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October 16 2013

9:37 AM

On the Mark: Better lag putting

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Jimmy Walker led the field in Strokes Gained-Putting last week.

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

In a first for the PGA TOUR, the new season began in October in California ... instead of January in Hawaii. The picturesque CordeValle Golf Club played host to 132 PGA TOUR members in search of the title and a soaring start to the race for the FedExCup.

Jimmy Walker had threatened in many an event in the past, but had yet to find his way into the winner’s enclosure on the PGA TOUR. Well, all of the hard work and sacrifice led to Walker being dynamite, as he shot a final round 66 to win by two. It was enough to overtake Brooks Koepka and the rest of the title contenders for his first title.

Jimmy has always been a beautiful swinger and a clean ball-striker. His swing, in my opinion, is one of the better actions on the TOUR and I would highly recommend that any golfer watch and emulate elements of his wide and powerful move. The shot, however, that I would like to highlight is a long putt that he hit on the last green.

By his own admission, Walker hit a poor approach to the final green and left himself with a sweeping, long range right-to-lefter that had to climb a ledge in the middle of the putt before it ran downhill toward the cup. With two putts to win the title, Jimmy made a crisp stroke, good contact and rolled the ball to just a few feet beyond the hole. The effort left him close enough to clean up for par and the title. It was a master class in lag putting. I love to work with golfers of all skill levels on lag putting, so it's fun foer me to list a few things Jimmy does very well:

Strike quality: A long-distance putt, as much as any other golf shot, requires a crisp strike. To ensure that you respect this principle, strive to good quality contact over anything else. In fact I would even go so far as to say that contact quality (and as a result distance) is more important than line. To ensure decent contact strive to make a putting stroke where the arc bottoms out and reaches maximum speed in the correct area. Contact can also be improved by keeping the follow-through a little lower than normal. A lower finish will alleviate the tendency to hit putts thin due to the putter swinging upwards too much through impact.

Stability: A stable body is crucial to lag putting success. You've heard the “keep your head down when putting" thing? Well, do so. Further, a simple way to stabilize your body is to adopt strong posture with the body bent from the hips/waist area. Also, carry the body weight slightly forward in the feet (over the balls of the feet) with a slightly wider stance. Then, after you have made a rhythmic swing of the arms and the putter around the stable body, hold the follow-through with your eyes on the ground where the ball was for a count of two seconds. This will just ensure that you have committed completely toward stability. It takes discipline, but it's worth it.

A good drill: A simple drill to test whether you have achieved the two listed principles is to putt a quarter. Set a quarter (any coin will do) in the area that your ball is usually located in your stance. Address it, and then swing your putter back and through. If you made a stable and decent stroke that bottomed-out in the correct area, you would strike the coin. Once you have become proficient at hitting the coin consistently, replace it with a golf ball. You will notice better contact, and as a result, better lag putts.

Good luck.
/mi

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.

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