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Putting Games that Lead to Big Gains: Part 1

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on

One of the most known truths about golf is that it requires a great deal of practice in order to get better. For many, the idea of long practice sessions and conducting them on a regular basis is not the most appealing thing in the world. For others, all day practice sessions a few times a week are something to look forward to.
Probably, one of the most common threads between all the golfers that fall in the “I love to practice” camp is this: a good part of what they do, within their practice regimens, is game based. You even see this among a very large percentage of the professionals on Tour. To this notion, one of the areas of the game that is very often turned into a “game based” practice session is putting.
For the most part, putting comprises roughly 40% of all the strokes taken during a round more than any other singular type of shot in the bag. Because of this, practicing putting should take up at least, 40% of a golfer’s practice time. Spending that much time on putting, and doing so in more of a mundane, repetitive manor could be difficult for anyone. With that said, it is clear that creating game-based practice sessions with putting is an excellent way to not only get the reps in but also have a competitive and fun way to keep a golfer engaged.
Two popular putting games that are both fun and functional are Pullback and Safety Pullback.
These two putting games are incredible in a lot of ways. First of all, they help make putting practice a lot more interesting. That’s a big deal for
some of you who find putting super boring.
The benefits of these two games are many. They help lag putting as well as those testy 4 – 8 footers. You’ll simulate real round conditions including a little bit of pressure if you’re playing with others or matching your personal best.
Here’s how it’s done:
  • In both games, you’ll play 9 or 18 holes on the putting green.
  • Each hole is a Par 2 with a range of about 15 – 50 feet. Try to mix them up as much as possible.
  • Count all your strokes and see what you can shoot.
1. Pull-Back
Casey Bourque, PGA demonstrating Pullback.
Casey Bourque, PGA demonstrating Pullback.
After you hit your first putt on each hole, any putt that doesn’t go in the hole gets “pulled back” directly away from the hole 1 putter length (or 3 feet).
This means that even putts that miss by an inch become testy 3 1/2 footers. Miss your second putt? Pull it back and knock it in. Miss again? Sorry, but keep at it until you hole it out… Shoot even par in this game and you’re REALLY rolling your rock.
2. Safety Pullback
This one is a variation of pull-back where you have a “safety zone”. If your approach putt lands in the safety zone, you don’t pull it back. You play it from where it lies and tap it in.
The safety zone is based on hitting a good approach putt – one that has a chance to go in with the proper speed. The zone is defined by any putt that reaches the hole (1 inch short is out) …and stays within your putter length (3 feet) of the hole. Imagine a 3 ft semi-circle behind the hole. Safety pullback is quite a bit easier, but it puts more emphasis on players who are good lag putters.
Good lag putts are rewarded with tap-ins, whereas lousy distance control means you’re grinding over 5 footers all day long. Have fun!
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