What are the top ways golfers can avoid 3-putting?

28 Professionals Contributed |
Golf is funny in the fact that a one-foot putt counts the same as a 300 yard drive. So we asked our pros how to take less putts and came up with some great ways in which to avoid the dreaded 3-putt.

Learn Distance Control

Most three-putts occurs because of poor speed: a golfer leaves a putt well short or blasts it well past the hole. You’ve heard the advice to “not decel on it” but I’m here to tell you that’s WRONG. The best putters OFTEN DECEL their putts… and it’s a big part of why they’re so good at controlling their distances.

DO NOT ACCELERATE your putter through the putt. This is the single biggest issue with golfers on the putting green: they have poor distance control because they fail to control the speed of the putter head. And how could they when they’re taking 10″ long backswings to send the ball 35 feet?


Learn to make a backswing that’s about as long as the follow-through, and has the same rhythm regardless of the length of the putt (outside of about 8 feet), and you’ll learn how to control your distance.

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PGA Professional
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No 3 putts!

Probably This is the biggest area of improvement for anyone higher than a 12 handicap. It’s all about speed control and reading the greens. See my you tube video for reading the apex of the putt.. for distance control practice a ladder drill 3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17,19, 21,23,25,27,29 ft putts all set up with 14 balls in a row…also practice putting looking at the hole to teach your eyes to see the distance and feel the distance this is the two best drills…especially after you evaluate if this putt is up or downhill.

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PGA Golf Professional
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Speed kills

if you’re unsuccessful with speed (distance, slope, putting stroke length and tempo) alignment is irrelevant. all great putters and all bad putters have one thing in common – speed – it’s either correct or not. 3 drills to develop speed and distance feel:

1. graduated practice – start on as straight a putt as possible (very little break) – place a ball, alignment stick, whatever 18-24″ past hole and practice from 15-20′ away. putt your ball to that object past the hole without going any further. repeat until you have 12 balls on exact distance…once relatively mastered then alternate every other putt 10′ then 15′ then 12′ then 18′ etc. MASTERS TIP: be able to go from 10-20′ in 2nd increments without a miss (too short/too long)

2. learn how to breathe – the best rifle snipers control their breathing thus their heart rate by squeezing the trigger at the very last beat of their exhale. why? all tension is eliminated and the trigger press is a surprise; in other words, their habits / behaviors are honed for automatic execution.
MASTERS TIP: practice 2′ using this method 3 balls at a time and graduate (like old tee drill) to 8′ without a miss…I use this tip with my tour players to this day with great results!

3. to the collar – many practice greens or clocks are 50′ and greater in diameter. learn how to put from collar to collar without the ball going into the collar – only touch it or just roll out to the collar. your focus is on tempo of stroke, timing of stroke and the feel you believe to be successful. MASTERS TIP: great drill during your tournament warm up to understand this feel the pace of the greens for the day AND when things go bad that day you’ll have a feel for a very long putt to rely on

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Green Reading and Speed Control are Key

Golfers may 3-putt for several reasons, but the top two stand out:

1) Poor Green Reading
2) Poor Speed Control

The first, poor green reading, is the number one cause of 3-putting that I see. If you think the putt is uphill right-to-left, and it’s actually downhill left-to-right, you haven’t got a chance. Poor green reading directly affects the player’s ability to control speed, too, hence it’s number one on the list.

I recommend players first learn the principals of reading a green: Being able to judge Slope Direction and Slope Amount. To practice, start reading greens by walking around the hole in a circle (a la Tiger). Visually check with your eyes to discover which way the putt may break; then use your feet to confirm what you see. See if you can feel one foot lower than the other, and how much weight is on each foot when standing near your line. Both your eyes and feet can also help dial in how much uphill or downhill slope the player must navigate, too. Practicing green reading on the practice putting green is something I never see done by amateurs- yet they wonder why they struggle on the course!

Second, poor speed control (touch) with the putter is the most common stroke issue I see with players who often 3-putt. While seeing a professional coach is best, a quick strategy is to check that your back-swing and thru-swing are roughly similar in size. Check that as you hit longer putts, your stroke gets bigger in size, too. One of the most common flaws is to have too short a stroke with long putts, and too long of a stroke with short putts. This leads to poor speed control, leaving the player with too long of a second putt after their lag attempt.

Improving both green reading and speed control with the putter are the first two places to start for anyone struggling with 3-putts (or even 4-putts!). Good luck!

Florida Gulf Coast University PGA Golf Management
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Distance Control Through Rhythm

The single best way to reduce 3 putts is to have better speed control on all your putts. Consistent speed at the hole allows you to always have a short putt for your second. Good speed control also allows the ball to take the break near the hole in a consistent way. In fact, it is almost impossible to become a great green reader without great speed control.

The best way to improve your speed control is to improve your rhythm. I have had so many students take the same length back swing for different length putts and try to guess the speed by whacking the ball harder or softer. This is and forever will be, a guessing game of speed. It is better to keep the rhythm the same and let the stroke length change with the putt length. It is much easier for the brain to tie a stroke length to a putt length than it is to tie a speed feel to the putt length.

Here is an example;
Imagine an orchestra conductor standing in front of an orchestra. They have that little baton that they move back and forth to the RHYTHM of the song. If the conductor wants the orchestra to play louder, the baton moves get bigger. If they want the orchestra to play quieter, the baton moves get smaller, but they ALWAYS move to the beat. This is how your putting stroke should work. bigger for big putts, smaller for small putts, but always to the beat.

Here’s how you do it;
Get a FREE metronome app on your phone and set it to around 85 beats per minute. Practice making putting strokes where you start your stroke on one beat and impact the ball on the very next beat. At first, you will struggle to start on time and it will throw you off. Eventually you will be able to anticipate when the beat is coming and start on time. As you putt, adjust the metronome to fit YOUR personal tempo. Once you find it, lock it in with practice. I like to setup a reverse ladder game where you stack 5 balls out from the hole at any distance you want. Start at the close one and move out. Each of the 5 putts should have the same rhythm, but a different length stroke.

Take it to the course by finding a TWO-SYLLABLE word that you can say to your beat. I use GOLF-TEC (shameless plug, I know). Start on GOLF, hit on TEC and do it the same every time. Once you find your rhythm, you will start leaving more putts close to the hole and stop 3 putting.

Director of Instruction GOLFTEC Westminster
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Speed Should Be Your First Thought

I think most golfers who are prevalent to three putt do so because they are usually consumed with worry about the line and do not think enough about the speed. Speed should always be the first thought and the last thought when putting. I often ask the golfer who says he is not a good putter what is most important and 60+ percent will say reading the line of the putt. I think speed is by far the most important because the speed also influences the line of the putt.

I know many great putters who are not good readers of the green, but they are always around the hole when they miss a putt and have an easy second putt. Learn to think about the speed and develop a feel for the speed and three putts will be much less frequent and your overall score/handicaps will drop!

Mattawang Golf Club
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Big Muscle Stroke for better putting

First of all work on your iron and wedge game, the closer you are to the hole will improve your putting stats!! Related to your putting stroke, feel your chest and shoulders making the stroke as opposed to your hands. My fellow instructors who teach better players tell me that putting is in your hands but that’s feel and most normal players don’t have as much feel. Lastly try different grips and see if one gives you better touch and distance control and if you find something ride it until it no longer works and then try something different.

Remember putting is so individual, no matter what you do, if it works don’t change anything and good luck with the most mental part of the greatest game on earth!!

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Focus on the correct line

Make the second putt!

Seriously, the key to eliminating to 3 putts is to focus on the speed of the putt so you can hit it the right distance. Too many golfers focus on the line of the putt to the hole when one should be focusing on a line that is even with the hole, speed will always dictate how much the putt will break.

So to help judge the distance, make one practice stroke that is way too hard for the distance, then one that is too short and then one that is between them. When you practice, focus on hitting long putts and ones within 4-5 feet of the hole

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3 steps to better putting

1. Get advice from a PGA Professional regarding your putting technique
2. Practice distance drills. Never putt from the same place twice. Vary uphill and downhill often. Take a rehearsal stroke while looking at the target to FEEL the energy needed for proper distance
3. Create some putting drills with measurable goals that put pressure on your performance. This will simulate the golf course better

DragonRidge Country Club
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3 Putting

I went to a seminar a few years ago and one of the topics was Putting. They did a statistical breakdown which I thought was very enlightening.

To summarize it they suggested that people should practice two lengths of putts. Long putts, 25 to 30 feet and short putts 3 to 5 feet.

Based on their data of approach shots into the green, most peoples first putts are not in the 10 to 20 foot range.

So with the understanding that most people do not practice putting much, this can help to narrow their scope before a round or if they do get a chance to practice it can maximize their time.

Flagler Golf Academy
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Distance Control is the Key

Lag putting and distance control are the best way to cut down three putts. If you are leaving yourself outside of 3 feet for your 2nd putt odds are not in your favor of 2 putting. I would work on grouping balls from 20-30-40 feet then work on 3-5 foot putts.

Nick Duffy Golf
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90% mental the other half is physical

Like the great Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental the other half is physical.” I couldn’t agree more with regards to putting. So how do you fix the mental aspect? Get fit for a putter. Putter fittings often get overlooked and its the club you use the most. Loft and lie can make a huge difference with a putter. When you have a piece of equipment that fits you it is much easier to trust. So now that you have bought yourself a game I am a firm believer in quality over quantity.

I have been fortunate enough to attend 2 clinics with Dave and Ron Stockton. There is a lot to be said for picking a line trusting it and letting it go. I strongly feel like most players put way too much into a putting stroke. I love the thought of less is more, especially when it comes to putting!

Canyon Springs Golf Course
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Several Proven Methods

There are several proven methods for eliminating 3 putts.

The first one I want to talk about is developing feel and distance control from much practice and trial and error. Most people who often three putt are usually lacking in this area and need to especially practice on the practice putting green before their round for about an hour.

The second way to quickly avoid three putts is to take every putt seriously, especially short ones. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people miss short putts by taking them for granted and rushing the putt. Three foot putts are called knee knockers for a reason! You should always follow a system when you address a golf ball and be consistent, as the system I’ve devised for my students (which applied to any time you hit a golf ball) is 1) Pick your spot 2) See the shot 3) Pre shot routine. This is a great system and when executed properly helps you really dial in your game.

Come see me for a lesson (800-506-9849) to learn more about how my system works.

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Get your first putt closer!

Work on two areas when you putt. 20-40 foot putts, getting those within a 3 foot circle and then work on 6 feet and in. Become great in short putts and long putts.

Don’t worry so much about the 10-20 footers they will be fine. The key to not 3 putting is distance control with your long putts… solid contact, good tempo and a long enough back stroke. Then focus your practice on 6 feet and in from all angles of the hole.

Also mentally treat all outta the same don’t out more pressure on those short ones and be loose on the long ones. Have a consistent routine and you will make many and miss some but it will all even out.

Lastly believe you are a great putter!!

Director of Instruction, Berkeley Hall Club
"Get your first putt closer!" @kristadunton Click to Tweet

Trust your speed

Speed control may be the first and most important element in being a good putter. Good putters are usually good at judging speed. And some great putters were just born that way. If you were not blessed with that skillset, here is a simple drill to help you develop speed control.

On the practice green, set up two aiming sticks parallel on either side of the hole. Start with a one foot putt between the sticks, you know, the one to win the US Open. Close your eyes and be mindful of your grip pressure (feel) while continuing to make those short putts. As you “master” this skillset, lengthen the putts in one foot increments. Make the putter feel light in your hands by softening your hands and by lightly gripping the putter. Remember, the putter weighs nothing if you let the putter head rest on the ground as you apply your hands to your grip. Your feel will improve and and your tempo will slow down, giving you the “putting feel”, turning 3 putts into sinking putts.

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Get the gimme range

Three putts are one of two problems. Either you don’t lag putt well or you have the”yips”.
Both can be controlled from over thinking and negative vibes.
Try one drill for both problems. Once you have aligned your stance and the putter face to your intended launch line, look at the hole instead of the ball, then stroke it. This is a great practice drill, at the least. Jordan Spieth even used it last year in competition. You feel the distance and quit watching the blade while in motion.

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Simple - Stroke a Great 1st Putt

All 3-putts, ALL, are created by a poor first putt. In 99% of the cases of a first putt being poor is directly related to controlling the distance a putt travels.

Want to avoid 3 putting, learn to control your distances!

Contact me directly to learn how you can eliminate 3-putting.

John Hughes Golf
"Simple - Stroke a Great 1st Putt" @johnhughesgolf Click to Tweet

Nothing worse than a 3 putt!!!

The golfer must have desire, discipline and dedication to practice putting…30 footer and in…30 minutes a day…That should do the trick!?

"Nothing worse than a 3 putt!!!" Click to Tweet

Speed not line..

Very simple…make sure the last thought is speed..most amateurs leave their putts short..for that matter, they leave most shots short..picture a 2 foot circle behind the hole and get the ball in the circle. Amateurs focus on line and forget speed. Pros focus on the speed to determine the line.

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Play the ladder game

Play the ladder game until you hole 100 feet of putts.

Ladder Game – Put golf balls 10, 20, 30, 40 feet from the hole. Downhill first then uphill.

You must 2 putt or better to move to a longer distance. If you 3 putt you must return to the 10 foot putt.


Timarron Country Club
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Speed first line second

In order to improve your chances of reducing 3-putts or worse, you have to figure out the speed it takes to get the ball to or just past the hole. Once you figure out the speed, then your line can be chosen based on speed. I see far too many players that fall in love with the line and never get the speed right. They are either short or long on their misses. Jerry Tucker gave me this advice when I picked his brain a few years ago at a tournament. I also read his book, Symmetrical Golf. It is loaded with awesome information on the short game and putting.

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Choose Your Poison

Fast, severely sloped greens create three putts. Assuming your stroke is decent, try to minimize your 3-putts with a realistic strategy for any specific putt. What I mean is this: You are unlikely to 3-putt from 15 feet, (in fact, your 50% sink distance is probably only about 5 feet), but you are also unlikely to sink it. So putt for distance control. But from 50 feet, you are very likely to three putt, and will likely be a bit off line. While you hope to get as close as you can, trying too hard, and being mostly successful can result in a very bad “leave”–a four footer on the wrong side of the hole. You must take into account that leaving yourself with a ten foot uphill putt is preferable to a sidehill 4 footer. So don’t be afraid to make a mistake with your distance to err on the best side of the hole.

Moses Lake Golf Club
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Keys to solid putting

In general, practicing the three basic skills of putting will help minimize the number of three-putts, but even the best will have to deal with this reality of the game. Three putts happen!

Practice the things that matter on the greens. There are three basic skills.

First, learn to line up square and be aware of your clubface angle. Do this by hitting short putts with alignment sticks. Make ten in a row from three feet to stat every day.

Next, learn to develop a feel for distance and confidence in your distance control. There are a number of drills available that will help you in this area. For example, my favorite is our number one exercise in Blind and disabled golf. We hit progressively longer putts, without a target, simply by constantly increasing the length of the swing, focusing on distance only. (go to oldeschoolgolfschool instagram for the all-time best 1-minute distance control putting drill in golf)

Next, learn to read greens. Use common sense. Be aware that most greens slope from back to front. Meaning everything behind the hole will be quick, anything to the right will turn left, and putts from the left should go right. Also, watch chips and putts from all players in your group until the ball stops. Learn from experience!!! Have a plan before you hit your putts.

Ultimately, becoming a better putter through good practice sessions is the only answer!! It takes time and effort to learn to putt well.

Olde School Golf School
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Play More Break

There’s a reason many use the phrase “missed on the Amateur side”, or the low side of the hole. It’s been done so often it’s become a norm in our lexicon.

When you miss on the “low” side of the hole, the ball is running away from the hole, meaning it will come to rest further from the hole. If a player plays more break, at least when it slows down, it’s moving toward the hole, and will rest closer to the hole.

You can still miss short or long, but having the ball finish short and in front of the hole, or long and directly behind the hole, if a far less penal mistake than short and wide or long and wide.

Next time you practice, try and hit a breaking putt twice, both with the identical speed: the first, aim at the hole and see where the ball comes to rest. The second, double the break, hit it the same speed, and see where that ball comes to rest. I think you’ll find your second putts much more manageable around the hole.

Lebanon Country Club
"Play More Break" @LCCGolfPro Click to Tweet

Reduce 3 Putt Frequency

The key to reducing the number of 3 putts is really quite simple. Too many golfers are paralyzed by fear of controlling the line, when distance control is by far the most important. Making putts boils down to three components. Reading the break, hitting it on the correct line, and also the right distance.

Knowing that your percentage of made putts almost double when going from 6′ to 3′, think about the last time you missed a putt left or right of target by more than 3′? Doesn’t happen often, But how many times have you missed a putt long or short by more than 3′? Much more often. So clearly distance control is far more important with respects to leaving a manageable second putt.

Now when you factor in that mechanics is the driving factor behind accuracy of putts, and length and pace of stroke is the driving factor of distance control, it is important to find a drill that focuses on controlling distance, rather than getting hung up on the mechanics. There are many drills for this.

1) Try putting longer putts looking at the hole. When you throw a baseball, you don’t watch the movement of the arm? You look at your target and gauge how far away he is. This will help you focus more on the length and pace of the stroke, versus the mechanics.
2) Try putting to the collar of the green, rather than a cup, with the goal being to stop the ball on the mowing cut line, rather than a target.
3) Set up a tee behind the putter on a specific length putt. Try to mimic the same length and pace so that all those putts travel the same distance. This will ensure that you perfect and can repeat the same length and pace for a specific distance putt.

PGA General Manager - Gamble Sands
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Distance control!

In my world of teaching kids golf, I can say without a doubt that, a new golfers first big leap in scoring is when they stop 5 & 6 putting and begin 2 & 3 putting. This occurs when they figure out how to hit the first putt close to the correct distance.

The two problems we have to solve in putting are distance and direction. Direction is pretty easy because the stroke is short enough to keep the face more or less square to the path. The difficult part is getting the distance close enough to get the ball in the can’t miss range. What I mean by that is that the best players in the world are 99% from 2 feet but, 50% from 8 feet and only 14% from 20 feet. So, I teach/preach “let’s get really good at making the short ones and make the long ones into short ones.”

The approach that seems to work the best is to pretend every putt is straight and flat but pick a target that makes sense. I teach our young players to simply stand behind their ball and feel the slope with their feet, then pick a target that makes sense, (if you feel the slope between you and the hole is down hill and sloping to the right, then your target will be short and left of the hole) then aim their train at that target (the ball rolls down one rail and we stand on the other) then take one last look at the target we picked and putt without delay to that target.

The goal is to create a nice scatter pattern around the hole within about 2 feet. If you get good at this then you’ll make your fair share of the long ones and leave yourself with little work for your two putt.

Senior Director, Academy Development U.S. Kids Golf, Longleaf Golf & Family Club
"Distance control!" @CoachJim_USKGA Click to Tweet

Never 3-Putt Again

Need help with eliminating those nasty 3-Putts? This quick tip will help you immediately reduce putts per round by helping you with your speed control. You’ll need five golf balls, a putter, and a surface to putt on.

Line up to your first golf ball, and don’t take any aim. Don’t even aim at a target, just putt. It doesn’t matter the length of the putt on your first putt, but where did it go? Did it go 15 feet, 20 fee, or 30 feet. Now, on your second putt, hit it half the distance. For instance, if your first golf ball went 30 feet, make the second putt stop at 15 feet. With your third ball, hit it half the distance of your second putt. In this case, about 7-8 feet. Now make the fourth ball land half that distance – 4 feet. Guess where the fifth ball is going to stop? You guessed it; 2 feet.

Now can you do it in reverse? Hit the first golf ball 2 feet, and exponentially increase your distances. This will allow you to garner distance control and eliminate those nasty 3-putts. Have fun, play well, and enjoy yourself on the golf course!

Lastly, if you need a quick tune-up, please visit www.SwingEssentials.com for a free lesson.

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PGA Golf Pro
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3 steps to better putting

1. Get advice from a PGA Professional regarding your putting technique
2. Practice distance drills. Never putt from the same place twice. Vary uphill and downhill often. Take a rehearsal stroke while looking at the target to FEEL the energy needed for proper distance
3. Create some putting drills with measurable goals that put pressure on your performance. This will simulate the golf course better

DragonRidge Country Club
"3 steps to better putting" Click to Tweet

The Professionals in this Roundup

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