If you want to eliminate 3-putting from your game, then you are going to have to learn how to lag putt. A lag putt is a stroke you make where your main intention is not to hole out the putt, but to get it close enough that you will have an easily make-able second attempt. About half of your lag putts are going to come up short of the hole and the other half long. This is due to your main effort being on getting the ball the exact distance to the hole, and not hitting it firmly past it to give yourself the best chance of making the putt.
When to Lag
Before trying to incorporate any of our putting tips I recommend you take the putting test to see what your baseline is. While that test covered how well you do making putts inside 20-feet, you should also monitor your ability to control the distance of your putts. Over the next 15-20 rounds that you play, keep track of the distance of your putts and if you miss, how far away from the hole your second putt is hit from. Over that time you should discover a pattern developing where your lag putting starts showing a weakness.
Without testing your current skills you can use the statistics of an average, bogey golfer. From 15 feet away from the hole you are going to make about 4% of your putts. However, you are going to 3-putt from this distance 10% of the time. Thus, if you eliminate both 1-putts and 3-putts you would come out ahead 6% of the time. I would use the 15-foot mark for when to start lagging my putts until you have proven to yourself with actual on-course statistics that you 3-putt a low percentage of the time from this distance.
Even tour pros have a cut off somewhere though, and outside of 30 feet it is extremely difficult to putt the ball into the hole, but it’s rather easy to take three tries to get it in. No matter how much practice you put in, I recommend you focus on getting the ball close and not necessarily making it for all 30+ foot putts.
So you want to improve your lag putting, what kind of practice drills should you do? I recommend that you line up tees three feet apart starting at 15 feet and stretching all the way back to 42. Around the hole I would place four tees around the hole about 3 feet from the cup, making a circle. Cycle though each distance with three balls, focusing entirely on making sure your putt is left inside of the circle around the hole. If you hit all three of the putts within 3 feet, move on to the next distance. If you fail to get one inside of 3 feet, move back to the starting point.