Where Do You Score?
What do you think is the key area to your scoring? Recent PGA Tour stats are showing that "greens in regulation" is very critical - maybe the most critical - factor in winning and placing high in PGA Tour events. I would find that hard to criticize.

To that end, we have been doing quite a bit of research into PGA Tour statistics and have found that proximity to the hole after the approach shot seems to be another factor that might not be given enough attention by either tour professionals or recreational players. What's interesting is how even the field is in skills and results at the longer-range approach shots, and how the separation from "best" and "others" increases the closer they get to the green.

For example, on approach shots over 200 yards – which also includes hitting at par-5 greens on the second shots – only from the fairway, we see that the best player on tour in 2012 averaged over 41 feet on this approach shots. The number 175 player was under 55 feet. Given that the best putter on tour at this distance makes only one percent of putts over 35 feet, there is really no distinct advantage to being the best, is there?

As we examined approach shot performance at ranges between 150-200 yards, what was interesting is that the difference between best and #175 actually decreased. In this area (6-iron to 8-iron range) there is an even smaller difference in performance stats between the best player and the #175 guy. In other words, these guys are all pretty darn good and not much different when they have a full-swing 8-iron or longer in their hands.

But what was revealing is what happens in those brackets under 150 yards, when these guys put 9-iron or less in their hands. That's when the best begin to pull away from the pack. What I zero in on is that these guys are hitting it so long now, that they simply don't have enough tools in the tool box to properly navigate all those various distances they find themselves inside 9-iron range.
I pay close attention to the "What's in The Bag" reports in the major magazines, and as distances have increased, the tour professionals (like all of us) are losing scoring clubs. So they are having to navigate 20-25 yard gaps in between their scoring clubs, when they have gaps of only 10-12 yards at the long end of their sets.

So, here's my question: If the best player in the world averages over 40 feet from the hole on approach shots outside 200 yards, why does he need 4-5 clubs spaced only 30-40 feet apart? Those guys know how to grip down on a club to cut the gap in half, so that means they have ± 15- to 18-foot equipment accuracy at the long end of their sets, where they only have 40-45 feet at talent accuracy. That comes at the expense of having 10-12 feet equipment accuracy at the short end, where they have very good talent accuracy.

(Tour research shows that tour players miss long shots left/right, and shorter shots short/long.)

That's the kind of stuff that makes me go "hmmmmmm."
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[ comments ]
Nojdemo2 says:
Interesting stats Terry but to my mind you're missing a key metric - the percentage of 'scoring clubs' in the bags of the touring pros. (How do you define a 'scoring club' by the way?)

That stat would tell us whether the best players are benefiting from carrying more high-loft clubs or whether it's actually a measure of raw short-game talent.

If you want to demonstrate that more 'scoring clubs' equals better approach play, what about graphing short game accuracy against number of wedges in the bag? Or how about measuring any improvements in players going from three to four wedges (or vice versa).

I love to see proper science applied to golfing equipment so here's a challenge: can you crunch the numbers to demonstrate that more wedges equals better approach play? Then I might be able to justify the investment to my wife!
legitimatebeef says:
I consider myself a regular reader of this column but have to say you lost me on this one. Are you trying to tell us about the importance of hitting the ball on-line, and with good distance control? I.e. accuracy is helpful in playing good golf? If that is the case then point taken.
mjaber says:
Terry, I think you answered your own question on this one. Since they are so good with the short clubs, gripping down, 1/2 swings, 3/4 swings, etc, they have the ability to make all of the shots they need to make within 150 with just a few clubs. Where they need the accuracy and proper distance gaps is with their longer clubs, to be able to hit proper layup yardages, or to go after the green in 2.

Personally, I have more "short" clubs than long clubs, because I don't have that same ability to know "grip-down" distances. I've got about a 10 yard gap from my shortest wedge to my 8-iron, which gives me 6 clubs for inside 140.
onedollarwed says:
I find the GIR/short game measurements contradictory. If GIR is so important, then why not use more long range clubs (even more so for the novice)? And then add more putters...
But I totally agree that the short game will make/break a round. For the beginner, playing in a scramble is the closest we will ever come to shooting like a pro/under par. But what does it always come down to in a scramble? Making longer putts! The expert pitch/punch/chip/blast eliminates or mitigates the more difficult putts, and can give you consistent birdie chances and par saves.

I have been measuring backward from the hole to see how far away you are on your penultimate shot - the assist. This is good even if your scores are high. Doesn't matter if you're shooting for triple or eagle, or what club you're using.

Once you're a decent player, you can negotiate the fairway and cover the long yards fairly easily. Many of my rounds are driver-wedge all day. It's sealing the deal that's important. Sticking it in there from 150 in!
Mr_X says:
Terry, I cannot answer for the best payers in the world, but I can respond for some of the hackers out here. Last year I used every club in my bag except my driver to get it close to the pin from off the green at 150 yards and in. There are dozens of ways to hit a golf ball 100 yards - 1/2 cut 5 wood, rolling 3 hybrid, 4 iron chip, half 9 iron into a wet green and my favorite the flop 8 iron over a tree. The point is with some creativity hitting a ball 150, 120, 100 and 80 yards is pretty easy to do.

While everything in my bag except my driver can be used in my short game, I only have a few clubs that can be used from 190 yards plus. Even the best players are going to hit that shot 6 times in a normal round. When I am 20 yards from the pin I have a dozen shots in my bag. Terry, my question to you is, why should I limit myself to 1 or 2 clubs every time I need to hit a shot over 190 yards?
Tim Horan says:
I gotta tell you my best round have been where I miss the green for second/ third shots and play little chip an runs and tap in for par / birdies. So I do my scoring around the green playing anything from 40deg up to 60deg depending on lie, how much green to work with, bunkers to fly etc. I have to say that I am not particularly accurate from 150 yds and in. I tend to rely on missing the green to get up and down. My long putting is useless and so would prefer to miss the green to give me a range of options other than the flat stick.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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