How to Eliminate The 3 Putt With The Right Mental Approach

One of the biggest differences between low and high handicappers is on the putting green and more specifically, the number of 3 putts. Amateurs 3 putt on average 5 times more than Tour pros.

What is important to remember this is not about innate ability. Yes, having the time to practice in the right way is a big part of improving your putting, but learning how to approach a putt mentally is definitely something that players do better the lower their handicap. Anyone of any ability can learn to long putt to a level to virtually eliminate the 3 putt. I have to say I don’t like the term “lag putt”. This implies that we are trying to get the ball down in 2. As you will know if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you should be trying to hole everything within 100 yards.


The keys to better long putting are:

1. Good preparation
2. Creating a solid pre-putt routine
3. Judging distance and the line
4. Consistently hitting the ball close to the center of the putter

How to achieve this:

1. See – Walk around the putt and see it from all angles to determine length, slope and speed. For long putts, adopt a taller posture at address, so you get a much better view of the length of the putt. Have a vivid image of the ball tracking to the hole.

2. Feel – With your practice strokes, play that exact putt and feel the rhythm of the stroke. See the putt roll out in your mind with each stroke. The distance the ball travels is determined by the length of the stroke, not how hard you hit the ball. If you were to throw the ball to the target, you wouldn’t throw it any harder to distances further away, you would simply take your arm further back. When you practice, start to become aware of how far you take the putter back vs the length of the putt. Don’t think about it on the golf course, you will have to rely on trust.

3. Execute – Once you are confident on the line, you have committed to it and felt the speed with your practice strokes, the focus is now on hitting the ball in the center of the putter, nothing else. Focus on a single dimple on the ball if this helps. A tour pro will hit the ball out the center of the putter 99% of the time. The average amateur will make contact with the center far fewer times resulting in off-line putts with poor distance control. This is probably the biggest reason for the 3 putt, more so than green reading and distance control. A good tip for this is to ensure a consistent ball position for EVERY stroke. Try a putter head’s length inside your left heel.

4. Response – watch the putt to relate what you felt to the end result. You need to be able to use the feedback to determine which of these elements you are doing well and what you need to improve. Was it hit out the center of the putter? Did you miss read it? How was your distance control?

However you execute the steps above it should be very repeatable and take the same time no matter what the length of the putt.

Record your 3-putt stat the next time you are on the course. If you are 3 putting more than 2 holes per round, you definitely to spend some time on the practice putting green working on the steps above.


Michael Breed of The Golf Channel gives a nice summary of these steps below:

How To Practice More Effectively

Free Mental Game of Putting Course

David MacKenzie

is a golf coach and golf publisher and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind a teaching program designed to help golfers eliminate negative mental interference and play with confidence.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Troy Vayanos

    Excellent Post.

    Some great advice on long range putting. I particularly like the part about practising feeling the stroke before you actually perform the real thing.

    Top advice for golfers of all levels.

  2. Steve

    Good tip but an important thing to remeber is to pick your spot 6 inches beyond the hole now what this means is get a spot on the line you want to put the ball too. The reason for this is if you focus on the hole you will putt the ball to the hole so you miss the line and will miss the putt. I have been using this for 2 months now and trust me it works.

    By focusing on your line and small spot you learn to focus on your line and speed.

  3. Rick

    steve that is what Breed said when he said pick the dimple. It is easier to pick something on the ball to hit than even something 6 inches ahead of the ball. Still the same principle.

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