Shot to a Spot
A few weeks ago, I wrote about golf entering the statistical era with the help of ShotLink. As more and more data is being analyzed, more is being written about which parts of the game are most important to scoring and winning out on tour. It started out with "strokes gained-putting" as maybe the best indicator, but of late, we are reading more and more about "strokes gained-shotmaking," which is the measure of a golfer's ability to keep it in play and hit greens in regulation. That was the topic of the April 18 blog, where we looked at the impact on your scoring by hitting a few more greens in regulation.

Very simply, hitting two or three more greens per round does two things for you:
  1. It gives you that many more birdie tries;

  2. It takes that much heat off your scrambling.

If the best players in golf get up-and-down less than 75% of the time, for the average golfer a missed green leads to a bogey or worse at least twice that often. Think about that.

I saw the other day another interesting statistic. On the PGA Tour, greens-in-regulation percentage drops by almost half on shots from the rough over shots from the fairway. If that doesn't hammer home the importance of hitting fairways, I don't know what will. But with the 25-year obsession with distance, my bet is more fairways are missed these days than even back in the days of persimmon drivers.

In that era (which I'm sure many of you completely missed) the driver was for positioning the ball in the right part of the fairway for an approach shot, not for just blasting as far "that way" as possible. Those top players of the era hit their drives to particular spots that allowed for the best approach to the green — and they didn't "let it all out" all that often. Ben Hogan, for example, in his 1949 book Power Golf listed his "regular" distance with a driver as 265 yards, but his "maximum" as 300. Who keeps 35 yards in reserve for only those times when you really need it?

So, here's a little experiment for you the next time you can get out for a "practice nine" in the afternoon or early morning. Each time you hit a drive in the rough, walk it out to the best side of the fairway for the approach and then back 15 yards. See if that correct positioning doesn't make every hole play a little easier.

And then, think about how much better you might hit your driver if you thought of each drive as a nice controlled shot to a spot, rather than just "hit it that way as far as I can."

Just something to change the game a bit and keep in interesting.
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[ comments ]
legitimatebeef says:
Listen Wedgeguy I know you mean well with all your little mental and strategic tips but frankly decision making is not what is causing me to suck at golf. It is my underdeveloped ability to consistently make clubface connect with the ball squarely and solidly. Okay? That is the crux of the matter. Dead simple. Strategy and decision-making hardly amount to jacksquat for golfers like me. It's like giving a homeless guy tips on how to manage his investment portfolio. I.e. don't waste your breath maybe.
5/23/14
 
DougE says:
Beef, I hear you and agree with you...at least on the days that I suck, which has been a lot of days this year. However, when my swing is on and I am making consistent ball contact, Terry's comments are right on the money. I'm usually hitting fairways, though I'm not a long hitter. I'm not long enough to reach par 5s in two or even a few long par 4s. I don't hit more than 6 or 8 greens on average, per round, but being in a position to have a chance is half the battle. On days when I can putt and hit 9 or 10 greens, I have a good chance to shoot in the 70s. On days I suck and hit less than 4 or 5 greens, even with a generally good short game, I'm looking at mid-80s or worse. (Worse has been the norm for most of my rounds this season....so far.) The problem with Terry's point, is that it makes perfect sense, but applies mostly when striking the ball well with irons and hybrids/FWs.
5/23/14
 
bkuehn1952 says:
I always go back to what a fellow player observed. After pulling his 3 hybrid into the forest he remarked: "I should have hit driver ... it is so much more satisfying to hit driver out of play than a hybrid."
5/23/14
 
GBogey says:
BKuehn - nice! Hate to disagree with the Beef but I'm with Terry on this one. Golf isn't just skill and athletic ability - good course management is critical and we all see poor course management all the time, including in our own post round analysis.
Unfortunately despite many hours of practice, my skill level lacks at putting the ball at the proper position of the fairway. It's tough enough for me to find the fairway. But on the 4 courses that I frequent, I regularly hit non-driver off the tee on 4-7 holes (par 3's excluded of course) because I'm willing to sacrifice 20-30 yards of distance in order to have a better chance at avoiding trouble. That's worth talking about - thanks Terry.
5/23/14
 
Anti-Mulligan says:
Bkuehn - Similar comment but if you are going to nuke it 30 yards OB into the woods it might as well with be with a driver and ProV1 on top of it.
5/23/14
 
Anti-Mulligan says:
I agree and disagree with Terry. If you can play a 6100 yd course and distance isn't the overwhelming factor, then strategy does make sense. But most high handicappers just don't hit the ball far enough to strategize. I find the same thing happens when I have to play with my college buddies who carry it 270+. We play 6800 courses and my only option is driver when I carry it 250. The tough thing is most course are either 6400+ or 5800 which is too short for most guys and they don't want to play a course that short. 6000-6400 is really the sweet spot for yardages at course and that is in the summer with normal conditions. That doesn't include wet, windy, cold, etc.
5/23/14
 
onedollarwed says:
I just wrote this whole long thing about sampling equipment without paying attention to brand, price, style, etc. and choosing the equipment which you can hit straight, or control. I erased it... because it's not so much the equipment's fault, and I feel that you should be breaking 90 or so before really getting picky about equipment.
But seriously, using cars as an analogy, recreational golf is like everyday driving in cars - do you really want the fastest? You want control, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, utility. The industry and ads (yes the pros push this too) would have you full throttle and CRASH! off the road and into a tree/ ditch, lake, cornfield.
Maybe the pros are like Indy drivers, and can handle 200+ mph with a engineering team, a crew of helpers, etc. But that's not for us.
5/23/14
 
onedollarwed says:
I also think that courses should be remapped in terms of "playable space," and "scoring routes." The definition of "on the green," is not necessarily helpful. For shot making purposes, there needs to be a color map you can impose on a hole with "green areas" (safe/easy approach/route), and red, unsafe/hazardous, or undesirable areas (like real rough, jail, etc. A yellow band would cover playable rough, easier bunkers, and bail-out zones where you can still make a quality next shot. This new overlay would help us plan the most successful routes to par. A birdie overlay would suggest the most successful route to birdie, which would differ because it would invariably include specific risk elements, or the need for shot shaping/ extra distance.
5/23/14
 
joe jones says:
For one who can no longer hit long drives, Terry is right on the money. Not only do I play to position with my drives, but my second shots are played to the best position for my next shot. On a par fives I try to give myself the best angle to the center of the green. If that fails I leave myself the best chip I can have.I never challenge a pin tucked away behind a trap or any hazard. If all else fails I play for position for my putts. It's boring but course management allows me to avoid big numbers. It drives some of my playing partners nuts but especially in match play it pays off for me.
5/23/14
 
elliottgaryusa says:
Interesting comment onedollar. That would be very helpful when playing unfamiliar courses.
Should be added to all course books. However, it could be tricky to do this for all skill levels.
5/24/14
 
onedollarwed says:
@Elliot; yes, I mainly feel that distinctions between putting/chipping, green/fringe etc. aremainly irrelevant, but that statistics use them all the time to rank or analyze.
Also, I think that we as golfers try to imagine holes this way, but while standing over our ball can't perceive the smart play as clearly.
Myself; I never wanted to play smart. I was in it for the thrill. So I might end up always choosing the birdie route, but need to play the smartest birdie route! Hey, I've got many eagles, and even an albatross to my name. Still don't know how far my clubs go... really.
5/25/14
 
joe jones says:
Onedollar. Very interesting comment. I don't know your age but when i was a bomber I felt the same way. As I got older I changed out of need. Hopefully you wont have to adapt. Example: I once won a match 9 & 8 with six birdies. Normally in match play you have the option to leave the course but because I was on fire I opted to continue playing for score. My opponent who was a close friend agreed. I went for every hole, tried to cut every corner, tried to challenge every hazard and had little success. Wound up shooting 82. Every career shot turned into a double or triple.Needless to say my buddy had the last laugh. It didn't stop my aggressive approach but it sure gave me an attitude adjustment that I remember till this day.
5/25/14
 
joe jones says:
Onedollar. Your playable space and scoring route suggestion are basically course management tools that everyone should have stored in their memory bank. They are invaluable to every golfer. I think under the present rules the rules experts would say a book or chart of that type would be illegal. How many times have you played a unfamiliar course and commented that you would play it differently if you played it again. Thats what the pro's and their caddies are doing when they play practice rounds. They chart every danger shot and green light specials.They get a yardage book that helps but thats it.Why do you think the younger players want to play with some old champion at the Masters. They want to pick the brain of great golfers that have figured it out. I may not remember what I had for breakfast this morning but I can remember how I played some of the great courses in the past. Just can't play that way anymore.Like I tell my eye doctor. I can still see a ball 300 yards down a fairway. Just can't hit it th
5/25/14
 
lukeyd says:
Did anyone read the part about ben Hogan hitting drives 300 yards in 1949, with driver and ball technological advances in the past 65 years, that means he would hit drives 550 yards today?
5/25/14
 
jasonfish11 says:
Joe I'm kind of the opposite. I'm hitting the ball farther today than I ever have yet I play more conservative off the tee. I no longer need to pull driver to have a reasonable approach. I can pull 3w or hy from 400 yards and have 7i or less for my approach. Power has given me more options.
5/26/14
 
joe jones says:
Jasonfish. Obviously you are in a enviable place as to your golf game.Many golfers think being conservative is a weakness. It really means you are in control even if parts of your swing have left you for the day. I can count on one hand the number of times I have done everything well while playing. Managing your game allows one to minimize the damage. Being long is just a great bonus.
5/26/14
 
jasonfish11 says:
Yeah except I'm a fixer. So instead of leaving the driver in the bag I pull it to try to fix what's wrong. In a tournament I'd know by the 2nd hole if its going to be a lot of 3w hy and 4i or driver day.
5/26/14
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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