How many putts should you be playing per round in order to play golf at your target level?
As a rule of thumb, at all levels of the game, the number of putts you take to complete a round of golf will make up about 40 percent of your total score.
This figure is, of course, variable. If, on a given day, you miss a lot of greens but your short game is very sharp, then you’ll probably need less putts since you’re likely to be chipping it close; and if you hit a lot of greens in regulation, you may well be leaving yourself further from the hole with your approach shots, and you’ll need more putts. But, however you slice it, the less putts you take, the lower your score will be; and if you want to improve, then sinking more putts is one of the fastest ways to lower your handicap and win more tournaments.
The chart in Figure 1 shows the correlation between a player’s handicap and the number of putts they will typically need per round versus par; where par is 2 putts per hole, 36 putts per round. This data was taken from a Golf Loopy study of over 400 students over a 5 year period. We recorded the number of putts played in over 100,000 rounds of golf, and charted that number against the golfers’ playing handicap when each round was played.
Figure 1. Putts per Round vs. Par against Handicap.
So, the typical amateur golfer who wants to break 90 will need to average about 1 putt better than par, or 35 putts per round.
And if you want to consistently play off single figures, you need your putting to be more than 3 putts better than par, shooting less than 33 putts per round, on average.
We strongly recommend that you record the number of putts for each round that you play. By comparing your averages with the chart above (Figure 1), you can quickly determine how you are performing relative to your goals. If your average is worse than the number indicated on the chart, you need to work on your putting. If your putting is better than indicated for your target handicap, then you probably need to address other areas of your game. This doesn’t mean that you can neglect your putting if your stats are okay – it’s always a good idea to check your fundamentals regularly.
The other important thing to take from the chart in Figure 1 is that you don’t need to make a lot of one-putts. Even a better-than-scratch golfer will only, on average, make 7 one-putts per round – that’s pretty good putting (and/or good approach play and a short game that gets them close), but it’s not miraculous. In other words, lag putting is important – work really hard on getting your first putt consistently close and your game will improve – you may start to make a few long ones, which is great, but most importantly you’ll stop leaking strokes by leaving yourself difficult second putts.
You can’t keep three-putting at the rate you are now and expect to play to your potential.
The Route to Improvement
No matter what level you want to play at, one of the keys to improving your scores is simply to make less three-putts. If you can, for the most part, limit yourself to two putts per hole, then improvements through the rest of your game will give you more birdie chances and your scores will tumble.
For most golfers, the area that they should work on to yield the most improvement in their putting, and their scoring, is distance control, or touch. Better touch will quickly lead to better control over direction, and from there you’ll start to trust your read more and so be able to refine your green reading skills.
Just a small improvement in touch (distance control) will quickly lead to dramatic improvements in your scores, and such an improvement can often be made in a matter of hours.
The Golf Loopy putting section has some great drills and instruction that will help you quickly improve your putting touch, and over the coming weeks we’ll be publishing a complete putting game improvement plan.
» Think Like a Champion – Strategies for Lower Scores.
» Putt Like a Champion – Your Road Map to Putting Excellence.