When it comes to putting, there are two key elements: accuracy & speed.
Often, accuracy comes fairly naturally. Sure, most amateurs will under-read the break on long putts — but that’s usually just a couple of feet on either side of the hole.
However, speed is a much bigger concern. If you want to lower your scores on the greens, distance control with the putter is the most important skill to have.
In this article, I’ll take you through 5 lag putting drills demonstrated by experts, to help you improve your distance control and minimize three-putts.
Let’s get right into it!
Lag Putting Drills
Essentially, lag putting drills can help dial in your speed control on the greens. That way, you can get the ball closer to the hole and within the so-called “circle of trust.” Doing this gives you a better chance of making more putts, and minimizes the risk of unfortunate three-putts.
1. The Ladder Drill
Here, PGA professional coach Chris Jenkins demonstrates a handy lag putting drill to help you improve your speed control from a range of distances:
How Does the Ladder Drill Work?
- Set a line of tee pegs from the hole, with a ball next to each. The first tee should be set at 9 feet from the hole, the next at 12 feet — all the way up to 30 feet.
- Starting with the 9-footer, aim to get the ball as close to the hole as possible.
- Work on a scoring system! Stop the ball within a foot in front of the hole for 1 point, within two feet behind the hole for 2 points, and hole the putt for 3 points.
This drill helps you focus on the tempo of the putting stroke from various distances.
That way, it replicates the on-course nature of putting. Ultimately, it helps you build your confidence to lag the ball close to the hole, from anywhere on the green.
Jenkins makes it clear that the key to improving distance control is to keep the tempo the same (“one, two”) and simply vary the distance you take back the putter.
2. The Zonal Drill
Next, let’s take a look at Mr. Short Game‘s zonal lag putting drill:
How Does the Zonal Drill Work?
- Grab five clubs, and lay them out against the edge of the practice green.
- Leave around a 3-foot gap between each club — these are your four zones.
- Pace out 40 feet from this area — this is your starting point.
- Your goal is to roll five balls into the first zone, then five into the second zone, and so forth. If a ball rolls into the fringe or falls short — start over!
- Once you fill all four zones consecutively, repeat from another distance.
In my experience, this is one of the best lag putting drills as it allows you to focus on stopping the ball within a 3-foot zone — rather than aiming for a tiny hole.
It’s no coincidence that the target zones are 3 feet wide. Essentially, this is what’s known as the “tap-in” range, giving yourself an easy second putt and reducing your number of putts per round.
Practicing this will improve your ability to get longer putts to stop closer to the hole when out on the course. Ultimately, this minimizes the risk of three-putts.
3. The Two-Coin Drill
Below, two-time major winner and former world number one Justin Thomas works on speed control using one of coach John Graham’s lag putting drills:
How Does the Two-Coin Drill Work?
- Mark a starting point with a tee, and place a coin six feet from this tee.
- Then, place a second coin six feet past that first coin. This gives you a zone between 6 and 12 feet from the starting point.
- Putt from the starting point and try to stop the ball just after the first coin.
- Mark this position with a third coin, and repeat. The aim is to make each putt longer than the last, moving the marker forward each time.
- Reach the end of the zone or fall short of the last putt — start over!
This is an excellent lag putting drill for dialing in distance control on shorter putts.
As you can see in the video, Justin Thomas is working on achieving a reliable and consistent speed for the ultra-fast greens at Augusta National.
The drill helps you build a feel for incremental speed differences over a relatively short range, which can help you develop the sensation of “dying” the ball in the hole.
“The goal is to get 10 putts to stop incrementally within the 6-foot zone. Eight is a great number if you’re fairly new to the game, 12 is very good, and I’ve seen as high as 15.”John Graham
4. The 40-50-60 Drill
In this classic video, Dave Felz demonstrates the 40-50-60 lag putting drill:
How Does the 40-50-60 Drill Work?
- From the hole, pace out 40 feet and mark with a tee peg. Continue and place a tee at 50 feet, and finally at 60 feet — hence the “40-50-60” name.
- Start at the 50 feet marker, take 3 balls, and aim to stop each within a 3-foot circle around the hole. Repeat until all 3 balls fall within this “circle of trust.”
- Next, move to the 40 feet marker and repeat the same process.
- Finally, head back to the 60 feet marker and do the same.
This simple drill has been used by major winners like Phil Mickelson.
Often, everyday golfers will find themselves with challenging putts of this range when hitting longer approach shots into particularly large putting greens.
Essentially, this drill trains your touch on those long putts. Once you build confidence with lag putting at these long distances, shorter putts will feel significantly easier!
5. The Stroke Length Drill
In this lag putting drill, Jonathan Kim-Moss provides a very useful demonstration and explanation of the importance of stroke length for consistent distance control:
How Does the Stroke Length Drill Work?
- Set a tee peg in the ground, with a ball next to it.
- Then, set another tee about a grip length behind the tee — this serves as a point of reference for the backswing in the putting stroke.
- Set a third tee the same distance in front of the tee — this is your follow-through.
- Practice some putts of different lengths, and build awareness of where the putter head travels in the backswing and the follow-through.
Ideally, the length of your backswing should be similar to your follow-through.
Often, golfers struggle with distance control when the length of their backswing is the same for various distances. This forces you to accelerate through the ball, which makes it very difficult to have any form of consistency on longer putts.
By working on a 50/50 backswing to follow-through ratio, you can build a more reliable and consistent rhythm in the stroke. That way, you can simply extend the length of the stroke according to the distance away from the hole.