How to Conquer “Lip Out” Putts

Kathy G. JensenEveryone that has played the game of golf has experienced a putt that catches the edge of the hole and it spins around the rim only to stay on top of the surface without falling into the cup.  The anticipation, anxiety, hoping, wishing for the golf ball to drop in the hole, then it doesn’t, which brings internal anger and frustration.  There are a variety of reasons to conquer the dreaded “Lip Out” putt.  Let’s see if I can shed some light to this situation with a few solutions to help you improve your score and confidence.

The golf lingo or definition of a ‘lip out’ in golf: is a golf ball that is putted and catches the edge, spins around the hole a little or a lot without falling into the hole. The rim around the hole is also called the ‘lip’ so the golf ball catches it and stays ‘out’ forming the phrase ‘lip out’ putts. Lip outs can be very dramatic and heartbreaking, the golf ball can actually appear to dip in the hole a tiny ways and come back out on top of the surface, resulting in another putt as well as another point on the scorecard.

The lip outs that are the worst (or best?) are when the ball horseshoes around the back edge of the cup, from one side to the other, and then comes back toward the golfer a few inches. That’s because the speed of the putt was too fast or the putter face was not square at the impact towards your target.  Included are several ideas below to think about for improving your stroke to sink more putts.

Square Putter Face at Impact:

To illuminate the lip out, a main reason is that the putter face is not square at impact to your target line. A glancing swipe of the putter face adds spin which adds to miss-direction instantly. When the putter face is open or closed at impact, it can also create slower speed and more jump to the golf ball.  The roll of the golf ball needs to snug along the surface as soon as possible for a true roll and speed.  To evaluate your squareness of hit, try bumping or nudging your putter against an object like a book.  Pay close attention to the square contact.  Is there a gap when your putter is flush against the book?  The object to this drill is to be more precise of flushing the putter face against the book and a little forward press of the hands helps to develop a truer roll.  Work on this drill several times putting the ball extremely close to the hole and making sure the ball is going into the ‘center’ of the cup instead of the rim.  The feedback will help solve many issues on sinking the putt instead of the dreaded lip outs.

Stable Routine:

Lip outs are due to speed control and unstable routine. When missing short putts, another solution, is to make a stable routine for you.  A routine that makes sense to you and that you can repeat it often.  A routine should be the same; it allows for consistency, confidence and better alignment possibilities. Lagging or snuggling long distance putts seem to do well for you, then speed is not the issue; it will be alignment that needs to be the focus.  Poor alignment can come from skipping steps in your regular routine and this is also a mental error that can be quickly corrected by consistently repeating your same routine.

Speed Control and Green Conditions:

Speed control in very important as well as knowing the green conditions.  This part of the puzzle needs attention to adjustments.  Maybe you grip pressure or even your grip style needs to adjust to the situations at hand.  Keeping you routine is important and adjusting within your routine is necessary for adaptability of situations at hand.  Squareness of contact is a benefit to the ball speed and by having a very slight forward press at impact simplifies the speed which helps by accelerating through the impact area.  Most lip out putts are caused by deceleration at impact.  Also, a scooping effect causes the ball to bounce up off the ground and opens the face at impact that results in miss direction or another lip out putt.  Always test out your putting skills on a practice green prior to playing to help you understand where you need to adjust for conditions first.  Either read a little less break and jam it in, or read a little more break and back off the speed to get them to drop instead of spinning out.

Once you develop a consistent routine, square up your putter face at impact towards your target and have a slight forward press with the hands at impact for better roll, you can build a consistent repeatable putting stroke.  When this stroke is repeated more times than not, you will be able to hit the center of the cup instead of the side or lip out putts.  Improve your short game and it will improve your score.

Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen is the 2014 PGA National Teacher of the Year. For more information, please visit