Power vs. Precision
In my 61 years of golf life (I don't remember life before golf!), I've watched the game make a very big swing from one of precision to one of power. Back in the "old days" of the 50s and 60s, there were always a few guys that could just kill it -- George Bayer comes to mind, Palmer was aggressively long, and Nicklaus was noted for his power and length when he came on the scene. But the game was defined for some time by the acute precision exhibited by Nelson and Hogan, both of whom hit greens with uncanny regularity.

Nelson was so precise, the industry's swing robot was named after him – "Iron Byron" is still the standard in club and ball testing. And Hogan literally defined shotmaking for the modern era. The fairway was found almost all the time, and it was not unusual at all for him to hit all 18 greens in regulation, and less than 15-16 would have been a substandard round.

In contrast, for the 2013 PGA Tour season, the tour leader in GIR percentage is Henrik Stenson at 71.96%, and less than 45 guys out there average more than 12 per round. I find that absolutely amazing.

Off the tee, accuracy is even more "shunned" as less than 25 PGA Tour professionals play from the fairway more than 2/3 of the time. And the tour leader plays his approach shots from the rough more than 1/4 of the time.

But the talk is all about how GIR percentage is becoming the more accurate indicator of the probability of a high finish in any given tournament. So, that seems like a disconnect to me, unless the roughs are so non-punishing and the greens so soft that being in the fairway doesn't represent an advantage. I just don't know.

What I do know is for all of us recreational golfers, accuracy is more a determinant of your scoring than distance. This game is just easier when you hit your approach shots from the short grass, and your next shot is a putt rather than a chip, pitch, bunker shot or worse. Yes, you will have the occasional three-putt -– we all do. But your odds of getting in the hole in two putts is a lot better than getting up and down from who-knows-where.

So, I have a few questions for you all to chime in on:
  1. Would you rather hit your driver 10 yards longer, or improve your GIR % by 2-3 greens a round?

  2. Is there an advantage to hitting your irons longer, even if you have to make the shaft longer and reduce the loft to do that?

  3. Would you trade 10-15 yards in distance for improved accuracy with all your clubs -– driver to wedges?

  4. What would happen to your handicap if you dramatically reduced the number of double bogeys you make?
Let's have some fun with this and share our thoughts. We'll look at the dialog for a week and continue the conversation next Friday.
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[ comments ]
Anti-Mulligan says:
I already hit a ton of GIR and fairways so I would actually take 10 more yards and just got fitted for a new driver in hopes of that. I need to have shorter clubs in hit the ball closer. Honestly, my putting and chipping is where I need to improve to shoot lower scores. I would never take less distance for more accuracy as my misses as still solid, I am just not the longest (about 250 carry with a driver)
birdieXris says:
I don't miss my fairways and greens by much. I think maybe 1 per round do i miss longer than 2 yards off the green. When it's a really bad day that changes, but just on average it's not a big deal. I"m not sure where i fit in this experiment. I could do wonders with 10 more yards on the drive, but at 53% /53% for fairways and GIR, i'm somewhere in the middle.
bkuehn1952 says:
1. Many of the courses we play do not punish a shot just off the fairway. So I don't think hitting shorter off the tee in order to be in the fairway is a good trade off. I am a lot more accurate from 150 yards in, rough or fairway, than I am outside of 150 yards.

2. I understand that a 5 iron labeled as a 6 iron is not easier to hit. However, technology that allows me to hit a "new" 6 iron as accurately and with the same trajectory as my current 6 iron AND 10 yards further is a good thing.

3. If I gave up 10-15 yards on all my clubs it would become an issue of not even being able to reach many holes in regulation. That 400 yard par 4 would now play like 430-440. No trade for me.

4. Maybe reduce my handicap .5 My better differentials tend to have relatively few doubles or worse.
jasonfish11 says:
1. 2.5 more GIR or 10 more yards on driver? I'd take GIR

2. Advantage for hitting irons longer? Yes and no. In short irons no there isn't much advantage. But I'd rather be hitting a 6i from 200 yards than a 3i because the 6i will land softer and stop sooner (assuming the ball flight is higher). So for the higher culbs yes there is an advantage.

3. Give up 12 yards for more accuracy in all clubs? No not in all clubs. I've already done this <150 yards. I hit 8i-SW about 3/4 shot nearly 100% of the time now due to it being a dramatic increase in accuracy. But I only give up about 8 yards doing this. I wouldn't give up 10-15 yards to improve driver accuracy. I'd just pull 3w or 4i off the tee if the accuracy was that important.

4. I'd easily be a single digit handicap. (probably drop 3 strokes or more). Eliminating blow ups is my current focus.
jasonfish11 says:

Why can't we just work at it and have both power & percision? I mean I dont really need to drive the ball a ton further (currently average around 250-260). So why can't I just work on straightening out my driver and hit the fairway an extra 2-3 times per round with out giving up power?
GolfSmith7 says:
1. I don't need the distance off the tee so I would take 3 more G.I.R's
2. I hit my irons long enough thank you.
3. How much more accuracy? hmmmmm
4. My handicap is fine its the lack of short game that keeps bogey's from being pars that hurt me more than double bogey's
Matt McGee says:
#1 - Don't these go hand-in-hand? If I hit my driver longer, I'm using a shorter club for my approach, and more likely (in theory) to hit the green. I'll take either one, I guess.
#2 - As long as I have all possible distances covered, I don't care what number is on the club, unless you can find a way for me to hit my longest irons further.
#3 - Yes.
#4 - I currently average (last 20 scores) 2.68 holes per round that are double bogey or worse. I think it has as much to do with blow-up holes as anything else, but, obviously, my handicap would drop significantly by reducing these.
Brutus says:
When I was in high school and college I worked as a caddie and then in the Pro Shop at a private Tillinghast designed course. The fairways were narrow, tree lined, dog legged and the rough was thick and deep. The greens were small, very undulating and well bunkered. There was a premium on ball striking and placing your shots in the correct areas. From the tips, the course measured 6558 and the blue measured 6178. Without accuracy you couldn't break 90 on that Tillinghast course. I was a better player then because I didn't have to hit it a long way to play the course well. I hit more fairways and GIR then than I do now. I often played a sub 80 round. 240 off the tee was all you needed, but it better be in the fairway and in the right spot. Now I am a member at a course where the tips are 7214. All the par 3s play 200 yards or better. If you can't hit it long forget about it. Length and accuracy are needed. Having both is rare. My game has suffered as a result.
Brutus says:
Oh, and the Tillinghast course was much more difficult by slope rating than my current course. I learned to play good golf there because you had to shape shots and place them. Now I can get away with some sprayed shots. But I can't get away with lack of length. I fell prey to the "bomb it" mentality. It changed the way I play now and because of that I am less accurate. IMO course design has much more to do with my score than how well I hit the ball. I don't play irons with jacked-up lofts. Hence, I am playing longer shots into the greens. GIR suffer as a result. Lengthening courses has hurt many of us, unless you are a very long hitter by nature.
GBogey says:
I've had double bogeyitis since August. If I could fix that I would need a new goal - my goal is to get my handicap to 9 or below. I'm at 10.6 and averaging over 3 DB+ per round with even my better rounds having 2 or more DB's. Unfortunately my clubs dont have much to do with it.
GBogey says:
Bkuehn is right, though, there has been some real new technology. I was recently fitted with for what I hope is my Christmas present. I picked up 8-9 yards without losing accuracy. The clubs I want are actually shorter than my existing 8 year old clubs and the lofts are within 1 degree. If you think about it, I really don't care about the loft if the club performs, but what I see in the club lengths is quite scary. I got rid of my old 4I that was 38.5 inches - why would I want a 5I the same length. My opinion - length is the real killer issue.
jpjeffery says:
1 "hit your driver 10 yards longer, or improve your GIRs by 2-3 a round?"

Since starting playing golf (84 rounds) in 2010 my average driving distance is 161.22 yards. Over my last 10 rounds: 160.53 and still only 164.35 over the last five rounds when I've been hitting it very well.

GIRs in the same periods: 61, 11 and 8.

So I DO need more distance off the tee: If I can usually only reach about 160-170 yards with my driver then on most par 4s the green is still out of reach for me which means a GiR is not achievable, even when from on the fairway.

2 "Is there an advantage to hitting your irons longer..."

Currently, yes (see above).

3 "Trade 10-15 yards in distance for improved accuracy with all your clubs -– driver to wedges?"

On the clubs that are in range, yes. No doubt. But as per #1, not on the driver and I guess the 3 wood.

4 "What would happen to your handicap if you dramatically reduced the number of double bogeys you make?"

My handicap is but a fraction under 28 so would dramatically reduce.
jfurr says:
^^^^ pretty much ditto mr jasonfish and mr gbogey
Shallowface says:
1. I'll take the GIR because IMO GIR, not driving distance, is the hallmark of a great ball striker.
2. No. And any technology (such as lighter shafts or thinner faces) that might give me more distance with the same specs (really skeptical that any of that is possible) is probably going to adversely affect the feel of the club in a way that's unacceptable for me.
3. I did just that long ago, when we started taking golf vacations and I found my game didn't travel well. Now my best scores are often on courses I've never seen before (69 and 72 this year alone).
4. Nothing. Fortunately I rarely make a double. I'm a very conservative player.
joe jones says:
It amuses me when I read comments from longer hitters being asked about what the would like better, accuracy or distance. I can state without question that I would opt for more distance. That from someone who struggles to get home in regulation on par fours. I am tired of hitting fairway woods all of the time,
wedgeguy says:
Joe, you will have lots more fun if you will follow the USGA advise to "Tee it forward". This game is not supposed to be a fairway woods game. Move up to the tees that let your average approach be with a mid- to short-iron. That much more distance is not for sale, but can only be learned with technique improvement, or is a result of physical limitations caused by aging, etc. Play this game for fun . . . from the right set of tees . . . for YOU.
joe jones says:
wedgeguy. Thanks for the advice but I am already Playing It Forward and have been a proponent for several years. I play a composite course and move up on the holes that present a problem to me. I play most of the par 3s from the members tees if I can get home most of the times. My max yardage is about 180-185.If a par 4 is 350 to 360 it still takes 2 good shots to get home.A 500 yard par 5 requires 3 good shots at least. I suspect I will be adjusting my game as I go along because at my age I don't think I can gain much distance.Perhaps you could read my article on "Age just a matter of". I think it will give you a better idea of what the future holds for all golfers.
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