The Red Zone
Here we are in the early stages of another football season. In Texas this is a VERY big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.

In almost every football conversation on TV, you hear talk about "the red zone". How a team performs inside the 20 yard line is a real measure of their offensive prowess. And a pretty good indicator of their win/loss record, too. It breaks down to what percentage of the time a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and how often they come away empty.

To me, we golfers have our own "red zone". It’s that range from the green where we should be able to go on the offensive and think about pars and birdies, ensure no worse than bogey . . . and never put a double or worse on the card. Your own particular set of red zone goals should be based on your handicap. If you are a low single digit, this is your "go zone", where you feel like you can take it right at the flag and give yourself a decent birdie putt, and never make bogey. For mid-handicap players, it’s where you should feel confident you’ll guarantee a par and rarely make bogey, and for higher handicap players, it’s where you will ensure a bogey at least, give yourself a good chance at par, and maybe even a birdie.

For me, that "red zone" as always been when I put a high loft club in my hands, one over 40 degrees of loft. It’s the founding principle of my entire company, SCOR Golf, and our revolutionary SCOR4161 precision scoring clubs. In my early days that was an eight iron. With the strengthening of lofts, it’s now a nine. But regardless of your handicap or the make and model of irons you play, my contention is that golf is relatively "defensive" with all the other clubs in your bag. With all the lower loft clubs, your goal should be to just keep it out of trouble and moving closer to the goal, the flag.

But when you can put a high loft club in your bag – whether that's from 140 yards or 105 – that's when you should feel like you can put your offense into high gear and raise your expectations. It's no longer about power. It's no longer about distance. From the red zone, it's about trusting your technique and your equipment and taking it to the golf course a little bit.

One of the best things you can do for your golf improvement is to begin tracking your "red zone" performance. Put the numbers down as to how you are scoring the golf course from your 9-iron range on into the flag. My guess is that you'll see this is where you can make the most improvement if you'll give that part of your game some additional time and focus. Any golfer can learn to hit crisp and accurate short range approach shots. And so you should.

Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you'll see your scores come down quickly.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
GolfSmith7 says:
I played a round recently on september 26th where I was pin hunting and hitting most of my greens in regulation about 15 feet to the cup. The feeling was awesome to pin hunt and get it close but to no avail kept missing all the puts on the low side. Its a course with un even greens which I haven't played much. Getting more confident with the irons need more putts to drop.
legitimatebeef says:
Nice analogy. I don't think most people need to look at stats, they need to examine their whole understanding of the objective of golf. Using a similar analogy, it seems like most golfers that I observe tend to grind hardest over the "kickoff". Then as they get closer to the hole their attention and focus wanes, until they finally get within the "5 yard line" where they'll just sort of half-ass it with one hand, or even just pick up the ball. It's aesthetics first, scoring second. Notice how people will all of a sudden grind over a mid or short putt...if it happens to be for birdie. Facing the same putt but for bogey or worse, there isn't nearly the same kind of effort put in. This IMO is one of the three or four fundamental causes of mediocrity and stagnation among amateurs. The good golfer on the other hand doesn't need a sort of "red zone" approach because he plays the game with the proper objective.
jpjeffery says:
Nice analysis, Beef.

WedgeGuy, I'm still trying to hit all of my shots (from driver down) straight on a regular basis, so it's a bit early for me to be thinking about attacking the greens in the way you're describing, but still, what you've said does make sense.
GBogey says:
I like the analogy but I think of it slightly differently. I use a wedge swing starting with my P - basically 110 yards and in - and am pretty accurate to the green. My objective from there is to get down in 2 or 3 every time, so I guess that is my red zone.
GBogey says:
However, it is important not to overlook the course management aspect on these shots just because they are shorter. I'm still learning that a front pin from 75 yards may not call for a 70-75 shot, but a 75-80 shot that provides for a safer miss.
windowsurfer says:
I really like the Red Zone approach - it is most fitting for ScorGolf! A truly fresh golf idea. I agree with Terry's "what gets measured gets done" thinking. In fact, to facilitate this, I think Scor should produce a red zone card that we can print and use on the course. On the top would be spaces to fill in the hole #, par and HC rating. Below that would be the "ScorCard" section where players could record red zone stats. Heck, maybe Oobgolf would get in on the act and put a section on the site where these stats could be digitally recorded.

Last: Go SeaHawks!
onedollarwed says:
Thanks for getting me in tune with the red zone. I'm basically a mid-high single digit handicapper. I'll basically go out and par most holes. Doubles happen, as do birdies. The real killer is riding the bogey train.
After watching the RC yesterday, I became more committed than ever to finishing every hole solidly - not trying to birdie everything, but to making more 8 footers, and pitching the ball closer (if I can get from 50yds and in to about 10ft, alot of those will drop). Even getting from 80yds to 30ft regularly will ensure those pars.
Today I went out in a stiff wind, but a sunny fall day, and really lined up all pitch shots (using a twig or leaf a few feet out), and taking extra time to line up a putt with the line on the ball - something I hadn't done before. I think this is going to work out. I dug in the 60* a few times, but the chipping was spot on.
onedollarwed says:
I keep a "clutch scoring stat" (footage of the scoring shot + 10 for par, + 20 for birdie). This way a tap in for par is 11 pts x 9 = 99. A 10 footer for birdie= 30 pts. Any putt for bogie or worse is just the footage. A 10 ft. bogie scramble is about the same as a tap in for par. But a missed par putt of six feet (would have been 16pts.) for a tap-in bogie is only 1 pt. Thus the scoring really turns on that situation as does golf scoring! A good nine should be >100 or more. If you hole out for an eagle from 120 yds it gets a little out of proportion (390 pts, say), but that's pretty rare.
I also sometimes use the BCF (birdie chance feet). How far are you from the hole with a birdie chance? You average this number from all 18 and it should reveal, for instance if the number is 22, then that's a high order. However, if it's in the low teens for the front nine, say, you should be getting a couple, right? We need to be able to relax, focus, and get that darn ball in the hole!!!
Tim Horan says:
I have a problem with this...and with the greatest of respect to Terry this to me is getting ahead of yourself and not thinking of the now and the shot at hand. If you are thinking "I can get down in two from here" you ain't thinking about the shot you are about to hit. Your stats may well bear out that you most likely will get out in two but unless you commit to the shot and work on the process at hand birdies will turn to bogeys before you know it.
onedollarwed says:
A friend used to call that "pulling a bogey out of the jaws of birdie." Makes me laugh, but used to happen more than I'd like to admit. I have ironed this out almost completely by having spent the last 5 years or so really getting to know how to use wedges (bounce, etc.), and by gaining confidence in putting. The confidence lets you make a pretty good go at longish putts w/o being afraid to go past a bit.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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