Preventing a three putt is very important to lower golf scores. The farther from the hole, in most cases, the greater chances of missing the hole. This is a known fact that has not changed since the inception of golf. If distance putts are so critical to our game, I often wondered how players judge the distance of their putt to ensure that that next stroke is as short as possible. I know how I judge distances when putting, but I do you?
After watching many videos on how to improve our distance putting, one word kept reoccurring. That word was feel. Feel seems to be the go to jargon used by most instructors to explain how distance putting is mastered. Striking the ball from 20 feet and striking that ball from 80 feet definitely has a different feel. This feedback from contact is something that most instructors insist we develop in order to master the art of putting from long distances.
I agree that feel is critical to longer putts, however developing this skill does take a bit more effort than just practicing on the putting green. We need a process that helps file or record the feel of different putts from different distances. Once we develop this repository of data, we can effectively reduce the number of putts during each round.
My process is very simple. I start with shorter distances and work my way out. I try and find the flattest part of the green to establish my baseline feel distances. My practice distances consists of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 paces. You will notice I use paces instead of foot measurements because on the golf golf course, I measure each distance putt with paces. Hence, I practice using the exact same.
I hit three balls from each distance. I focus on hitting the ball past the hole about 8 inches. I know that 17 inches is the norm taught for putting distances past the hole, but I find that distance to be a bit too aggressive for my game. You will have to establish this ‘past the hole’ distance that works best for you and then consistently use for the rest of the drill.
I do not practice putting the ball from father than 10 paces. I might hit a couple from a longer distance, but that is rare. If it do, I pace off the distance just to record how this shot will feel. I like to focus my practice time on specific skills and by staying under 10 paces, I make the best use of my limited practice time. You decide what distances you need to focus on given your ability to hit the ball close to the hole on approach shots. Basically, tailor your practice distances to your game.
The last step is to actually practice these distances more than just once. To develop strong foundational data for distance putting, I find I need to do this drill about every second time I practice. If my putting is spot on, I will push this focused practice to every third time and move it up if I struggling on the green. At first, though, I recommend that you practice your pace distances every time out until you are comfortable with your distance putting.
I found two drills that will help you hone your distance putting skills. The first drill is about replicating the same feel of a distance putt using five golf balls. The distances can vary, but the replication process is the same. Have a look:
This next drill will help you develop your putting the distance past the hole. As I stated earlier, I use eight inches past the hole as my benchmark. This distance forces me to develop a honed ‘feel’ for distance putting. Also, leaving the ball short (which most of us do) on distance putts is mitigated by this drill.
The advanced skill from developing the feel for putting distances, is to learn to judge the conditions and slope of your putt. This advanced skill is something that is developed by changing the conditions of your practice area. Putting from various positions on the practice area that incorporate slope and grain is important. I would suggest that is the next step to effectively putting from a distance. This second step is really where ‘judging’ how long a putt will actually travel is honed through tougher practice conditions.
To properly judge distances when putting does take effort. I use a pace process out to 10 paces to build a ‘feel’ data base on a flat area. After I am comfortable with this aspect of my putting, I increase the difficulty of putting conditions by putting uphill, downhill, and from the sloping sides. Once I have recorded how each putt feels from various distances, I can say that I am confident that I have the proper feel for putts out to 10 paces. As such, I see lower golf scores and that is the ultimate goal…..right?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!
7 thoughts on “How To Properly Judge The Distance On A Long Putt”
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Jim, I’ve had some success pacing putts but moved away from that because of the variety of different green speeds I played on. I couldn’t take the length of stroke from course to course. Makes a lot of sense to use if most of your rounds are at the same venue. Love the second drill. Am going to give that a try and suspect I will find it challenging because I’m a die it in the hole guy.
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I understand what you are saying. What I do is adjust my judging distances on some courses 7 paces will mean 10 paces on speed and visa versa. I think the baseline is important as a strong staring point. Let me knownhow the drill works for you.
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You really can’t have feel without experience. One follows the other the way I see it. Your drill is one I’ve seen promoted in one form or another by many a pro. It’s worth the time. I’ve used it in the past. I do something else for that here at home because I don’t have enough carpeted space for a 30 foot run but there are ways to simulate hitting to different distances and I have incorporated that into my nightly practice so a few putts on the practice green from my normal 9 foot distance tells me what I need to know about speed for any putt inside 20 feet more or less. So I’ll do a few putts from there first in a circle around the hole pattern, then just hit a few bombs looking for things like how much turn these greens give around the slopes and what the grain does to the ball. I note whether I’m missing high or low, long or short. And that provides me with what I need pretty much. I may putt some more in close, but I am just as likely to leave the greens. Too much time there before a round never helped me. And long putts have never been a big issue for me. Less so with all the practice I do from 9 feet.
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Thanks for sharing your technique for zeroing in how to distance putts. I like the fact that you have a standardized foundation that allows you to compare conditions and judge distances from there. Seems to you have a great system to reduce the dreaded 3-putt.