We often hear the phrase ‘never up, never in’ but is the most effective strategy always to hit your putts past the hole?
We all want to know how to be a better putter, so what is the most effective way to reduce the amount of putts you have out on the golf course. We took a look at the Shot Scope data to find out.
What does good putting look like?
A big part of learning how to putt better is knowing what good putting actually looks like. A scratch golfer single putts 31% of the time, and two putts 61% of the time. They are gaining shots on the field by having very few three-putts. For the majority of golfers, working on your distance control and reducing three-putts would help their putting more than having a few more single putts.
Although we would love to hole every putt we look at, sometimes picking the right miss, or leaving the ball in the right place for the next shot is a better strategy than getting every putt past the hole. This will leave you shorter putts for your second and helps take out those dreaded three putts.
Here is a good drill to try. Go 30-40ft from the hole and drop five balls down. Hit each ball, making sure every ball finishes past the hole. Once you have done this repeat the exercise again but just try to hit each putt as near to the hole as possible. Which set of golf balls finish closer to the hole and give you the best chance of two putting?
So what is the optimal distance we should be hitting each putt past the hole, or is there even one? There are a few variables to keep in mind here.
Average putt length holed
If we dive into the ShotScope stats, the average length of a putt holed for a 15-handicap golfer is 4 feet. That means, as a mid-handicapper, if you leave the ball more than 4 feet from the hole, you are more likely to miss than hole the putt.
Suddenly ramming your putt 6 feet past to give your first putt ‘a look’ doesn’t seem like such a good idea, does it? It also shows you how crucial it is to practice your short putts so you can try to increase the length of your average putt holed.
How To Putt Better: Work on Capture Speed
Getting the ball to finish past the hole requires the ball to be travelling at a set speed as it passes the hole.
Dave Pelz famously told golfers the optimal distance to hit the ball past the hole was 17 inches which is just under 1.5 feet. You can see from the Aimpoint graph below this nearly halves the size of the hole, leaving you just 2.25 inches of the hole that will capture the putt.
The reason for this is a golf ball needs 0.066 seconds to fall the 0.84 inches to the bottom of the cup. If a putt is rolling slowly over the edge of the hole it will be over the cup long enough to drop. Add some more speed, and the ball will lip out or roll straight over the hole instead.
By hitting the ball 1.5 feet past the hole, your startline needs to be twice as accurate to hole the putt. Now you wouldn’t optionally play with a hole half the size, so why are you making it smaller by rolling the ball with too much speed?
If you are hitting your putt five feet past the hole, the effective hole size is 0.5 inches. That is less than a third of the diameter of a golf ball and makes it almost impossible to hole a putt.
If you want to improve your putting, you need to need to be getting the ball to be rolling as slowly as possible when it hits the hole. This in effect, makes the hole as big as possible, making the ball more likely to drop in. It also means you should have an easy tap-in and not have to worry about the putt coming back.
Do the Ryder Cup captains actually matter?