Lag Putting vs Putting Past the Hole Strategy

My Theory on Lag vs Aggressive Putting Strategy

Shot Selection for the Putting Green


This is my strategy for when to select a lag putt approach versus when to use a more aggressive line (or putt past the hole).

The goal is the same…to make the putt.  I feel lag putts are sometimes misperceived as giving up on the chance to make the putt. Make no mistake, a lag putting strategy for any putt should still be to find the bottom of the cup.  Aggressive putting has it’s moments of use as well, but is always used in a putt to make scenario.

Shot selection of these two is important.  Knowing where you are on the leaderboard or in a match play tournament will affect the decision.  Which type you are comfortable with should be a factor.  As well as the putt demands itself.  Downhill, Sidehill, Uphill, Green Speed.

 Lag Putt Scenario & Strategy

Faced with a long putt, I want the golf ball ‘dying’ or coming to rest close at the hole.  This means it will be coming in from the high side on the majority of your putts, as long as it’s not straight uphill.  My goal is still to make the putt, but reduce the risk of 3 putting by having a long putt coming back if I miss.  The perfect lag putt would be a ball that would come to rest on the same spot of the hole if the hole itself was just marked with paint instead of the cup.  Most of the time, your typical lag putt is longer, downhill or sidehill and you are in a situation where getting down in two is sufficient.  Less risky.

Lag putts don’t have to be long necessarily.  If you are looking at a steep downhiller from 8 feet out, and you are sitting on a one stroke lead and only need to two putt for the win…you don’t need to get overly aggressive.  You want a tap in as the worst case scenario if you miss.  Taking the aggressive route out of the equation to avoid a 3 putt.  That is my theory when it comes to lag putting strategy.

The opposite of the lag putt is to try to really hole out the putt.

Aggressive Putt Scenario & Strategy

Faced with a 5 footer sidehill with a good amount of break.  You must hole the putt to win the hole or you will lose the match.  This is where you do not want a lag putt strategy.  The perfect putt in this scenario shouldn’t necessarily come to stop on the hole like a lag putt…but rather, if missed, stop behind the hole.  The more aggressive or firm you hit a putt, the less break you have to judge, which is generally a good thing.

It’s a risk-reward, as the less break you take out of a putt, the firmer you need to hit that putt, and the firmer you hit a missed putt, the longer your comeback is.  I’d venture to say every golfer at some point has experienced the 3 putt from 5 feet.

Understanding the difference between these, and understanding your personal strategy on each putt is necessary before you even look at the break. After I’ve got my strategy and know which line I need to take, I can begin reading the break.

Time after time, I’ve seen amateur golfers miss a putt on the high side and way past the hole.  The common thinking is that at least you gave it a chance to go in and didn’t look bad by leaving it short.  I say…a missed putt is a missed putt.  A physics guy told me the slower the ball is approaching the hole, the wider the hole becomes.  At some point you can have the exact line correct but the ball is going so fast, it won’t drop.

I also pay attention to my missed putts.  Bad misses are typically low side & long, or high side & short.  It means I misjudged the break (intended ball path line) and the speed (touch & feel).  When better putters miss a putt, their misses are usually either low side & short, or high side & long.  In general these misses indicate I either misread the break, or the speed…not both.

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