Avoid 3-putting with this simple strategy early in your round

GOLF.com editor Zephyr Melton talks with Joe Hallett standing on a putting green

Treat your first few holes like match play when you get to the greens.


Welcome to Play Smart, a regular GOLF.com game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

There’s nothing more disheartening than making a few big numbers in the first several holes and ruining your round before it ever really gets going. That’s why it’s so important that you get off to a steady start. If you want to post a low number, you’ve got to get things rolling early.

Establishing a rhythm on the greens is a huge part of that puzzle. When you get to a new course, it can be hard to dial in your speed and feels early in the round. But if you’re going to play well, it’s absolutely essential that you hole a few putts over the first several holes. Or, at the very least, avoid carding any costly three-putts.

In today’s edition of Play Smart, we’ve enlisted the help of GOLF Top 100 Teacher Joe Hallett to explain how you can think your way through the first several holes on the greens. And in doing so, how you can get your rounds off to fast starts.

Get your round off to a fast start

There’s nothing worse than a three-putt. But when they come early in your round, they can be a huge momentum killer. To avoid these costly mistakes, Hallett suggests employing a “match-play” putting strategy during the early portion of your round.

“I want to hit a putt so that after I hit it you look at me and go, ‘Pick that up. That’s good,'” Hallett says. “The first five or six holes, let’s just get it close to the cup.”

In doing this, you’re accomplishing two things. 1. You’re dialing in your speed on the putting surface. And 2. you’re avoiding three-putting and adding strokes to your card with unforced errors.

“Early in the day, you’re also quelling some of that adrenaline,” Hallet says. “Try a match-play putting strategy and it’ll improve your stroke play.”

Give it a try next time you’re on the course. Don’t focus so much on having to make medium-length putts early in the round. Instead, focus on getting it close and avoiding three-putting until you really settle in to the round. In doing so, you’ll avoid unforced errors early in the round and get some momentum going so you can post a solid score by day’s end.

True Spec promo

True Spec Fitting

With over 50,000 clubhead and shaft combinations, True Spec Golf will custom fit and hand build you the most well-constructed, precise set of golf clubs you’ve ever played.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.