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A Putting Drill to Control Your Speed on the Greens like Cameron Smith

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Cameron Smith of Australia lines up a putt on the second green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 08, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Cam Smith knows how to have success at Augusta National Golf Club. Six of his last eight rounds at the Masters have been in the 60’s. That includes a record-setting four in a row at the 2020 November Masters.
How does Cam have so much success here? When you peruse his stat line, there’s one skill he possesses that sets him apart when he comes to Augusta National Golf Club. That skill is 3-Putt Avoidance. Just as it reads, this is a player’s ability to avoid three putting. In a tournament like the Masters where putting talent is put at a premium, Cam is certainly one of the best on tour. In fact, he’s ranked third on the PGA Tour this season.
You’re probably thinking this information would have been very handy when you were filling out your Masters pool picks, but alas there’s a more important point here. Players like Cam Smith are very good at avoiding this common amateur mistake because their first putt comes to rest very close to the hole. Consistently getting your first putt close is all about speed control. 
There is no doubt reading greens plays a part, but when it comes to being a great putter the number one skill you should practice is speed control.
How can you develop this very valuable skill? Let’s start with a great drill. All you will need is five tees, four golf balls and your putter.
Start by finding a flat area on the putting green. An area large enough that you can practice 20-to-25-foot putts. Begin by going to one end of that runway and place your first tee in the ground. Create a box with four tees where each side is about three feet in length. You can use a standard putter to measure or your own feet. It doesn’t have to be exact.
Once the box is created get to the side that has the long runway. From that side of the box take two large paces and place the fifth tee in the ground. From that spot, begin by putting the first of your four balls into the box. Continue to putt each of the remaining three into the box following two specific rules. First, they can not touch or hit each other.  Second, they must all come to rest in the box. If for example, your third putt comes to rest outside the box or hits one of the first two, start over. Four in a row, in the box.  
Making sure they don’t touch helps you work on your line as well as your speed. Accomplish this feat at two paces, then add two more and place that fifth tee in the ground. Why is that tee important? Simple, you’ll need to know where to walk back to each time you start over. Remember, there’s a point to only using four golf balls for this drill. Four in a row at twenty feet from the box gets difficult. Each walk to get the golf balls and start overbuilds resilience.
Each time you get four in a row in the box, you move back. If you commonly play at a place with small greens, 25 feet is plenty of distance to stop at. Those with really large greens, maybe 35 feet is a better stopping point. That’s the beauty of this drill; you can practice it anywhere with items you carry in your golf bag.
Become a “Box Drill” professional and your speed control will be better than your friends and competitors. Although you may never play at Augusta National Golf Club, at least you will have the peace of mind that if you did, you would putt like Cam Smith!

Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.