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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

Tiger Woods completes arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history

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Sports have an uncanny way of teaching us about life. And there’s no greater life lesson than the athlete and the man who goes by Tiger Woods.

I first fell in love with golf while watching Tiger play the 1997 Masters with my father. Tiger is the reason that I, like millions of golfers throughout the world, including some of his professional contemporaries today, started playing and loving the game.

For basically his entire life, from the moment he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show at 2-years-old, until his world came infamously crashing down on Thanksgiving 2009, he was “perfect.” He was dominant, impactful, charismatic and invincible — what the world uncovered, however, was that his persona was a carefully crafted facade.

While he continued to play great golf despite injuries and surgeries through 2014, his Superman cape was tarnished, and his respect as a man was all but diminished.

From 2014 until 2017, the world watched Tiger Woods the athlete decay. He’d make minor comebacks after major back surgeries, but the letters “WD” replaced the number “1” next to Tiger’s name on leaderboards for years. And he also developed what was either the chipping yips, or an utter breakdown in his once-superior chipping technique. To all observers, aside from Tiger apologists, it seemed his golf career was likely over.

What was tragic for Tiger the athlete looked as though it’d turn into a tragedy for Tiger the man after his very public DUI in 2017 following his spine fusion surgery earlier that year. Tiger was completely vulnerable, and seemingly, completely broken. He was whatever the opposite is of his former self. Had he faded into oblivion after that, it would have been understandable, if not recommended.

But that’s not what happened. Despite every talking head in sports media saying Tiger was done (not that I didn’t agree at the time), Tiger waited for his back to heal upon doctors orders, then began his comeback to golf. It started with videos on social media of him chipping, then hitting irons, then his patented stinger.

In December of 2017, Tiger finished T9 in the 18-player field at his Hero World Challenge… a respectable finish considering what he had been through. As the season continued, he pieced together 4 consecutive rounds on many occasions, actually giving himself a few chances to win tournaments (the Valspar, Arnold Palmer, Quicken Loans and the Open come to mind). But his late-tournament confidence was clearly shaken; he was struggling to close the deal.

At the 2018 PGA Championship, Tiger had the attention of the entire sporting world when it looked that he had a serious chance to win his 15th major. But ultimately, he finished runner-up to a superior golfer that week in Brooks Koepka. All things considered, the week was a win for Tiger and his confidence… but it wasn’t a win.

The questions changed after the PGA Championship from “Can Tiger win again?” to “When will Tiger win again?”

Well, that question has been answered. Tiger Woods won the 2018 Tour Championship. Is it a major? No, it’s not. Some say the event itself is essentially just a money grab for the best 30 players of the season. But that’s the thing; the tournament hosts the best 30 players of the season all competing for big money. And you can bet it matters to the players on top of the leaderboard.

Tiger’s Tour Championship victory doesn’t mean he’s going to beat Jack’s record. Because he probably won’t. And maybe he won’t even win another major, although he’ll surely be the betting favorite at the 2019 Masters now. But, to me at least, his win marks the completion of the greatest comeback story in all of sports. And not only that, the conclusion to an important life lesson — don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

No athlete has been written off more than Tiger Woods, especially in the era of social media that gives every critic in the world a microphone. No athlete has reached a higher high, and a relatively lower low than Tiger Woods. He went through it all — a broken marriage, public shaming, legal issues, a deteriorated skill set, surgeries, injuries, and arguably most impactful of all, humanization.

Tiger Woods came back from not just a 28-3 deficit on the scoreboard (Patriots-Falcons reference), and he didn’t score eight points in 9 seconds (Reggie Miller reference, sorry Knicks fans and sorry Dad), and he didn’t get hit by a bus (Ben Hogan), but he got hit hard by the bus of life, and he now stands tall in the winner’s circle.

Maybe that’s why sports teaches us so much about life; because sports is life. Not in the way that nothing else matters except sports, but in the way that sports is played by imperfect humans. When the ball goes in the air, or onto to the tee, or the starting bell rings, nothing is certain and nothing is given. And when things are looking bad, like really really bad, it’s how you respond that truly matters. Isn’t that what life is?

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Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska

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There are so many fantastic golf courses throughout the world, and it’s all of the incredibly varied fields of play that make the game so great to me. The most random places in the world can be home to some of the best golf courses. When deciding which course to write about next, it seemed natural to write about my personal favorite course in the world., which happens to be in a very unexpected place.

If you told me I could go anywhere in the world for a round of golf tomorrow, I would be blazing a trail to the area just south of Mullen, Nebraska and playing Sand Hills Golf Club. Sand Hills opened for play on June 23, 1995 and is one of the most natural golf courses you can find anywhere in the world. There was very little dirt moved and most of the money spent building the course was spent on installing irrigation. The course is built entirely on sand, and was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Bill Coore speaks on the design here.

For a bit more background, here’s an old CBS Sunday Morning segment on Sand Hills…

The course lies in the middle of the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which makes up about one-third of the state. The area has huge, natural dunes everywhere that are much more reminiscent of Scotland or Ireland than the flat part of Nebraska along I-80 that most people associate with the state. Because of the firm, mostly fescue, sand-based fairways at Sand Hills, and the ever-present wind, the course plays like a links course though the bent grass greens rival any top country club for speed and purity. In fact, the fastest greens I have ever seen in person were at Sand Hills in late September.

The course has a tasteful amount of variety and challenge. The three par 5s are of the best sets in the world and include 1) a fantastic mid-length par 5 starting hole that is one of the best starting holes in golf, 2) a very reachable but exacting hole in the 14th, and 3) in my opinion, the best long par 5 in golf, the 613 yard 16th.

The par 4s vary from the long uphill 485-yard monster 18th, to the 7th, which at less than 300 yards still sees a lot more 5s and 6s than 3s. The par 3s are masterful starting with the 3rd playing a little over 200 yards downhill to a sprawling side hill green where you can hit driver one day and 7 iron the next. The 6th is 185 yards slightly downhill to maybe my favorite green on the course with definitely my favorite hole location in the front left of the green to a semi-blind spot in a little bowl.  The 13th is a 215-yard uphill monster that can be the hardest hole in relation to par on the course. Lastly the 17th is a 150-yard work of art to a little triangle shaped green and is definitely in the discussion for best short par 3 in the world.

Aside from a great variety in distance of the holes, the topography also presents an amazing amount of variety on the ground. Due to the random nature of the bounce of the ball, the undulating and random fairway contours, and the wind that can blow in literally any direction, the course never plays the same twice. There are just so many great holes out there that I really wouldn’t argue with any of the 18 holes being someone’s favorite. Personally, I can’t name a favorite as it seems to change every time I think about it. The routing is fantastic with both 9s returning to Ben’s Porch, which serves as the home base for the course where people eat lunch, have a post-round drink and generally enjoy one of the best views in all of golf. The course has a good amount of elevation change but is a dream to walk with very short green to tee transitions. It simply is as close to perfect as you can get in my mind.

While the focus of my reviews are on the golf course and not the amenities, I would be remiss if I did not mention the down-to-earth, welcoming people that make up the staff at Sand Hills. Any time I’ve been lucky enough to be at the club I have felt more like I was visiting family and friends than a golf club. When you combine the welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the club, some of the best food in the world and my personal favorite golf course to play anywhere in the world, you have an experience so special its hard to put into words.

Enjoy the collection of photos below from Dan Moore, and make sure to check out my other reviews in the links at the bottom of the page!

Hole No. 1

Hole No. 2

Hole No. 4

Hole No. 8

Hole No. 9

Hole No. 13

Hole No. 14

Hole No. 16

Hole No. 18

Ari’s Other Course Reviews

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep. 51): Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella on why Phil shoots guns to improve his golf game

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Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella joins host Michael Williams to talk about Phil Mickelson using shooting sports to prepare for the Ryder Cup, and the crop of golf destinations that include 5-star golf and outdoor sports facilities. Also featured are Jason Gilbertson of Winchester and Justin Jones of Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds at Reynolds Lake Oconee (GA).

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

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19th Hole

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