You've seen them. PGA and LPGA tour players plumb-bobbing and AimPointing around the green, trying to read the right amount of break in each putt down to the smallest fraction.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to know the right read, but most amateur players get so caught up in trying to figure out the break that they don't spend much time at all working on the speed the putt should have.
And that, says Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Dave Stockton, is a costly mistake. Pick the wrong speed on a 20-footer, and you could have a five-footer left. Get the speed right and you could make a huge mistake in your read and have a foot and a half to the hole.
"If you start rolling the ball the right speed, you're going to leave yourself much easier putts if you happen to miss," says Stockton, who works with Patrick Reed and Jhonhattan Vegas, among other players. "Seeing the ball end up near the hole--even if you don't have the exact right read--is going to improve your confidence. And when your confidence improves, you're going putt better."
To work on speed, stick a tee in the practice green about two feet behind the hole. Start with 15-footers and roll practice balls with one goal: Get the ball to the hole, but don't hit it beyond the tee behind the hole. When you can consistently roll the ball in the space between the hole and the tee, work on the same drill from a different distance. "The drill isn't about making putts," says Stockton. "It's about working on speed, and understanding how your stroke connects to the distance you see."
When you have better feel for distance, your three-putts will go virtually extinct.