Lag putts or run them past the Hole…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

Last week as I was reveling in the company of my foursome, the Sherpa shared with them that I wanted to solve the riddle of “the great putt debate”. 

One one hand, there exists a legion of golfers who would sever an appendage to guarantee a two putt … for purposes of this debate we will call them “lag putters”.

In the opposite corner is a large group of putters who love the quote “98% of the putts I leave short never go in”…this group will be called the “long putters”.

I was delighted when “Supa Fly” (a gifted engineer and insanely good golfer) took up the task…

Warning…he is an engineer, albeit passionate about the game.  In his detailed treatise below, he makes a compelling case.

I won’t ruin the surpise, but if you intend to putt to a hole, it helps if you reach it…

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you “Supa Fly’s” argument…


Hey Sherpa,

I did some analysis after our last conversation about one of the great debates in golf…

Should you putt short (lag put) to insure a two putt, or is scoring improved if you make a concerted effort to run every putt past the hole?

I did a lot of statistical analysis, including:

Population Variance: α²= N, i= (xi-u)² • p(xi) =n i=1 x²i • p(xi) – µ²

Binomial Probabilities –In a binomial experiment with n trials (number of putts) and probability of success p (number of one putts)…

P (x successes) = n!/x!(n-x)! Px (1-p) n-x, x=0,1,•••,n

And a “Sample Correlation Coefficient” I won’t bore you with the formula, it would take most of the page to express!

Through all this research and a mountain of statistical numbers I came to a realization….everybody is different!! 

What I mean is to say is that analysis based purely on total number of putts is futile. 

This is an essential truth, because we all have different skill levels when it comes to golf and more importantly putting.

It was at this point that I realized I was solving the wrong problem.  Instead I changed the question from “what makes you a better putter” to “what is the best way to putt”…statistically speaking.

To do that we need to simply express a Statistical Mean, with a few Variances.

                Xbar=∑n i=1 xi/n

So here we go!!!! 

To make the math work we need to pretend we are playing 27 holes.  In statistics 27 is the smallest family, thus the need  for 27 holes of golf.

 To express this we will use 4 golfers Golfer α, Golfer ×, Golfer β, and Golfer £

Golfer α (a.k.a. the lag putter) plays 27 holes of golf and two putts every green, therefore,  never three or one putts.  His putts always total 54.  This simulates the lag theory.

Golfer × (a.k.a. the long putter) plays 27 holes of golf and, he sends all putts with enough pace to get past the hole. ( we used the rule of 3 for golfer ×) 9 attempts result in a one put,  9 attempts result in a 2 putt, and 9 attempts result in a 3 putt.  Total putts for golfer ×… 54 putts.  This simulation breaks even with number of putts the “lag putter” (Golfer α) makes…sadly no gain..

Golfer β (a.k.a. normal variance long putter) plays 27 holes of golf and he sends all his putts with enough pace to get past the hole.   Using a simple variance he has 5 one putts, 19 two putts and two 3 putts…Total putts for Golfer β 49 putts WOW…5 strokes back baby!

Golfer £ (a.k.a. better than normal variance long putter) plays 27 holes of golf, and he sends all his putts with enough pace to get past the hole.  Using a simple variance he has 6 one putts, 18 two putts and two 3 putts… Golfer £ has 48 total putts.  Double WOW… he has improved on golfer α by 6 putts.  That is a four stroke improvement on a 18 hole round.  Who wouldn’t want to take four strokes off their game!!!! 

Bottom line these numbers tell us a lot:

·         First , without variances, lagging or putting past the hole are breakeven propositions.

·         Assuming variances exist…(and they do in nature) trust me, when you run past the hole you will sink more one and two putts as you get more comfortable with aiming your putts past the hole. 

·         With just a little success you can shave 4 strokes off your game. 


In the end, if adopt the lag strategy (i.e. don’t try to get the ball past the hole every time), sadly you will never improve your putting average..and PUTTING Past the hole should improve you score with little or no risk to your current game.

Nice Job “Supa Fly”!

Play on…
The Sherpa

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