Todd Sones: Controlling Your Speed When Lag Putting

Phil Mickelson putted brilliantly all week at the Open Championship, but it wasn't enough to beat Henrik Stenson.
Phil Mickelson putted brilliantly all week at the Open Championship, but it wasn’t enough to beat Henrik Stenson.

The past couple of mornings, Golf Channel Academy Lead Coach Todd Sones has been on Morning Drive doing segments on a variety of topics including putter fitting and putting stroke fundamentals. Todd is a Golf Digest Top 50 and Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructor who also serves on the Golf Academy’s National Advisory Board. That’s how I know Todd. I’ve also taken a putting lesson from him.

In honor of those appearances, Todd sent out a video tip on lag putting. Since the greens were remarkably slow at the Open Championship (compared to what PGA Tour players are accustomed to) many players had trouble getting the ball to the hole. The key on slower greens, which is the same thing as lag putting, is a longer backstroke, not trying to hit the ball harder.

I’ve transcribed the following video in addition to posting the actual clip because it’s only available for about a week. Of course, you can always gain access to this tip and others simply by becoming an Impact Golf Member at

One of the things Todd and his coaches do at their Advanced Short Game school is to have players work on their lag putting. They set up a drill from 30, 40, and 50 feet to target circles. What they find when they have players do the putt, and it’s a very important putt because most players are putting from somewhere between 20 and 50 feet when they hit the green in regulation, is that they get their power from their forward stroke.

Lag putting is really important. Todd and his coaches have a saying, “Get your power from your backstroke in your lag putting.”

Most players, when they face a longer putt of 30-plus feet take a backstroke that’s too short. Their brain tells them they don’t have enough power, so they try to hit the ball too hard. They get their power from their forward stroke so it’s very forced. Short backstroke. Follow through too long.

Stenson had just 27 putts in the final round of the Open Championship en route to a 63.
Stenson had just 27 putts (10 birdies) in the final round en route to a 63.

A lot of times, such a follow through forces a player’s body out of the putt. When Todd and his coaches say “get your power from your backstroke,” what they’re saying is to allow the putter to go back far enough. When the putter goes back, it also goes up. That’s important because gravity is your friend in lag putting. When the putter head comes back down, it accelerates, just like a tree falling to the ground.

Gravity accelerates the putter head. If you take it back far enough, you get your energy from your backstroke naturally, without having to add excess energy to it. Then your stroke starts to balance out. When you have a longer putt, make a practice stroke further than you think it needs to be just to get a sense of the weight of the putter head as it falls toward the golf ball. The putting stroke starts to equal out.

A good lag putting stroke looks equal on both sides of the stroke (on the backstroke and the forward stroke). Get your power from your backstroke, and you’ll become a much better lag putter.


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