Should you ever leave a putt short?

Lou Stagner's Newsletter #5

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Should You Ever Leave a Putt Short?

  • Never up never in!

  • You gotta get that there!

  • You can't leave that one short!

We've all heard each one of these. Shoot, we've all probably said them a time or two. I know I have. But is it accurate? Helpful? Is it a strategy you should follow?

Today I am going to give you guidelines on a critical component of putting: Speed control. As a general rule:

  • Get all short putts to the hole

  • The farther you are from the hole, the more you should leave short

  • There is a distance where leaving 50% short will be optimal

Let's look at numbers for tour pros. After that, I'll provide guidelines you can apply to your game. The chart below shows percent of putts they get to the hole from different distances.

  • From 20-feet: 76% get to the hole (24% short)

  • From 30-feet: 62% get to the hole (38% short)

The numbers above surprise a lot of people. Especially the numbers for mid and long range putts. I know this is obvious, but the closer you are to the hole, the better chance you have to make the putt. This means you need to get a higher percent of putts to the hole. But as you get farther from the hole, you need to start leaving more putts short. The longer the putt, the tougher it is to have precise speed. This is why you need to start leaving more short. We won't make as many putts the longer we are from the hole, so we need our pattern to start being centered at the hole. For tour pros, from 30-feet, 80% of putts finish between 31 inches short of the hole, and 48 inches past. Said another way, 80% of putts finish within a window that is 6 feet 7 inch long. From 30-feet if every putt got to the hole, they would make about the same number of putts, but they would three-putt more. I ran an analysis on their dispersion from 30 feet and currently it is close to optimal.But.... if you wanted to optimize their pattern from 30-feet, you would shift it 4 inches shorter. Yep - that's right. As a group they would perform better if every putt had 4-inches less pace on it.As we get farther from the hole, it becomes less about making it, and more about not three-putting.

So What Does This Mean For You?

First, let's tackle what your 50/50 distance should be. To be clear, from this distance (or longer) 50% of your putts should finish short of the hole. 50/50 distance:

  • 0 index: ~42 feet

  • 5 index: ~35 feet

  • 10 index: ~28 feet

  • 15 index: ~23 feet

  • 20 index: ~20 feet

When we are close to the hole, we need to get more putts to the hole. From 10-feet tour pros get ~95% of their putts to the hole. 95% distance:

  • 0 index: ~9.5 feet

  • 5 index: ~9.0 feet

  • 10 index: ~8.5 feet

  • 15 index: ~8.0 feet

  • 20 index: ~7.5 feet

As you go from your 95% distance towards your 50/50 distance, you should gradually start to leave more putts short of the hole.

Good speed control is NOT about getting every putt to the hole. If you are doing that, your putting is not optimized. Thanks again for reading and have a great week!

— Lou

PS - I had a ton of conflicts the past few weeks, but those are all out of the way now and the newsletter will be back on track. You might even see two newsletters per week for the next few weeks!