Elements of Practice: Common Putts

The most common first putt: 20-foot putt drill

  • The 20-foot putt is the most common 1st-putt distance golfers face throughout their careers.
  • “Years of experiments have shown us that the optimum speed for making putts is one that would, if the hole were covered or missed, roll the ball 17 inches past the back edge.” — Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible.
  • “Developing a “reference 20-foot putt stroke” is something you can take from course to course. You can learn your 20-foot reference stroke in your own backyard.” — Dave Pelz.
  • This Element of Practice requires placement of two putting cups at a distance of 20-feet apart. This Element of Practice allows you to practice back-and-forth and get very good at the “most common putt length” any golfer will face. Based on your design, the 20-foot putt can traverse any slope or other feature of the green, but the cups must be 20-feet apart.

Game Set-up:

The 20-foot putt is a shot that is not “expected” to be made, but you definitely have a chance to make it every time you putt. As with all putts, you want to train yourself to get the ball past the hole, because leaving putts short means eliminating any chance of making them. And the optimum speed for rolling putts is the speed that carries the ball 17-inches past the hole (if it misses). There is no set-up required for the 20-foot putt drill — just use cups that have been set 20 feet apart.

image of most common putts in golf

Now Putt:

Start your 20-foot putt drill with three golf balls and two holes 20-feet apart. Begin by putting all three balls from beside one cup to the other cup 20-feet away. After each putt, judge the ball you just rolled for speed: did you give it enough speed to get into the “Safe-zone”, or not?

The Safe-zone is defined as a half-circle with a 34-inch radius from the back edge of the golf hole (about one putter length when putter head is placed down into hole). Try to putt all three balls into the safe-zone. If all 3 balls roll into the safe-zone, then go to the hole and putt back to the first cup. Your Goal for this game is to putt 10-in-a-row (3+3+3+1) into the safe-zone.

As soon as you leave a putt short or roll it past too far, and you miss the safe-zone, you must start the drill over from zero. If your first 3 putts are downhill, then your second 3 will be uphill, your third 3 downhill again, and your last (10th putt) will be uphill; great practice. If you can’t finish (get 10 in a row), remember how many in-a-row you did get, and try to beat that in your next practice session.

The more you practice the 20-foot putt game, the better you will become at your most common putts on the course from 15 to 25-foot. Practicing the 20-foot game will also help you establish a 20-foot reference stroke. This is a great reference for you to become familiar with – and as you proceed to different golf courses with different green speeds, repeat the 20-foot putt game on the practice green before you play and your touch will be improved.

image of common putts distance
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