the hole before you start practicing.
- Give yourself 2 points for perfect putts.
- Give yourself 1 point for past the hole but short of the alignment stick.
- Give yourself -1 point if you go past the stick.
- 0 points for less than 2 feet short and -1 for more than 2 feet short.
- Score yourself and see how your game improves with time.
The Lag Drill
You follow the same principle as the previous drill but with higher stakes. You’ll go three different distances. 30 feet, 40 feet, and 50 feet. You can mark the distances with tees. Your goal is to get into a circle of 3 feet around the hole. You can mark the imaginary hole for reference as well.
- Use 10 balls for each interval.
- Keep practicing till reach the target.