The Final Four

Most of us believe that we don’t hole our fair share of those ‘longer putts’ but if we are truly honest, we’d admit that our ‘putting stats’ suck because our approach putting all too often leaves us with an excessive distance to negotiate for par.

Bobby Locke  (nicknamed Old baggy pants) was a famous South African golfer who won four Open championships between 1949 and 1957. He is renowned as one of the greatest ‘approach putters’ of all time. He believed that the key factor requiring the greatest considering on approach putts was ….’THE FINAL FOUR FEET’

When a golf ball is travelling quickly over a putting surface, the borrow/break in the green will not affect the direction the golf ball takes as much as it would do if the ball were travelling at a slower pace over the same surface.

On every putt, the initial ball speed is at its fastest just after impact. As the golf ball continues on its journey, its momentum decreases and as it does so, the breaks and borrows in the green play a greater effect on the path that the ball will follow.

Bobby Locke worked out that if he had hit his putts with the correct amount of pace, his ball would be slowing down most significantly in the final 4 feet of the putt and therefore the breaks and borrows during that final 4 feet would be most significant.

Armed with this knowledge, Locke would always finish assessing an approach putt from behind the hole. He would carefully consider where he believed his ball needed to be when it was 4 feet out from the hole, given the ‘speed’ it would be arriving to this point at.

  • When your ball misses the hole on the ‘pro side’, it means that the ball has missed on the high side of the hole (when ‘too much’ break has been allowed for)
  • When it misses on the ‘low side’ below the hole (often referred to as the ‘amateur side’) it does so because insufficient break has been allowed for.

I favour missing on the ‘high side’ because a ball will always have a chance of falling downhill into the hole under gravity whereas a ball missing on the ‘low side’ will never roll uphill into the hole.

  • Head to the putting green and set yourself multiple putts of 15 feet or longer.
  • Before hitting each putt, walk beyond the hole and try to visualise how much break your ball will take during the final 4 feet of its journey – remembering that at this point the ball should be losing considerable momentum. Doing so, will I encourage you to allow for more break than you first considered necessary when reading your putt from behind your ball looking toward the hole.
  • The ‘key’ is to get your ball to arrive at your chosen point 4 feet out from the hole, coupled with the correct speed at that point – it will then likely take the amount of borrow/break you have visualised.
  • Placing a golf tee in the green at your ‘Aim – point’ during practise will help you commit to hitting the putt to this point. (In photo’s 1 and 2, I have used a golf ball to indicate my aim-point 4 feet from the hole)

This tip will take plenty of practice but it will increase the percentage of long putts that you hole. It will also eliminate a number of 3 putts due to the fact that if the approach putt does miss, you will be left a ‘tap-in’ and not a nerve jangling 6 footer.

Article written by Ton Long the PGA Golf Professional at the Jack Nicklaus designed Kinloch club in Taupo.  He has a mobile tuition app called Golf Inside the Scoring Zone and is available in IOS and Android.  For more information visit