Try This Lag Putting Drill for Distance Control on the Greens

Mastering the 'string drill' can help you lag your putts closer, avoid 3-putts

Golfer practicing his putting in silhouette
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Lag putting is an important skill on the putting green, and improving it will help all golfers, but particularly those who struggle with distance control and 3-putting. That's because "lag putting" means consistently leaving yourself with short follow-up putts when your first one doesn't go in the hole.

Golf instructor Neil Wilkins has worked with PGA Tour and LPGA Tour pros, and the lag putting drill described on this page is one Wilkins calls "my preferred method to practice lag putting."

You'll need about a half-dozen pieces of string, cut to about three feet long each, or some other method of laying out on the practice green a progression of regularly spaced distance markers. (You can snap chalk lines, lay down golf clubs, whatever. Wilkins uses string in his instructions below, and rolls the ball over the string. But you can also putt to the side of the markers if you are using clubs or some other type of marker that you can't roll the ball over.)

Wilkins said that he originally learned this lag putting drill "years ago from a noted sports psychologist named Dr. David Cook." (Cook has written books on the mental game in golf, and also authored the book Seven Days in Utopia - that was made into a motion picture.)

"For many years I have used this drill in my one-day golf schools, summer junior programs, evening clinics, and individual putting lessons," Wilkins said. "It takes the hole out of the equation, with a total focus on distance control. This drill will challenge all players - from the rank beginner to a single-digit handicapper - and will help keep the boredom out of your practice session."

Setting Up the 'String Drill' for Lag Putting Practice

When Wilkins uses the string drill, he begins by cutting five or six pieces of string, about three-feet long each, and laying them down on the practice green, progressively farther away. "Space them about three feet apart," he advises.

"I like to start (putting) at about 20 feet, but you can do this from 60 feet or wherever suits you. You can practice downhill or uphill," Wilkins says.

Lagging Your Putts With the 'String Drill'

Start with about a dozen golf balls. Your goal is to roll them so that they stop in-between the strings.

"Use your eyes - look and react to create feel for distance," Wilkins says.

"Try to roll your first ball just over the very first string so that it stops between the first and second strings," Wilkins explains. "Then roll the second ball over the second string, stopping it before the third string, and so on.

"After you've mastered putting balls in-between each set of strings, from the closest to the farthest, start mixing it up. Putt to the last string, then to the first, then to the third, and so on."

If you place your strings (or whatever markers you are using) three feet apart, then stopping your putted ball in the appropriate gap means that the longest second putt you would have (if you were putting out to a golf hole) will be about 18 inches.

And if you leave yourself with only 18-inch second putts during a real round, well, you're going to have a lot more 2-putts and lot fewer 3-putts.

Wilkins concludes:

"Remember to use your eyes - look and react.
"It is uncanny how good your direction control is when doing this drill, and please take your mind off the line. Line-bound putters tend to have poor distance control. Loren Roberts told me once that he feels he can make a putt on any green if he hits it the right speed. He said that when he putts, all he thinks about is the speed he will roll the ball.
"Try this lag putting drill next time you're on a practice green and your distance control is sure to improve."