In golf, your instincts can get you into trouble. A good example is when you have a long putt. The tendency is to think you have to hit the ball harder than normal. That mind-set leads to a short backstroke and a fast flick on the downstroke. The result is usually poor contact—and a putt that never gets to the hole.
A better technique is to lengthen your backstroke but keep the pace of the motion the same. That produces more energy at impact—the longer stroke gives you smooth acceleration—and a better chance of catching the ball flush. It's just like trying to get more distance on a full shot: Hitting the ball in the middle of the clubface is the best thing you can do to transfer energy into the ball. And the best way to lose energy? You guessed it—make a wild swing and mis-hit the shot.
To become a good lag putter, you might have to reconsider the way you think about the stroke. If you believe you should lock your arms and hands and simply rock your shoulders, you're going to struggle from long distance. Lag putts require some play in the elbows and wrists. I'm not saying you should purposely hinge them, but you should let them react naturally to the motion. Lock those joints, and you can only make so much swing.
So get into your setup with a nice light grip, and maintain that pressure throughout the stroke. That will let you keep some softness in your hands and arms for a longer motion that has more momentum—and more power. Your lead wrist will naturally have a little cup or backward bend in it at address. Feel like that wrist flattens on the backstroke (above), and then the trail wrist flattens through impact. That's how you create speed without forcing it.
“IF YOU’RE A STIFF-WRISTED PUTTER, YOU’LL STRUGGLE FROM LONG RANGE.”
PUTTING WOES? GET A NEW LOOK I've used the same putter for 20 years. I love it. The simple design and the dark finish against the white ball help me square it up. That's not to say we always get along. If your putter goes cold, do what I do: Switch to something totally different. I'll go to a big mallet head for a few rounds; for you, maybe it's a blade putter. Point is, give your brain and body a new experience. You might end up sticking with the substitute—but keep your old pal close by.
Butch Harmon is based at Rio Secco Golf Club, Henderson, Nev.