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Opinion & Analysis

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.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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….

  3. 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.

  4. Si

    May 8, 2018 at 5:00 am

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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??!!!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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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TG2: What’s it like to caddie for Rory? GolfWRX Forum Member shares his experience

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Marine and GolfWRX forum member “djfalcone” explains the story of how he got to caddie for Rory McIlroy and Johnny Vegas through the Birdies for the Brave program, and how knowledgable Rory is about his equipment. Make sure to check out his full forum thread here.

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Opinion & Analysis

An early look at the potential U.S. Ryder Cup Team

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With the Masters and the Players Championship complete, I wanted to examine the statistics of the current leaders in Ryder Cup Points for the U.S. Team. Over the history of the Ryder Cup, the U.S. Team has relied on pairings that were friends and practice-round companions instead of pairing players that were more compatible from a statistical standpoint. This has led to disappointing performances from the U.S. Team and top players such as Jim Furyk performing poorly at the Ryder Cup, as he is ill-suited for the Fourball format.

After a disastrous 2014 Ryder Cup where the U.S. Team lost by a score of 16.5-11.5, the U.S. decided to use a more statistical approach to Ryder Cup play. According to my calculations, the 2016 U.S. Team’s pairings were the closest to optimal that the U.S. Team has compiled in the last seven Ryder Cups. And not surprisingly, the U.S. Team won 17-11 over the Europeans.

Since there are several months to go before the Ryder Cup, I won’t get too much into potential pairings in this article. Instead, I will focus more on the current games of top-12 players in U.S. Ryder Cup Points Standings and how that translates to Ryder Cup performance.

About the Ryder Cup Format

In the Ryder Cup, there is the Foursome format (alternate shot) and the Fourball format (best score). There are distinctly different metrics in the game that correlate to quality performers in each format.

In the Foursome format, short game around the green performance is usually critical. In a typical stroke play event such as The Players Championship, short game around the green performance usually has a much smaller impact on player’s performance. But in a match play, alternate-shot format the opposite has been true. My conclusion is that with the alternate-shot format, more greens in regulation are likely to be missed. The team that can save par and extend holes is usually likely to come out on top. The European team has mostly dominated the U.S. team over the past 20 years in the Foursome format, and the European teams typically are stronger with their short game around the green.

Other factors involved with Foursome play are Red Zone Performance (shots from 175-225 yards) and being able to pair the right players together based on how they each play off the tee and with their approach shots from the rough. For example, a pairing of Phil Mickelson (who misses a lot of fairways) and Zach Johnson (who is not very good from the rough) would likely be a poor pairing.

In the Fourball format (lowest score), the best performers are high birdie makers and players that perform well on the par-4s, par-5s, and par-3s. Bubba Watson makes a lot of birdies and plays the par-4s and par-5s well, thus making him a good candidate for the Fourball format. The only issue with Bubba in the past is he has occasionally struggled on the par-3s. That can be resolved by pairing him with a player who makes a lot of birdies and is a strong performer on the par-3s. The reason for Jim Furyk’s struggles in the Fourball format is that he does not make a lot of birdies and is a merely average performer on the par-5s.

Note: All rankings below are based out of 209 golfers.

1. Patrick Reed

In the past, it has been difficult to get an accurate depiction of Reed’s game. He was notorious for either getting into contention or blowing up if he wasn’t in contention after the first round. He is now far better at avoiding those blowup rounds and remaining competitive regardless of how he well he performs at the beginning of the tournament. His iron play has been excellent, and since he is good on approach shots from the rough, short game around the green and he makes a lot of birdies and plays the par-4s and par-5s well, he should continue to be a great competitor in the Ryder Cup format. Given his inability to find the fairway off the tee, however, I would recommend pairing him with a quality performer from the rough in the alternate shot format.

2. Justin Thomas

On paper, Thomas should be Team USA’s toughest competitor as he has little in the way of holes in his game. He drives it great, hits his irons well from every distance, has a superb short game and can putt. He also makes a ton of birdies, plays every type of hole well and rarely makes bogeys. Like Reed, it would be advisable to pair him with a player that is a quality performer from the rough in the alternate shot format.

3. Dustin Johnson

DJ is the second-strongest performer on paper. The only thing that currently separates Justin Thomas from DJ is their Red Zone play. DJ has typically been a world-class performer from the Red Zone, however, and the data suggests that his ranking from the Red Zone should rapidly improve. He struck it well from the Red Zone in his last two events at Harbour Town Golf Links and TPC Sawgrass. And with his putting performance this season, he could make for a great competitor in this year’s Ryder Cup.

4. Jordan Spieth

Spieth has the metrics to be a strong Ryder Cup performer, as he strikes the ball well with his driver and his irons while having a superb short game around the green. His only weakness in the Fourball format is his performance on the par-3s, but that is due to his inability to make putts from 15-25 feet (198th). That is the crux of the situation for Spieth; can he get his old putting form back?

A look at previous great putters on Tour that inexplicably struggled with their putter shows that Spieth is going about his putting woes the correct way. He’s not making equipment or wholesale changes to his putting stroke. He is continuing to work with what made him a great putter just like Jason Day did last year when he inexplicably struggled with the putter early in the season… and then turned it around and regained his old putting form.

The question is, how long will it take for Spieth to regain his old form? Typically, players like Spieth that have a dramatic drop-off in their putting take about a year to regain their old form. He may not regain that form by the time the Ryder Cup takes place. If he does, Team USA is very strong with its top-4 points earners.

5. Bubba Watson

Bubba is off to a strong enough year to make the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, but the best bet for him is to stick to the Fourball format given his struggles around the green. Watson’s performance on the par-5s has not exactly been remarkable, but typically he’s one of the very best in the world on par-5s and can make a ton of birdies.

6. Rickie Fowler

Fowler has not been as strong in some areas of the game such as Red Zone, shots from the rough and putting as he has been in recent years. That makes him a little less appealing in the alternate shot format, but he still has a solid foundation to be a quality contributor in either format. The upside is if Rickie gets back to his old form with the putter and from the Red Zone, he should be a top-notch Ryder Cup performer because he is well suited to perform in either team format. At this time, he would be best suited to play with an accurate driver and very good performer around the green (i.e. Matt Kuchar) in the alternate shot format.

7. Brooks Koepka

There currently is not enough data on Koepka due to his wrist injury he suffered early in the season. Koepka is arguably the best bomber in the world who is also a great putter and a solid performer from the Red Zone. The main issue for Koepka has been his short game performance around the green. That would typically make for a weak partner in the alternate shot format, but Koepka was spectacular in the 2016 Ryder Cup. His combination of length and putting may make him a formidable Ryder Cup performer for years to come.

8. Phil Mickelson

As a statistical analyst for golf, I never quite know what I’m going to get from Lefty. This season Lefty has putted superbly, but his performance around the green has left a lot to be desired.

In recent Ryder Cups, he has been a quality performer in both the Foursome and Fourball formats. His recent success in the alternate shot format makes him a mandatory candidate, however, his inability to find the fairway means he would need a partner who is very good from the rough. The data suggests that his performance around the green should get closer to his old form as the season goes along.

9. Webb Simpson

Like Mickelson, it’s always a surprise as to what the strengths and weaknesses of Simpson’s game will be by the end of the season. Typically, he’s been a decent driver of the ball that is often a superb iron player and short game performer. With the anchoring ban, he has struggled with the putter up to this season. Lately, he has been an incredible putter that is struggling a bit with the irons.

Most of Simpson’s struggles with the irons have been from the rough, so a partner who finds a lot of fairways off the tee could be an excellent pairing in the foursome format with Simpson.

10. Matt Kuchar

Kuchar could be a very critical player for Team USA down the stretch. There are potential players on the team that could be valuable in the alternate shot format if they can find a teammate to find fairways off the tee to make up for their struggles on approach shots from the rough. Historically, Kuchar has been the most accurate off the tee of the players mentioned thus far.

This season, however, Kuchar has been underwhelming in his ability to find the fairway. The next most-accurate drivers of the ball that are near the top-12 in Ryder Cup points are Brian Harman, Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Kisner and Andrew Landry, and none of them have nearly the experience in the Ryder Cup as Kuchar has. If Kuchar continues to miss fairways, his chances of making the team are not good unless he’s a Captain’s pick. If he cannot find the fairway, he has little-projected value as a member of the team. He is not making a lot of birdies, and his struggles on the par-3s and does not make him a favorable teammate in the Fourball format either.

11. Brian Harman

Harman’s value is that he has fairly decent Fourball metrics and his accuracy off the tee, putting, and iron play can work well with players like Fowler, Simpson, and Kuchar in the alternate shot format.

Harman has not performed that well from around the green using the Strokes Gained methodology, however; he ranks 15th on shots from 10-20 yards. I placed that metric in there as strokes gained takes into account all shots from less than 30 yards, but 10-20 yards is the most common distance range from which scrambling opportunities occur on Tour. Thus, Harman is an excellent performer from 10-20 yards and is only losing strokes around the green due to poor performance from 20-30 yards, and those shots occur less frequently on Tour. His struggles from 20-30 yards would also explain why his par-5 performance is roughly average, as that is the distance players typically finish from the hole when they go for par-5s in two and do not make the green.

And even though Harman is not very long off the tee (147th in Measured Driving Distance), he is a quality performer from the rough and thus he does not have to be tethered to another short-hitting, accurate driver in the alternate shot format.

12. Bryson DeChambeau

Dechambeau makes for a solid Ryder Cup candidate, as he has no outstanding weaknesses in his game this season as he appears to have rid himself of the putting woes that have hurt him in the past. I think he is better suited for the Fourball format, however, given how many birdies he makes. Pair him with a strong performer on the par-3s like Rickie Fowler or Phil Mickelson and it would make a very formidable duo in that format.

A pairing with Mickelson in the Fourball format would be intriguing given DeChambeau’s excellent driving. DeChambeau could hit first and — if he continues to drive it superbly — that would free up Mickelson to not worry so much about his woeful driving and focus more on making birdies. Perhaps a Fourball pairing with Bubba would make for a situation where DeChambeau could tee off first and pipe his drive, and then give Bubba a free rip to hit it as far as he possibly can and give them a sizeable advantage over their opponents.

31. Tiger Woods

I know I said I was only going to look at the top-12 players in Ryder Cup points, but the readers would inevitably ask about Tiger anyway. Furthermore, Tiger is an intriguing candidate for the team given his current game.

Tiger has struggled in both the Foursome and Fourball format. He seems to not play that great in alternate shot. In Fourball, it appears that he plays well by himself, but he is often let down by his teammates. The Europeans have always gunned for Tiger in the Ryder Cup, and it takes a special type of teammate to deal with the hysteria of having Tiger as their partner.

There are the makings of a very good alternate shot partner with Tiger, as his iron play and putting are still really good and his short game has been incredible this season. In the Fourball format, it would be advisable to find a strong par-5 performer, as Tiger’s performance on the par-5s has not been outstanding thus far. Having said that, I could see three excellent partners for Tiger in either format.

Patrick Reed has the numbers to be compatible with Tiger’s game, and he also has the track record of living up to the moment in the Ryder Cup. Dustin Johnson is can make up for Tiger’s possible big misses off the tee and can overpower a course with Tiger. And Phil Mickelson, whose game is compatible with Tiger’s, and could provide a symbol of the old guard working together to beat the Europeans.

There are certainly a lot of compelling possible pairings for Team USA, and there is still a long way to go before we start to see what pairings are available. The European Team looks like one of the strongest in years, and with all of the potential storylines for the 2018 Ryder Cup, it could be one of the greatest Ryder Cups of all time.

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Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes

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Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.

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