How To Improve Distance Control On The Greens

Distance control is arguably the most important part of putting. Yes, the correct line is important but without good speed, holing a putt will be impossible even if you hit the putt on the perfect line. Beginners and high handicappers in particular tend to struggle with distance control on the greens. With that being said good distance control will make a massive difference to your overall putting performance. 

Below we are going to take a closer look at the importance of distance control on the greens and we are also going to unpack some of the best putting drills for distance control. After reading this you will be equipped with all of the necessary information to take your putting to new heights, all that remains is for you to spend some time on the practice green before your next round. 

The Importance of Distance Control 

Distance control is key when putting. More often than not most golfers focus so much on the line of a putt but they forget about speed. Without good speed that matches the line, you chose, holding putts will be impossible. 

When you choose a line knowing what speed you are going to putt the ball at will change the line. If the putt is uphill and you plan on hitting it firmly, less break will be calculated for. If your intended speed is to die the ball into the hole you need to allow for more break. This is normally the case with slick downhill putts.  

Green Reading and Speed 

Success on the greens requires the ability to read the greens and to know how hard to hit the putt to match the line that you have chosen. Green reading takes practice, the more you do it the better you will become at it. 

Being observant is one of the most important things to remember when it comes to green reading. Take a look at your surroundings as you walk up to the green, pay attention to your playing partners when they putt, how their ball rolls might give you a good indication about how much your putt is going to break. 

If you are unsure about how and how much a putt is going to break think about the water bottle analogy. If you had to pour water onto the grass where your golf ball is lying in the green, which direction will the water run in and how fast will the water run in that direction? This is exactly what will happen to your golf ball when you putt it. 

In terms of speed, slope is the main factor that determines the speed of a putt. In addition to a putt being either uphill or downhill green speed, grain and weather conditions also influence green speed. Slick fast greens will be a lot faster than slow greens early in the morning with moisture on them from the night before. Wind can also have an impact on green speed, but it has to be a fairly strong wind before you have to consider it when putting. 

Best Distance Control Putting Drills

Reverse Ladder Speed Drill

The reverse ladder speed drill is a great drill for distance control. All you need to do this drill is 5 tees and 8 golf balls. Pick a spot on the practice green where you won’t be in the way of any other golfers that are practicing. Stick 1 tee in the ground and drop the balls next to this tee. With the 4 other tees in hand take 5 big steps in any direction away from the tee and place another tee in the ground. In the same direction place, the other 3 tees in the green with each tee 2 steps ways from the previous one. 

With the drill setup, you are ready to begin. Use your putter and start by putting 1 ball to the first tee followed by one to the second, third and fourth. Once you reach the fourth tee follow the same sequence back to the first tee. The goal is to get all 8 golf balls within a grip length of the 4 respective tees. As soon as 1 ball finishes outside of a grip length, start from the beginning. If this is too difficult at first adjust the distance to 2 or 3 feet, decreasing it incrementally as your speed control improves. 

2 Putt Drill

The 2 putt speed drill is a very simple drill but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t effective. This easy-to-do drill is exactly what the name suggests. Take two golf balls and pick two holes on the practice green that are at least 20 feet apart. Putt both golf balls to the first hole putting both balls out. If you either 1 or 2 putted both holes do the same but in the opposite direction back to the hole where you started. 

Continue to do this until you have 10 2 putts in a row, if you 3 putt before reaching 10 you have to start from the beginning. Over time if this becomes too easy change the target to 15 or even 20 2 putts in a row. Another way to increase the difficulty of this drill is to choose two holes that are further away from each other or putts that have slope and undulation to contend with. 

As you move closer to reaching your target your nerves are set to kick in, this is one of the reasons why this simple drill is so effective. Controlling your speed is tricky when you are nervous, and added tension in your hands normally appears on the greens first. In addition to practicing your speed, this drill allows you to work on your mental game simultaneously. 

Ladder Drill

The ladder drill is one of the most widely used speed control drills in the game of golf. This drill has been around for many years and golfers that are serious about improving their putting will continue to use this drill for many years to come. For this drill, you will need 4 tees and a club or alignment stick. Place the club or alignment stick about 3 feet behind the hole, on the other side of the hole keep the hole directly in line with you and the club place the first tee in the ground about 8 – 10 feet away from the hole. Place the remaining tees into the ground to form a ladder between the tees with the tees at least 3 – 5 feet apart. 

With the tees in place a ball next to each tee. Start at the first tee and putt the ball at the hole, if the ball finishes up in the hole pr past the hole but short of the club/alignment stick on the ground move on to the next tee with the goal of completing all 4 putts in a row. If at any point your ball ends up short of the hole or past the stick/club on the ground, start the drill again from the beginning. 

Increase the difficulty of this drill by moving the stick closer to the hole or by setting the tees up further away from the hole. Additionally increasing your target number will also increase the difficulty of the drill. 

To learn more about how to improve your putting read our How To Putt A Golf Ball article 

Final Thoughts 

The importance of speed can’t be overemphasized when we talk about putting and how to improve your putting stats. Without good speed, holding putts will be a difficult task. 

Improving your distance control on the greens requires practice, most beginners and high handicappers would rather hit balls on the range instead of spending time on the practice green, but if you are serious about improving you’re putting your practice habits will have to change. In addition to spending time on the practice green make sure that it’s quality time. Instead of putting merely for the sake of putting, do some speed drills to improve the quality of your practice. 

This article was last updated on November 23, 2021 .

Bertine Strauss
Written by
Bertine Strauss
The Golf Blog