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Proof That Short Shots Make the Difference? Try This Test

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I’d like to invite any of my readers to try this experiment: Play a round with your club pro, a scratch, or near-scratch player in your club. On the par-3s, you hit only the tee shot. On the par 4s, you hit the tee shot and the second shot. And on the par 5s, you hit the tee shot, the second shot, and the third shot. After that, you’re going to let the pro or scratch player finish your holes from wherever the ball lies. And at the end of the round, you’re going to add up the combined score.

It would be best if you get the highly skilled player to play maybe 3-5 rounds with you, but even if you can do only do it for ONE round, give it a shot and let me know your score. I’m going wager that, depending on your handicap or skill level, your score(s) will be significantly lower. I have done this with several of my students, and I can attest to the results.

Ninety percent of the people who come to me for a lesson do so for a full-swing lesson, but I believe the real key to better golf lies more in the short shots than the full ones. I am not saying you can learn short shots to a professional level, but I am suggesting that you can make more progress and take a bigger step to lower scores by learning how to pitch, chip, play bunker shots and putt better than you do now.

Again, I don’t mean to say you can learn to play short shots as well as the really skilled players, but you can make more progress in this area than your full swing. And the benefits will more directly affect your game.

I welcome your results, and I hope it leads to more golfers asking for short-game lessons. And to me that’s a great thing, because who doesn’t want to play more golf when they’re shooting their lowest scores ever?

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. TexasSnowman

    Sep 7, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Short Game is Not the most important part of the game per se. GIR is King as has been proven by Broadie and others; and GIR is a combo of Driving and Iron Play (full swing!) but a great or above average short game is certainly a great asset. Short game has always been a weakness for me, but I recently played and shot 72 and it was All about the short game… 8 GIR, 1 birdie; Up&down 9 of 10 = 72 Strange Game. Note: My BALLSTRIKING was good enough that I was in position to scramble for Pars from relatively close range on every hole where I missed the GIR….I didn’t need to be a wizard around the greens playing from some weird spots. Again, thats why ball striking is more the key to getting to single digit handicap even if you are above average in the short game. You gotta hit the ball well enough to be in a decent position consistently to give yourself a good chance to get up/down.

    • Greg

      Sep 7, 2017 at 7:22 am

      While that’s partially true, scrambling can also be king. If you’re around the green with your 3rd shot, you can save a lot of pars by chipping and putting well. I’ve seen so many people on the edge of the green hit a bad chip and two-three putt for bogey/double when they could just make a good chip and have a kick in par.

    • Hatch

      Sep 11, 2017 at 11:15 am

      I think the point Dennis is trying to make here is that the “average” golfer has a better chance of improving their game by working on the short game more often. I think it’s easier to improve the short game than it is improving ball striking. I don’t believe he’s saying that short game is more important. I have worked with several buddies who were in the 15-30 handicap range, while all of them need to improve their ball striking, it’s been more efficient to work on the short game more often with the limited amount of practice time they have.

  2. GMR

    Sep 6, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Sure, it’s easy to knock strokes off your score by tidying up a sloppy short game, clearly. Once you have a decent short game, however (i.e. never taking more than 3 strokes from inside 100, eliminating 3-putts, and getting up and down 25%+ of the time around the green), you will much more quickly hit the point of diminishing returns. It takes a LOT of effort to get your wedges crisp enough to consistently get up/down from 50, 60, 70 yards…

    If I’m trying to improve for the short term (match or tournament in the coming week), you’ll see me almost exclusively on or around the practice green. If I’m trying to really improve long-term, though, you’d better believe you are going to see me working on my swing.

    • GMR

      Sep 6, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Actually my comment reminded me of a guy at our club who sandbags by spending all season working on his swing without bothering keeping his short game crisp. 3-putts a lot and never gets up and down. Then come the end of the season when we have some of the championships you’ll see him out there every day chipping and putting. Funny how he always seems to finish near the top…

      • Chopper

        Sep 6, 2017 at 10:34 am

        We play all of our “majors” off twelve month low. Takes care of that guy.

  3. Tommy

    Sep 6, 2017 at 1:04 am

    The author is correct. The chances of a recreational golfer improving his short game is MUCH better than for him to improve his long game. Most spend 80% of their practice time hitting driver and it doesn’t seem to make much difference. That much time and effort on chips and pitches, with some good instruction, will be a difference THAT’S ACTUALLY POSSIBLE. Bringing the pro along is just object confirmation, nothing more. Sure, it works in the inverse too, but that’s not the point.

    • ChrisK

      Sep 6, 2017 at 1:11 am

      So if rec golfers reduce their driver practice their drives will deteriorate even further to the point of redundancy.
      Might as well not even carry a driver and just use a higher lofted fairway like a 3-wood.
      Of course that’s not macho and golf is a game of macho for high handicappers who brag (lie) “I hit a drive that must have gone 280 yards with my new driver.. I love it!”… or some such BeeEss.

  4. 8thehardway

    Sep 5, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    No need to bother a pro… move up one or two sets of tees and see how many strokes you shave off your typical score; I guess a 90s golfer would only save 5 strokes playing 700 yards less (about 40 yards less per hole).

    • Bruce Hart

      Sep 6, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      when i play from the ladies tees i suddenly have makeable putts for birdie and even eagle. whereas from the whites on a “real” (not executive) course i usually have to make a long putt or chip it in for a birdie. for me it has been all about finding/using the right equipment (using a 3 wood instead of driver, ditching the hybrids for a 5 and 7 wood, using a long counterbalanced putter, finding the right bounce on a 54 degree wedge and so on).

      • Chris K

        Sep 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm

        CONGRATULATIONS, Bruce Hart, you are a sane, intelligent golfer who plays within his reasonable capabilities, just as I do.
        Those who play from the ‘tips’ to get their money’s worth and then can’t break 100 honestly are the one’s who buy the latest and greatest new model drivers promising distance and dialing out your swing flaws.
        You, and I, are gentlemen golfers who play a controlled game from the forward tees and mostly stay out of the rough and OBs. Macho golfers plug up the course searching for lost balls because their swing is forever flawed and they try to repair it on the golf course. That’s why we have 5 hour rounds.
        You don’t learn a swing on the course, unless you are an incompetent clown oblivious to others.

  5. Chris K

    Sep 5, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    That’s an unnecessary exercise and a waste of time for the club pro or low capper just to demonstrate the obvious. If you do this, all you need do is take the club pro to the landing area and let him show you how accurate he can be from various distances using say 3 balls into the green. If you want to try another hole do the same thing and the point is proven. End of lesson.

    A better solution is to stop with your futile driver practice and use the time and money to walk the course during cheaper twilight play when there are few to no players and carrying a 7 or 8 iron, a wedge and hit a pile of balls into the greens. Play 9 holes with say 4 balls and that’s the equivalent of playing 36 holes of approach shots. Fix your ball marks.
    Of course this should only be done after you have practiced and trained at the range with short irons before you venture on to the course. You don’t learn the golf swing on the golf course; the course is a test of your practiced golf swing.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Sep 6, 2017 at 10:17 am

      Just make sure to repair all those pitch marks. 🙂

      • Chris K

        Sep 6, 2017 at 2:09 pm

        Yes I do, but I also practice ‘bump & run’ shots and intentional bunker shots as part of my short game, and that reduces the number of pitch marks. I also repair the ball marks left over from the afternoon players who do a bad job on their marks.

      • Bruce Hart

        Sep 6, 2017 at 2:12 pm

        i was chewed out by a marshal once for hitting two balls into a green. some courses are less relaxed than others.

        • Chris K

          Sep 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm

          Yes, but if you play a solo golf round in the evening twilight when there is no traffic or marshals there is no problem playing multiple balls. If somebody is coming just let them through by clearing your balls off the greens and let them through. On the fairway they can play through your many balls.
          Sometimes I just play with two clubs, an 8 iron and a sand wedge for bunker practice, and even putt with them. You don’t really need to practice putting if you are practicing your short game.

  6. Buckets

    Sep 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    An 18 handicap hitting tee shots and approach with tour pro hitting the rest would shoot way higher then a Tour Pro hitting all tee shots and approach shots and 18 handicap hitting the short shots.

    Even if guy averaged 2.5 putts per hole and duff a couple chips still be like 80

  7. Buckets

    Sep 5, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Not really. The top 20 in world are filled with poor, relative to peers putters.
    Im a +2 handicap and there is defiantly better putters than me that are like 15 handicaps.
    Hitting 15 greens per round is a lot harder than being a good putter.
    Kinda like any average joe can hit 80% free throws better than half of nba players, but could still never score like them.
    You can deftiently have a poor short game and be a +4 or even tour pro.
    Tim Clark… had chipping yips, couldn’t do it
    Vijay sinch chips crosshanded putts all kinds of ways.
    proximity is key even bad putters make will conver 2 0r 3 out of 14 not to mention 2 putt or tap in birdies.

    • Chris K

      Sep 5, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Could you hit 15 greens per round only using a 12-13º 2-wood or a 14-15º 3-wood?
      Of course this would put the stress on your mid to long iron play on approach shots.
      It’s a trade-off between using your big dog 9º driver and spraying balls all over the place for recovery shots, or, controlling your drives with a 2 or 3-wood and working for more greens in regulation.
      Choose yer poison.

      • Buckets

        Sep 5, 2017 at 6:08 pm

        for example in Woods epic years he was about 55% fairways and 73% greens

        his strokes gained approach was 2

        putting plus around green was 1.3

        Its all about hitting greens, hitting fairways helps that but not as much as you’d think.

        most 18 handicaps i play with hit almost every fairway and almost no greens and some have pretty good short games. Usually not bunker play because they never get enough speed.

        • ChrisK

          Sep 6, 2017 at 1:17 am

          You say: – “most 18 handicaps i play with hit almost every fairway and almost no greens and some have pretty good short games.”
          So if “some have pretty good short games” why are they not getting on the greens?
          Most 18 handicappers I play with may have a few pars but blow up wildly on other holes and cannot recover. Their game is chaotic.

  8. TR1PTIK

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    I can agree with this. I think a lot of people are missing the point, but between the title and the article itself it’s difficult to tell if you’re trying to argue statistical facts about the long game or simply emphasize that the short game is still a critical component of low scoring. I believe you are simply doing the latter and based on that I would absolutely agree. Even on my worst days off the tee, I can still get around the course well enough to break 90 without sweating about it – assuming no more than maybe 3 penalty strokes – if my short game is working. Likewise, I can cruise below 80 when all cylinders are firing. BUT when my short game is off, it quickly becomes a struggle to keep it under 90 as I just seem to compound issues around the green. I can also agree with those that have said it’s simply more fun to hit the long ball well, but it’s also REALLY fun to wow your playing partners with a good short game – especially when you hole out from off the green a time or two.

    • Buckets

      Sep 5, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      but really it’s not

      Jack Nicklaus always said why practice chipping, when i can practice hitting the green.

      I’ve seen rounds played where a player hit 16 greens. Had two 2 putt birdies a couple kick ins missed every other putt and failed to get up and down both times still shoots under par.

  9. Bob Jones

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Anybody who shoots 95 needs a better swing to get to 85. Anyone who shoots 85 needs a better short game to get to 80. Not the other way around. Hale Irwin said, “The shortest route to improvement is to get on the green in fewer strokes.” Percy Boomer said, “Good scores are only made possible by good play up to the green.” The major responsibility for that lies with the swing.

  10. Butch

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Excellent advice, thanks!

  11. Travis

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    “Proof that scratch players are better than 10-handicap” test.

  12. EHK

    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I get your point and agree, but as far as an enlightening experience, I think the inverse would be more impactful. If you took the pro’s shots from tee to green (par – 2) and had the higher handicap player finish it off, I would think you would highlight just how many strokes are being lost to short game. Hopefully it wouldnt be too discouraging, but the anticipated thought was – IF I had the game of a scratch player from tee to green, Im still not close to par because my short game doesnt hold up.

  13. Bob

    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Dennis, what you forget is that all the golfers here are WRXer’s. They all hit 300+ drives and hit their approach shots to within 3 feet. They have no concept of what you are trying to say.

  14. Philip

    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    It all depends on the golfer in question … I lose about 6-8 off the tee (lost balls, awful position), 2-3 from my approach (and often due to bad recovery off the tee) and 3-4 from a mishit or miss read on and around the green – just enough to reduce my chances of making the next putt. Now, if you were to ask me the same question over the last two months it would definitely be true as I was trying to get my overall swing under control so much that my short game and putting had gotten so bad that I was missing 2 footers for par (almost gave myself the yips). A couple of weeks, focusing on my short game, got them back on track and now I am back onto my full swing – which is finally clicking and my pars/birdies are increasing.

  15. Chris K

    Sep 5, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I brought my aged game under control with a 300+ yard duo-drive.
    I don’t carry a driver, only 3-5-7 fairways plus a hybrid, a few short irons and several wedges. I aim for a straight 200 yard drive off the tee with my 3-wood and then another fairway wood or iron as needed. I cover the first 300+ yards totally under control and then I play my approach shot with deadly accuracy.
    To perfect my short game I played solo golf in the evenings when the course is empty and I carry a 6, 7 or 8 iron and a wedge plus 10 balls which I sprinkle around for approach shots. From 150 yards in I’m a PGA pro. I love splashing the ball out of the sand too.
    The solution to the game for rec players is to abandon the expensive, useless, difficult driver and start with a 15º 3-wood, and you will have a pleasant and controlled game, but you must practice by yourself on the range and then the course. Only then can you present yourself to other decent players and avoid playing with the clowns and hackers.
    I will never conquer the driver and I refuse to get suckered into buying a driver that promises distance and dialing in the shot trajectories, because the problem is in the big swing and not the driver.
    As for playing a round with a pro player, that’s just a fantasy trip for the rec players who don’t have full control of their clubs; and only time and practice will solve that inadequacy.

  16. Chopper

    Sep 5, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I remember reading a story of Tom Kite doing this very thing with a couple of UT golfers (maybe in The Little Red Book?) with the exact results that Mr. Clark describes. As I remember it they played the front 9 and could not understand how he was drubbing them as they hit as well as Kite. They played the back nine with Kite hitting the short game shots only and shot nothing. Sorry if I messed up some of the particulars as it has been ages since I read it.

  17. Daniel

    Sep 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I feel like some people are missing the author’s point a bit.

    He is NOT saying that a bogey golfer would score better having a scratch player hit his pitches, chips & putts than he would having the scratch player hit his drives and approaches. Of course his score would be lower this way. The scratch would hit way more GIRs and Mr. Bogey would have way more birdies and 2-putt pars.

    All he is saying is that a Mr. Bogey, who thinks he teeters around 90 because he only hits 4-5 GIRs, would be surprised how much lower a scratch can go with Mr. Bogey’s drives and approaches than Mr. Bogey can.

    • DD

      Sep 5, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      I have tremendous trouble off the tee. Using equitable stroke control I had 3 rounds this summer of 101 losing 15 balls, 88 losing 8 balls and 85 losing 5 balls. The 101 would have been more like a 110 if I didn’t use ESC, I made 4 birds on the 88, and I made par on 3 of the lost balls for the 85 (red stakes). No one on God’s green Earth is going to convince me I’d improve more by focusing on my short game than my full swing. I’m a 12.5 btw.

  18. Jim Maron

    Sep 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I read a rule of thumb about scores and greens in regulation. The rule is 95-(2*gir) = avg score.

    My scores are typically about 3-4 shots higher than that formula would suggest. I also looked at the at Mark Broadie strokes gained putting and found my putting doesn’t stack up to my handicap level. So I’m pretty sure working on my short game is what’s required.

    But yet, I don’t practice it much. Partly because I don’t have access to proper facilities to do so, but also because I just don’t find the putting and chipping in golf much fun. If I made my own course and made all the rules – the hole would be 5 feet in diameter and there would be no greens.

    • Steve

      Sep 5, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Try comparing this formula to your avg score:

      58 – ((4/3) * GIR) + Putts

  19. Dennis's clark

    Sep 5, 2017 at 10:04 am

    If you are currently a single digit cap, hitting say 7-8 GIRS (scratch players hit 10.5 I believe) and you make a dramatic swing improvement you MAY go to 8-9 GIRs and be closer on missed greens. You’ll still be be chipping, pitching or hitting bunker shots 9-10 times a round. My teaching center is situated in view of the 1st and 10th greens at our facilty. I can’t tell you how many times i see members turn 2 shots into 3, 3 into four etc….and then come for a full swing lesson. When most people come for a lesson they are asking to hit the ball better, not lower their scores. The relationship between the two is much less direct than one might think. Thx for reading

  20. M.S.

    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:51 am

    I don’t know if the statement that “The short shots make the difference” is completely accurate, what with Mark Broadie data and whatnot – but I do think that perhaps the “ROI” or Return-On-Investment is higher for short game practise, i.e. an hour spent properly training chipping/pitching would take more strokes of your score than say hitting a bucket of balls with the the mid irons.
    1. Learn to hit tee shots decently, without resulting penalty
    2. Learn to scramble
    3. Profit

  21. birdy

    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Willing to bet a bogey golfer would score better if they let Phil Mickelson hit the tee shot and approach on every hole vs letting phil hit the chips and putts.

    • Daniel

      Sep 5, 2017 at 10:22 am

      This statement is completely irrelevant to the argument he is making. The point is that a scratch could do better with your shots.

      • Buckets

        Sep 5, 2017 at 6:14 pm

        nah guy is trying to say short game is important differnce between pro and high handicap, its not it the long game, ball striking..

        No great ball strikers are 18 handicaps are, some great putters are.

  22. SoonerSlim

    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Dennis,

    I’ve never done this with a Pro, but I have dedicated 4 weeks before, 3-4 times a week in the eve to nothing but the short game. I took three balls, three different clubs, 6,8, SW and putter. I would hit the three balls to the same pin from different lies and locations, then make the putts if I did not hole out. Also, borrowing a page from Mickey Wright, I would also play to six holes with the three balls, putt them out and see how many times I could get up and down for the 18 holes. After this one month of practice, I dropped my average score from avg 79 to avg 75, par 72. I know this works!

    Jim

  23. 8thehardway

    Sep 5, 2017 at 8:12 am

    If you take a direct flight to Myrtle Beach but have to walk to your resort it takes longer than a connecting flight and a taxi.

  24. Oppai

    Sep 5, 2017 at 2:18 am

    This will only work with a fairly decent and reliable shooter who can get off the tee somewhat, on an open muni course with no OB. Take a poor player to any tricked out course with OB and forced tee-shot carries and tight tunnel-like shot off the tees – it won’t really matter because more than likely you are hitting 3 on most of those holes, and then hitting 5 or even 7 from the fairway.

  25. Denny Jones

    Sep 4, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I have to disagree to some extent. I realize the pro can do wonders in the short game area but the score would be lower if the pro hit all of the long shots.

    Pro tees off on a 400 yard par 4 and hits the ball in the fairway 320 yards leaving me an 80 yard shot to the green. The statistics prove that my game is closer to the professionals from 80 yards than from 400 yards.

    The average player from the same tee isn’t gong to hit the ball 320, maybe 220 leaving 180 yards to the green. What are the percentages of the pro hitting the green closer to the pin from his 180 than my 80 yards. I’d take those odds all day long.

    I believe Mark Broadie in his book “Every Shot Counts” verifies this.

    • Scott

      Sep 5, 2017 at 9:13 am

      +1

    • Daniel

      Sep 5, 2017 at 10:24 am

      This argument is completely irrelevant to the point he is making.

      He isn’t saying that a bogey golfer wouldn’t be better if the pro hits his long shots. Of course he would.

      He is saying that a bogey golfer who thinks he scores poorly because he misses the green by 10 yards would be surprised at how low he could still go by having a scratch chip & putt for him.

  26. Hans

    Sep 4, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Yes as some have said if you reversed the pro/am here youd see a big score difference too (probably more), but I think the point of this is just to show you can improve your game more than you might guess via the short game. While there are a lot of stats to suggest the long game is more important, for the avg guy without a lot of practice time (and/or talent) its a lot easier to get better at the short game than the long game so showing golfers that big score changes can he made via short game is a way to get them to focus on a part of the game they are more likely to be able to make big improvements in. A pro could show you how valuable a 300y drive is, doesnt mean you can strive for that, but showing you how much good chipping or lag putting helps gives you sthg most people could strive for.

    • Steve

      Sep 4, 2017 at 7:08 pm

      Excellent point Hans. IMO the reason pros preach about the short game so much is because that’s the easiest area for am’s to improve. The full swing takes a great deal more time and technique to realize improvement.

  27. Chris B

    Sep 4, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    It sounds sensible to me, it’s just going to show you what is possible scoring wise from the long game you have. Just because a scratch golfer might take 10 less shots than you doesn’t mean that’s the goal. If you can improve by 2-3 shots that will make a big difference.

    If you think that most golfers at any level are going to take between 30-45 shots from on and around the green…

  28. TigerMom

    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I think you need a better test to make a comparison:

    1. You hit all the shots (you probably already know this)
    2. Pro hits all the shots
    3. You hit full shots and pro hits short game shots
    4. Pro hits full shots and you hit short game shots

  29. Dennis Clark

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:53 am

    The reverse for me would be hypothetical because I’ve never done it that way. Those who have would know better than I. In any case my advice remains the same: we can improve short game a LOT more than full swing.

  30. larrybud

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Try the opposite, as a pro, play your student’s shots from 150 and out and see where that gets you. Tough to make par when your student is reloading 4 times from the tee!

  31. Rano

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:24 am

    I know what you are trying to say, but you need to rethink this “test”, because at the moment all it proves is that your scores will drop significantly if you let a much better player take 25-50% of your shots, which err… is not exactly revolutionary.

    My scores would also drop dramatically if a scratch player took all of my tee shots.

  32. Jimal

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Have to disagree with the fun part. If I’m scrambling almost every hole and shoot even that is a frustrating no fun round, but if i hit the ball great and hit almost every green and shoot 80 then I enjoyed my day a lot more. Hitting the ball bad isn’t fun at all no matter your score.

    • Christian Wagner

      Sep 4, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. You are saying scrambling for pars and shooting even is less fun than three putting all day?! If the only thing you think is fun about golf is hitting it long stick to the game. At the end of the day the SCORE is what counts, and the lower the better. 72 is < 80.

    • justin case

      Sep 5, 2017 at 9:21 am

      i agree. bad hitting is no fun. if you hit good, prob not gonna shoot 80 anyway.

    • Jim Maron

      Sep 5, 2017 at 10:40 am

      I’m with you – just posted as much below. I understand why people love the challenge of getting a ball in a tiny little hole, but I think the majority of people find hitting full shots a lot more fun.

  33. msg21

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I had one game last year that opened up my mind with the importance of the short game. I broke 80 last year at a fairly difficult course. My driver was duck
    hooking all day. Resulting in shots
    going as far as 170 yards all to the left. But my irons were decent and my chipping and putting caught fire. I realized that even with a faulty driver, I can break 80
    or shoot in the low 80’s. After that game, I rarely practiced at the
    driving range my full shots.
    I concentrated on my putting and chipping and saw my handicap drop to single digits.

    • TRONALD DUMP

      Sep 4, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Any course that allows 170 yard misses off the tee is made significantly easier because of that fact. If you take that game on the road to a course with tree lined holes and OB you will be posting monster scores. Short game will only do some much for you when your missing to that degree of the tee.

    • Scott

      Sep 5, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Must not have been that difficult of a course

  34. Steve

    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:35 am

    If you reversed the shots the pro and the student hit the results would be the same.

  35. biguns123

    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Yes short game makes a huge difference. My best rounds are the rounds I putt and chip well. On the course I play I am going to hit 12-13 greens each round as its a short course. My best rounds are the ones where I get up and down. <– Captain obvious there.

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Instruction

The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Instruction

Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf

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Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of ShotByShot.com, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of ShotByShot.com, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of ShotByShot.com in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use ShotbyShot.com

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball

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In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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