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How many Greens in Regulation should you be hitting based on your handicap?

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What exactly is a Green-in-Regulation (GIR)?

This may seem like a silly question. It certainly did to me until I recently met with two of my long-time clients — prominent golf instructors — and learned that they both (independently of each other) had been coaching their elite juniors that a GIR meant that an approach shot was successful. REALLY guys?

To be clear, a GIR is a ball reaching the putting surface in two or more strokes less than par, regardless of how it gets there. A few examples of GIR’s:

  • A Par 5 green reached in two shots.
  • A Par 5 missed in two but the short game shot hit on the green in three.
  • A Par 4 green driven or reached in one or two shots.
  • A Par 3 tee shot that comes to rest on the green.

How do I know the Number of GIR’s players should hit?

I developed ShotByShot.com, a Strokes-Gained analysis website.  We have been providing Strokes Gained analysis to players at all levels of the game since 1992,  collecting more than 320,000 rounds from thousands of players in the process.

What is so important about GIR’s?

In my opinion, GIR’s is the most important of the Old School, one-dimensional traditional stats. ShotByShot.com replaced these dinosaur stats with a more dynamic and informative analysis methodology – now known as Strokes Gained.  Those that have read my previous articles or visited my website will know these old stats as:

  • Fairways Hit
  • Sand Saves
  • # Putts
  • # Putts per GIR

In the ShotByShot.com program, Fairways Hit has been retained, but augmented by five categories of the severity of the fairways missed. (See my recent article explaining this further: How valuable is hitting fairways, really?) I kept GIR’s as they are an important positive in the game. First, it is an accomplishment to have been efficient enough to reach the green in regulation.  Second, is always represents some sort of a birdie opportunity.

The Numbers?

The GIR numbers below represent the number hit by each handicap group in the rounds when they play to their handicap, or the BEST 10 of their most recent 20 rounds. In other words, if you strive to get to Scratch (0 handicap), your best rounds should average about 12 GIR’s.

Finally, you might ask how could the 0-2 handicap group hit virtually the same Number of GIR’s as the PGA Tour average?  Here are a few reasons:

  • The dramatic difference in the length of the courses played by the pros vs. amateurs.
  • Pros tend to attack pins looking for birdies while amateurs learn to excel through consistency.

For a complete analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your game, log onto ShotByShot.com.

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. henry

    Jun 10, 2018 at 6:09 am

    This is some solid advice. Though I dont know if I would ever throw a $20 on the ground for missing a putt on the practice green. I like the basis though. I keep a towel under my lead armpit for just about every swing, and the second I feel tired, I take it to the putting green. But i improved a lot by using this product. https://bit.ly/2HAGq7v

  2. JJD

    Jun 4, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Geez, I’m in the 0-5 handicap range and I’m lucky to hit 6 or 7 greens. I need to work on that.

  3. Scott

    May 14, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you for the stats. This article is spot on. Sure there are some irregularities with small green courses or people that can’t putt hitting greens and not scoring, but I score better when I hit greens. I am sure most amateurs score better with a putter in their hand then with a wedge.

  4. Mike

    May 14, 2018 at 10:10 am

    I think this also highlights how good of putters PGA tour pros are, as well as how good their short games are in general. I’ve been a 0-3 handicap for years and used to track my GIR, and about 12 was my average. However, my scoring was more like averaging 75-76, because I had/have a mediocre short game at best and made few birdie putts. I used to joke that a tour pro would probably average about 69 from where I hit it tee to green, and that is probably true….

  5. OB

    May 9, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    the comment on pro’s attack flags and ams learning to be consistent is nonsense, and no basis in fact.

  6. Si

    May 8, 2018 at 5:00 am

    I don’t always hit GIR….but when I do I 3 putt!!!

  7. chris Jensen

    May 4, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    I agree with the poster who counts the Big GIR and includes the fringe, or what my playing partners refer to as “handy”; ie not on the green but still fairly near the pin and possibly make-able.

    Is it better to be on the green a long way from the hole, or relatively near the pin, just off the green?

    As a young junior I could hit 12-15 greens fairly consistently by playing away from the pin in most situations, and being happy with stress free pars. I’d always end up 3 putting a few though, and I’d only make a few birdies on average because I was 20-30 feet a lot. I seldom could break 70 but rarely shot over 75 or 76.

    As an older player, I’ve learned that taking dead aim on most pins is far more fun and will yield a lot more makeable birdies. When I miss the green it’s usually In the general vicinity of the pin, pin high, though often short-sided. I feel pretty good about my odds of getting up and down from there compared to putting from 50 or 60 feet. And when I do hit the shot the way I want to, Ive got a great look at birdie.

    Nothing worse than playing away from the pin, hitting a perfect shot, and then having 30 or 40 feet for birdie.

    Another point is distance control. I can hit all 18 greens, but if I am constantly coming up on the front of the green when the pins are middle or Back, it’s not going to be a great scoring round. Few realistic chances for birdie and lots of 3-putt potential. Getting the ball all the way back to the pin is critical to success

    Another point to missed GIR is when you hit a poor tee shot and have no realistic shot at the green, blocked out, water, lost ball, etc. So to hit more greens, hit more fairways, Total Driving has a huge influence on GIR.

    So in summary, GIR is less important to me than how close to the hole I end up whether you hit or miss the green. (Obviously I’d rather be on AND close) Obviously some risks are not worth taking in certain situations and some up and downs are impossible from the wrong spot.
    when to be aggressive require careful thought and execution.

    try to set yourself up with good angles off the Tee to attack the pins, back it up with a confident short game when you miss, and try to make lots of birdies. You may shoot high on your bad days, but your good days will be much much lower.

  8. Bob Jones

    May 4, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    I believe for higher handicap golfers GIR is a completely irrelevant stat. What is more important at that level of golf is getting the ball green-high in regulation (GHIR), which is measure of how efficiently you play from tee to green (no OB, lost balls, water balls, tops, chunks, recovery strokes, etc.). Once your GHIR is routinely below 40 you can switch to GIR because you are good enough to start having them be more of an expectation to a certain extent than a matter of luck.

  9. James T

    May 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    I count BGIR’s. “Big Greens In Regulation”. If I’m on the fringe or just off with a fairly flat lie I still stand a good chance of getting it up and down… sometimes even a chip in! For me, personally, this is a better and more reliable stat. So if I hit 13-14 BGIR’s I stand a good chance of shooting around or slightly over par. Although only 10 of those may have been GIR’s.

  10. TheCityGame

    May 4, 2018 at 11:52 am

    GIR is much more aligned with “what you shoot” than what handicap you are. Many golfers play courses rated in between 68 and 75.

    If you’re hitting 10 greens on a CR 70 course and you’re a 4 who wants to get to scratch, you better start hitting more greens, or find a way to hit 10 greens on a longer/tougher course.

  11. al

    May 4, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Years ago one of the golf mags had a similar study and said if you want to shoot 80 you need about 8 GIR and for every additional GIR from there you hit you can average 2 shots better per round. Since then I have kept a lot of stats on my rounds and the stats are legit. I have averaged between 12-13 GIR for a long while and I fall in the +3 to +1 hdcp range. My really low rounds are usually a combination of more GIR and fewer putts- the poor rounds less GIR and more putts including 3 putts. So I tell players who want to improve if they track one stat over time it is GIR. I just finished a city tourney and hit 25 greens in 36 holes and shot -3 for the event. Very “balanced” score based on my ball striking. The year I won the event I hit 31 greens and shot -13 and putted great the last round.

  12. 2putttom

    May 4, 2018 at 10:19 am

    a good read and the graph gave me the info i was looking for and encouragement I need.

  13. larrybud

    May 3, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    I must be a short game wizard. I was a 4-5 when I was hitting 7 a round.

    Now I’m bet 2-3 and hit 11, however my “bad” differentials are much better.

  14. Yoker

    May 3, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    I got WITB full of fantastic clubs and I still can’t break 90… and my GIR is lousy… what’s wrong with my clubs??!!!

  15. Zach

    May 3, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    This appears to be fairly consistent with my game at least. 14 handicap, I usually hit 3-4 greens per side or so. This has me pegged at 6.9. I can also easily hit 7 on one 9 and miss all of them the next 9.

  16. Obee

    May 3, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Overwhelmingly dependent on the type of course you play, be you pro or am..

    10 – 15 years ago as a solid +2 to +3, I averaged 12+ greens per round, but the course I played was 6500, with soft greens. I would have averaged only 10 if I played my current course back then at 7200, 75.8/147.

    You mention that in your section about pros versus plus-cap ams, but an amateur 7 handicapper with a home course of 6250 yards is generally going to hit lots more greens than a 7-capper at a course that’s 6950.

  17. Joe

    May 3, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    These numbers look about how I would think they would. I would say that the biggest change for players within the single-digit handicap range is course management and learning to play away from sucker pins. GIR tends to be reflective of better course management. Not at all surprised to see PGA Tour #’s lower than the best group of players, by handicap, for exactly the reason the author stated.

  18. Jerry

    May 3, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Curious how many WRX’s match up, I know that my number relate fairly closely to these stats for my handicap.

  19. ViagrGolfer

    May 3, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Now that I got a set of PXGs in my bag and I’m gonna put a Stability shaft to my Scotty for a stiffer putter with more feel I am confident my GIRs will shoot up magnificently.

    • acew/7iron

      May 3, 2018 at 8:09 pm

      Like the VH song when DLR says:

      “Let us know…How you do!”

    • James T

      May 3, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      A Stability shaft in your Scotty won’t help your GIR’s. But it might help your score.

      • lance

        May 4, 2018 at 2:48 pm

        A stiffer shaft will always help you “score”….. ºUº

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Opinion & Analysis

A day at the CP Women’s Open

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It’s another beautiful summer day in August. Just like any other pro-am at a professional tour event, amateurs are nervously warming up on the driving range and on the putting green next to their pros. As they make their way to the opening tees, they pose for their pictures, hear their names called, and watch their marque player stripe one down the fairway. But instead of walking up 50 yards to the “am tees,” they get to tee it up from where the pros play—because this is different: this is the LPGA Tour!

I’m just going to get right to it, if you haven’t been to an LPGA Tour event you NEED to GO! I’ve been to a lot of golf events as both a spectator and as media member, and I can say an LPGA Tour event is probably the most fun you can have watching professional golf.

The CP Women’s Open is one of the biggest non-majors in women’s golf. 96 of the top 100 players in the world are in the field, and attendance numbers for this stop on the schedule are some of the highest on tour. The 2019 edition it is being held at exclusive Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, which is about an hour north of downtown Toronto and designed by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The defending Champion is none other than 21-year-old Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson, who won in emotional fashion last year.

From a fan’s perspective, there are some notable differences at an LPGA Tour event, and as a true “golf fan,” not just men’s golf fan, there are some big parts of the experience that I believe everyone can enjoy:

  • Access: It is certainly a refreshing and laidback vibe around the golf course. It’s easy to find great vantage points around the range and practice facility to watch the players go through their routines—a popular watching spot. Smaller infrastructure doesn’t mean a smaller footprint, and there is still a lot to see, plus with few large multi-story grandstands around some of the finishing holes, getting up close to watch shots is easier for everyone.
  • Relatability: This is a big one, and something I think most golfers don’t consider when they choose to watch professional golf. Just like with the men’s game there are obviously outliers when it comes to distance on the LPGA Tour but average distances are more in line with better club players than club players are to PGA Tour Pros. The game is less about power and more about placement. Watching players hit hybrids as accurately as wedges is amazing to watch. Every player from a scratch to a higher handicap can learn a great deal from watching the throwback style of actually hitting fairways and greens vs. modern bomb and gouge.
  • Crowds: (I don’t believe this is just a “Canadian Thing”) It was refreshing to spend an entire day on the course and never hear a “mashed potatoes” or “get in the hole” yelled on the tee of a par 5. The LPGA Tour offers an extremely family-friendly atmosphere, with a lot more young kids, especially young girls out to watch their idols play. This for me is a huge takeaway. So much of professional sports is focused on the men, and with that you often see crowds reflect that. As a father to a young daughter, if she decides to play golf, I love the fact that she can watch people like her play the game at a high level.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between men’s and women’s professional sports, but as far as “the product” goes, I believe that LPGA Tour offers one of the best in professional sports, including value. With a great forecast, a great course, and essentially every top player in the field, this week’s CP Women’s Open is destined to be another great event. If you get the chance to attend this or any LPGA Tour event, I can’t encourage you enough to go!

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Podcasts

TG2: New podcaster Larry D on his show “Bogey Golf”

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GolfWRX Radio welcomes a new podcast, Bogey Golf with Larry D and we talk to Larry. He lets us in on his show, who he is, why he loves the game, and even what’s in his bag! Rob missed his member-guest and Knudson got a new driver.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Getting to know Payne Stewart

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Ever since that final putt fell in Pinehurst in 1999, Payne Stewart’s memory has enjoyed mythical qualities. A man of complex charm, but many of us who grew up without him recognize only his Knickerbocker pants, his flat cap, and his W.W.J.D. covered wrist wrapped around that United States Open trophy.

I had a wonderful opportunity to play a round of golf with two men that know a lot about Payne. One through friendship and the other through journalistic research.

Lamar Haynes was Payne Stewart’s close friend and teammate on the SMU golf team. He’s full of stories about Payne from the good old days. Kevin Robbins is an author who just finished a new book on Stewart’s final year of life, set to release to the public for purchase this October. He works as a professor of journalism at the University of Texas but has also enjoyed an impressive career as a reporter and golf writer for over 20 years.

We met at Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, to talk about Payne. Robbins is a solid golfer who spends time working on his game, which tells me a lot about his personality. He is one of us.  As for Haynes, the guy hasn’t lost much since those SMU golf team days. He can still swing it. Fantastic iron player. And both men are wonderful conversationalists. They offered a unique perspective on Stewart—the golfer I grew up idolizing but never really knew. There’s a good chance you don’t really know him, either. At least not the whole story.

“Most golf fans now know the story of his ’99 U.S. Open win,” Robbins said.  “What they don’t know is where he came from.”

Robbins’ book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Foreverchronicles Payne’s last year on earth with dramatic detail, covering his triumph at Pinehurst and the Ryder Cup at Brookline. And, of course, it tells the story of that tragic plane crash that took our champion from us. What the book doesn’t do is hide any of the blemishes about Payne’s life that have either been forgotten or pushed aside by brighter moments and memories.

“I thought that the other Payne Stewart books, while they have a place, they didn’t tell the whole story,” Robbins said.

The whole story, from what I read, was Payne being brash. A poor winner and sometimes a poor sport when he lost. He often said things he shouldn’t have said and then made those mistakes again and again.

“He had no filter,” remembered Haynes.  “Several close friends on tour had a hard time with him when he won his first Open. He didn’t take into account any of the consequences his words could create. He had a huge heart. Huge heart. But at times there was just no filter. But he grew a great deal over the last 2 or three years.”

It’s most certainly is a book about a change. A change in a man that was better late than never. But also a change in golf that began at the turn of the century and hasn’t really slowed down since.

“The 20 years since his death, to see the way golf has moved, what the tour looks like now,” Robins said.  “There was an evolution that was taking place in 1999 and we didn’t know how it would manifest itself. But now we do. So when you see Brooks Koepka hit a 3-wood in the US Open 370 yards, well that all really had its beginnings in 1998 and 1999. The Pro-V1 ball was being tested in 1999 and being rolled out in 2000. Fitness and equipment, sports psychology, nutrition. All of those things that a guy like Payne Stewart really didn’t have to pay attention to.”

But that change that occurred in Payne, culminating in his final year of life, is something worth learning. It’s a lesson for all of us. A guy on top of the world with still so much to fix. And he was fixing it, little by little.

“He was authentic,” Haynes said. “And he learned a lot later in life from his children. With their Bible studies. You saw a change in him. Very much. He had a peace with himself but he still would revert to his DNA. The fun-loving Payne. Raising children and being a father helped him tremendously.”

Payne was passionate about so many things in life but his children became a primary focus. According to Haynes, he would be so loud at his daughter’s volleyball games…yelling intensely at the referees…that they gave him an option: Either he wouldn’t be allowed to watch the games anymore or he needed to become a line judge and help out with the games. So, Payne Stewart became a volleyball line judge.

Lamar brought the head of an old Ram 7-iron along with him to show me. Damaged and bent from the crash, the club was with Payne on his final flight. He had it with him to show his guys at Mizuno as a model for a new set of irons. That Ram 7-iron belonged to Haynes and Payne had always adored the way it looked at address.

“Payne also used my old Mizunos the last year of his life,” Haynes said.  I had received the MS-4s 10 years earlier from Payne in 1989. They were like playing with a shaft on a knife. The sweet spot was so tiny on the MS-4. They made the MP29 and 14s look like game improvement irons. Payne used those. Then Harry Taylor at Mizuno designed him an iron, which later became the MP33. The 29 and 14s were very sharp and flat-soled. Well, Payne loved this old Ram iron set that I had.. He asked for my Ram 7-iron for Harry Taylor to model his new set. He liked the way it went through the turf. He had it with him on the plane. This is the club that started the MP33.”

It was Lamar Haynes, the man who seems to know just about everyone in the golf community, that set Robbins on this writing journey. Robbins had written one book previously: The story of the life of legendary golf coach Harvey Penick. But this book came a bit easier for Robbins, partly due to his experience, partly due to the subject matter, and partly because of Lamar.

“There’s a story here,” Robbins said. “With any book, you hope to encounter surprises along the way, big and little. And I did. I got great cooperation a long the way. Anybody I wanted to talk to, talked to me thanks to this guy Lamar Haynes.”

“Lamar said the first guy you need to talk to is Peter Jacobsen,” Robins said. “And I said ‘great can you put me in touch with him’ which became a common question to Lamar throughout the process.” Robbins chuckled.  “Literally 2 minutes later my phone rings. ‘Kevin, this is Peter Jacobsen here.'”

“Peter told me the story about the ’89 PGA championship in our first conversation. So literally in the first 10 minutes of my reporting effort, I had the first set piece of the book. I had something. Lamar made a lot happen.”

Lamar Haynes and Kevin Robbins

The book is not a biography, though it certainly has biographical elements to it. It is simply the story of Payne’s final year, with a look back at Payne’s not so simple career mixed in. The author’s real talent lives in the research and honesty. The story reads like you’re back in 1999 again, with quotes pulled from media articles or press conferences. Anecdotes are sprinkled here and there from all of Payne’s contemporaries. The storytelling is seamless and captivating.

“I was pleasantly surprised how much Colin Montgomerie remembered about the concession at the 1999 Ryder Cup,” Robbins said. “Colin can be a tough interview. He is generally mistrustful of the media. His agent gave me 15 minutes during the Pro-Am in Houston. This was in the spring of 2018. I met Colin on the 17th hole and he had started his round on 10. Just organically the conversation carried us to the fifth green. Just because he kept remembering things. He kept talking, you know. It was incredible. Tom Lehman was the same way. He said “I’ll give you 20 minutes” and it ended up being an hour and a half at Starbucks.”

The research took Robbins to Massachusetts, Florida, and Missouri—and of course, to Pinehurst. He met with Mike Hicks, Payne’s former caddie, there to discuss that final round. The two ended up out on Pinehurst No. 2, walking the last three holes and reliving the victory. It gives life to the story and fills it with detail.

“Part of what I hoped for this book is that it would be more than just a sports story,” Robbins said.  “More than just a golf story. The more I started thinking about where Payne began and where he ended, it seemed to me…and I’m not going to call it a redemption story although I bet some people do. People when they are younger, they have regrets and they make mistakes. They do things they wish they could take back but they can’t. So, what can they do? Well, they can improve. They can get better. That’s what Payne was doing with his life. He was improving himself. It was too late to change what he had done already. So what could he do with the future? He could be different.”

“It was accurate,” Haynes said.  “I had a tear when I finished it. I texted Kevin right afterward. I told him I couldn’t call him because I’m choked up so I texted him.”

So here’s two men who knew Payne Stewart, albeit in very different ways. They knew he was flawed in life but he got better. Was Payne Stewart that hero at Pinehurst, grabbing Phil Mickelson’s face and telling him the important thing is he’s going to be a father? Yes. But he was so much more than that. He was so much more than I knew before I read this book. Most importantly, Payne Stewart was always improving. A lesson for all of us, indeed.

If you want to hear more about my experience, tweet at me here @FWTXGolfer or message me on Instagram here! I look forward to hearing from you!

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