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Improve Your Putting Distance Control

Putting Distance Control (14)


Distance control is the most important thing in putting – it’s the key to avoiding 3 putts and making stress-free pars – but most people have no plan for how to do it.  “I’ll just hit this a little harder” doesn’t work.  In this lesson, I’ll help you to dial in your distance control by controlling the length of your stroke.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You average more than one 3-putt per round

Long putts make you nervous

You’d rather chip than putt

Putting Distance Control (1)Putting Distance Control (2)

The Lesson

To master distance control, you need to match the length of your stroke to the length of the putt.  Of course, you won’t have a unique stroke length for every single distance, but you will need a few distinct strokes to build your putting around.

Let me offer myself as an example: I have 3 fixed stroke lengths.  The checkpoints for my stroke are bringing the putter face in line with my right instep, the outside of my right foot, and about two inches outside my right shoe.  On greens of average speed, these strokes equate to hitting the ball 5, 10, and 15 paces, approximately.  If I have a putt that’s 8 paces, I just make a stroke somewhere in between the inside and outside of my right foot.

Do you have to use your feet as landmarks?  Of course not.  If you want to think about making a one-inch back swing and a three-inch back swing, that’s fine with me.  The key is being consistent and developing a feel for each stroke.

In addition to keeping the length of the back swing the same, you will need to maintain the same speed and rhythm to your putting stroke.  If you take the putter back the same distance, but sometimes you tap it and sometimes you smash it, you won’t have much consistency.  That’s where the drill below comes in.

Putting Distance Control (7)Putting Distance Control (5)

The Drill

Start by setting up a tee behind the ball, just beyond the length of your back swing.  Then set up a tee gate just beyond the length of your follow through.  Work on making a stroke that doesn’t touch the tee behind or the tees in front while still putting the ball through the tee gate.

There are three things that you’re accomplishing with this drill: 1) You’re ingraining the feel of this stroke length.  2) By putting through a tee gate, you’re ensuring that you’re starting the ball on line.  3) You’re checking the speed and rhythm of your stroke by watching how far each putt rolls.  Ideally, each putt should go about the same distance.  If some putts go 5 feet and others go 50 feet, you need to work on creating a consistent tempo.  My favorite training aid for building consistent tempo is Tour Tempo.

Putting Distance Control (13)

Bonus Tip: If you want to use your feet as your landmarks like I do, it’s going to be critical that the width of your stance is consistent.  Taking your putter back to the inside of your right foot is only good if your right foot is in the same place every time!  To help with this, you can use electrical tape to mark an alignment rod with the correct placement for your feet and ball position.  Use this alignment stick whenever you practice, even when you’re carpet putting at home, and your stance will be much more consistent.


I hope this helps you create a blueprint for mastering your own distance control.  As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below.  If you have any ideas or requests for future lessons, please post those, too.

Matt Saternus
Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

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  1. Hi Matt,

    Great tip. I’ve dedicated a lot more time to practicing the putting stroke and ensuring that I give as much time to it before a round. It is amazing how much a confident attitude when it comes to putting saves your round. It doesn’t matter how far from the pin I am, I know I can safely 2-putt.

    And 2-putting is the first step on my journey to consistenly beat 90. Great articles, by the way. Please keep ’em coming.

  2. I break 80 sometimes and shoot a little over 80 other times and seem 3 putt 3-7 times on average. I’m going to start doing this drill diligently.

    Simple yet genius.

  3. Bob Merrill

    Tried the “Bonus tip” today and found it really helpful. Since I don’t do any tournament play, I plan to keep the alignment rod in the bag and use it to warm up for rounds going forward.

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