What's Your Short Game Handicap?
Almost all reasonably serious golfers have some kind of handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly negated. Your physical skills and abilities will never let you hit drives and irons shots like the best players. But anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range. And I don’t really care how many strokes it took you to get there, actually. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or less almost all the time. In fact, I’d say that the times you get down in two strokes should outnumber the times it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score?
  1. _____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less

  2. _____ Number of times you got up and down afterward

  3. _____ Number of chips or pitches on any hole that ended up more than 10’ from the cup
#1 minus #2 plus #3 = ______ Your short game handicap

And that’s how many shots will come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve. (Think you can save that many shots with a new driver?)

I would like for each and every one of you readers to do this simple calculation and let us know what you find out. Come on, share!!!
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[ comments ]
Mr_X says:
I just did the math for my last round. I shot a 96 with 40 mph winds. My short game handicap was 13. I have work to do this off season!
Backquak says:
for my last round. I shot 84 and my short game hcp was 8. looking at the stats it was a good day for my short game saving me from my poor driving and poor putting (when I actually hit a green).
birdieXris says:
I have another site that i was using and it calculated automatically. My long game is scratch. my short game is 11. It's atrocious. Even working on it i can't seem to get it down and keep it down.
Backquak says:
and it was 16 days before that, shooting the same score. talk about inconsistent. My short game needs an overhaul. I need some SCOR wedges to fix all my gaps, especially my 9 iron.
Backquak says:
it was 16 "a couple" days before that, whoops
bunkerputt says:
So lets say I hit 16 greens, miss 2, get up and down 1, chipping it more than 10' past. Short game handicap is 2-1+1 = 2. Same golfer, insert crappy ball striking, miss 18 greens, get up and down 9. His short game handicap is 9-9+9 = 9, even though his U/D percentage is the same. Sounds like he needs to work on ball striking, because the better you strike it, the shorter your chips and pitches. Pros don't consistently have 60 yard pitches due to lack of striking skill.
unmnorth says:
This is powerful. My short game index is 18. It is true that I need to spend 90% of my practice time on short games!
Backquak says:
I think it comes down to a yardage, and when we are inside that yardage we should be thinking that we will put the ball in the hole in 3 strokes. What that yardage is may be different depending on skill level, but once I get to my 8 iron, i'm thinking the next stroke should be a putt or a chip from the fringe. Now if we go to the inbetween shots like 40-80 yards, then if we are less confident than we are at 130 yards then we need a better short game. I like a full swing shot to the green and if I'm playing smart I will try to leave myself that shot instead of hitting driver and leaving a 40 yard pitch that I skull/blade/flop/shank to leave another similar shot for the next try.
ebkruger says:
I'm with bunkerputt on this one. I recently shot a 91 with a short game handicap of 7, but my best ever score of 78 was with a hdcp of 9. Whilst this system will help identify short game weaknesses, my best scores come when my driver behaves and my irons are pure.
Backquak says:
"IF" you have a great approach game then you don't need a short game. But that's a big "IF"
and we all have some days when that game doesn't show up, it's nice to have a short game that can keep your score from triple digits
jpjeffery says:

Up and Downs are hard...
brian575 says:
Ouch, I did my short game handicap for my last round and it was somewhere between a 20-22, I forget some of my approach shots so I can't remember exactly how many greens I missed with less than a 9 iron. One thing I do know is that I did not hit one green with less than a 9 iron. Also only once during the round did I pitch it closer than 10 ft.
jpjeffery says:
@brian575 Funny thing, that's very close to my experience. I can't remember that much detail (the round was about a month ago) and one hole I can't remember anything about other than the tee itself (vaguely - we'd never played there before) but estimate my SGH is about 20.
mmontisano says:
I don't think new wedges would help my game at all. my short game and putting has been holding me back ever since I first picked up a club, no matter if I put the work in or not. I think I'm finally accepting it after 20 years.
wedgeguy says:
badcaddy, there is hope. Anyone can build better short game technique. Don't resolve yourself to the hopelessness. SCOR Golf will soon be publishing a Short Game Boot Camp just for golfers like you. Make sure you subscribe to our SCORZone newsletter for details. TWG.
Tim Horan says:
Short game handicap last round was 1 - mainly because I was cming in with 6 and 7 irons and only three holes fell into Terry's criteria. Some of my best round have come from missing green by narrow margins and then getting up and down with tap in pars or birdies. It is all about practice. I spend an hour before each game on and around the practice green with very little practice time spent on longer clubs. What I have found helps with warming up is hitting practice ball up and down just before tee off.
bkuehn1952 says:
Yesterday I did not miss any approach shot where I was hitting 9 iron or less but since the course was playing long (wet fairways) many of my approaches were with much longer clubs so it was not like I had a lot of opportunities to miss with 9 iron or wedge. I calculated a "3" or "4" index - not sure if a couple were inside or just outside 10 feet. I think this calculation is worthwhile but one needs to average multiple scores to get a true number.
stedar says:
I found that on a typical par 4 - keeping the ball on the fairway from the drive (or long iron) left an approach of between a 5-9 iron. Missing the fairway meant playing out from under trees and then a bump and run would get inside 100 yrds, leaving a tricky wedge in. My game improved once I learnt not to hit the driver too hard, but worked on keeping it on the fairway and even not using the driver, but a 3 or 5 wood.
AttyBilly says:
What precisely do you mean by #2
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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