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Amen Corner: Need Lag Putting Assistance? Mini-Golf Is a Good Place to Start

  • Practice lag putts on a mini-golf course to get a feel for rolling your golf ball when it's a long way from the hole.<br/>Courtesy photograph

    Practice lag putts on a mini-golf course to get a feel for rolling your golf ball when it's a long way from the hole.
    Courtesy photograph

  • Practice lag putts on a mini-golf course to get a feel for rolling your golf ball when it's a long way from the hole.<br/>Courtesy photograph
Peter Harris

Peter Harris

How is your lag putting?

It comes in handy when you’re on the green and a million miles from the hole and are forced to putt the golf ball when you’re not sure how hard to hit it. You need to hit it hard but you’re afraid to hit it too far past the hole and, at the same time, you’re scared you won’t hit it hard enough and leave yourself short facing another doozy.

It reminds me of a good, fun and challenging mini-golf adventure.

Lag putting takes a little practice, like everything else in golf. If you don’t have time to practice, at least give yourself the 10 minutes before a round to practice some long putts on the practice green.

First of all, you have to pick a side that you’re on — no waffling. Are you the type that is afraid of hitting it too far past the hole? Or, are you the type that is afraid you will leave the putt short of the hole no matter how hard you hit it?

If you’re either type, it’s really the wrong mindset as you’re telling yourself what not to do instead of focusing on what you want to do. You want to establish feel and hit a solid putt that gives you a decent chance of making the next one.

However, we are humans and we think like we think, so you still need to decide: Do I hit it too short or too long?

If you’re afraid of hitting it short, you most likely have a shorter backswing and, right before impact, you add a blast of acceleration through impact, sending the ball speeding right past the hole. This player needs to focus on lengthening the backswing, use the same energy as their normal stroke and make sure of getting to impact with no extra hand and wrist action, keeping your lead wrist flat to ensure a solid putt.

If you’re afraid of hitting it long, you most likely take a pretty good backswing and then slow the club head down before it reaches the ball to ensure you don’t blast it by the hole. It’s a classic deceleration move that reeks of caution. This player needs to control the pace and length of the backswing to set up the ability to accelerate the club through impact. Think low and slow.

So pick a side and go to the practice green. Forget about the hole and just practice putts from one end of the practice green to the other, trying to get the ball to land just short of or just on the fringe.

Practice these putts in both directions so account for varying slopes. And while you are on the golf course, practice walking the entire distance from your ball to the hole so you get to see the distance and varying slopes your ball will face.

Just looking at the line from behind the ball to the pin won’t cut it with these long ones. Walk it and see it to believe it.

Long-distance putting can be tricky and may feel like mini-golf sometimes. Just like mini-golf, though, keep it fun, soak in the views and enjoy the ride.

Peter Harris is director of golf at the Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon.