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Opinion & Analysis

How good do you REALLY have to be to compete at a high-level in college golf?

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One of the major complaints I hear from parents is, “schools don’t email my son back.”

In October of last year, I published a story with data from college coaches called “Stop Bothering Me! Why NCAA coaches already get too many emails.” The story demonstrated the overwhelming demand of time coaches need to respond to emails from a melee of people from junior golfers to donors to members of their own administration. That article, however, tells only half the story; the other half is for junior players, their parents and coaches to understand the level it takes to contribute to a NCAA Division I team, which has the potential to make the post season (regional championship). For this story, we examine the college rankings of Oklahoma State and Alabama, who just met in the NCAA match play final, as well as Michigan State. Michigan State, ranked No. 54 in the final GolfStat rankings, was the highest and last team to make the post season after automatic bids.

When reviewing the data, keep in mind that currently 62 Power-5 schools have golf teams. If only the top-54 schools make regionals, after automatic qualifiers, it means that 8 Power-5 conference schools are not going to make regionals. Considering the strength of mid-major schools overall, that makes regionals a tough order.

So, what does it take to play at this level? Let me present some data; the teams, their scoring average per player, their averaged dropped score, the Golfweek rankings of the players when they signed to attend the schools and the average Golfweek rankings of the traveling team. Please note that no international players where included because none where ranked by Golfweek, and I did not want to include the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

Oklahoma State (Ranking: No. 1)

Scoring Average: 69.85
Average Dropped Score: 74.13

Players (Golfweek Rank)

  • Zach Bauchou (8)
  • Austin Eckroat (18)
  • Mathew Wolff (36)
  • Nick Heinin (31)
  • Hayden Wood (55)
  • Sam Stevens (26)
  • Stratton Nolen (40)
  • Brandon Jelley (24)

Overall Average Ranking: 29.75

Alabama (Ranking: No. 6)

Scoring Average: 71.04
Average Dropped Score: 75.92

Players

  • Alex Green (70)
  • Davis Riley (6)
  • Johnathan Hardee (21)
  • Ben Fuller (407)
  • Wilson Furr (6)
  • Davis Shore (3)
  • Lee Hodges (Transfer)

Overall Average ranking: 85.5
Average ranking of starters: 9

Michigan State (Ranking: No. 54)

Scoring Average: 72.86
Average dropped score: 76.6

Players

  • Devin Deogun (96)
  • Dylan Deogun (Transfer)
  • James Poit (81)
  • Zach Rosendale (436)
  • Andrew Walker (44)
  • Austin Jenner (93)
  • Kaleb Johnson (565)
  • Michael Sharpe (170)
  • Charlie Green (204)

Overall Average ranking: 219
Average ranking of starters: 212.8

Do you see a pattern? Although the sample size is small, teams who compete at the national level (including playing regionals) need difference makers who in college can average 73 or better. Historically, the data suggests that difference makers usually have scoring differential that is negative, and they are ranked in the top 100-150 in their class. How good is the 20th ranked player in the class? According to Junior Golf Scoreboard, the 20th player in the 2018 class has a scoring differential of -3.92, and the 20th player for the 2019 has a scoring differential of -2.51. Likewise, the scoring differential for the 220-ranked player in the 2018 class is -.14, and the 220th player for the 2019 class is +.18. This means that a player recruited at 20 in the country, who typically ends up at Alabama or Oklahoma State, is about 3.5 shots per round better than a recruit at 220 (which make sense since the data above suggests that Oklahoma State’s average counting score is about 3 shots better than Michigan State).

The simply fact is that coaches need difference makers and it is not getting any easier. Under title IX, most teams are only allowed 8-10 players. In a 4-year recruiting cycle, this means 2 players per year. Being wrong is quite literally a matter of being fired. As a result, you better believe that coaches take recruiting seriously and are carefully weighing all options. For the most part, coaches are likely to prefer not only a negative scoring differential but strong physical ability, sound technique and a love of competition. Occasionally, a coach will take a risk. The data suggests this happens about 1/10 times for a team ranked in the top 100. For example, Casey Lubhan at Michigan State, decided to give Kaleb Johnson a chance because of his power and work ethic. The result? Kaleb is now a as a sophomore is a Big Ten All Conference player. Nice call, Casey! Over time, coaches like Casey who make the right calls are rewarded by making regionals, getting incentives and keep their jobs. However, some many make similar investments and get stuck with a player who does not develop; taking up a valuable roster spot.

For coaches who are in programs where they are held accountable and funded fully, the clear majority are expected to make the regional tournament. The data collected demonstrated to have a chance at regionals, a team must average about 292 or better, or 73 shots per player. Most of the players capable of doing this consistently are going to have junior rankings in the top 100 in their class, with scoring differentials at or near 0. It is important to remember many athletic administrators expect coaches to make at least the regional tournament. Since the best way to do this is recruit talent, data suggests that administrators from nearly all institutions carefully monitor the rankings of signees, expecting coaches to get top talent ranked within the top 100 players in the class (at least).

Beyond the pressure to recruit, it is likely coaches will need to have a strong background in player development. Why? My data suggests that the average AJGA Open boy’s tournament is played from a distance 6849 on a course rating of 71.9. This year’s national championship at Karsten Creek was played at 7460 with a course rating of 77.2. To keep scores the same from junior golf to college, coaches need to make players approximately 5 shots better. Five shots, that’s a lot!

Karsten Creek is not the only hard golf course; for Michigan State to even have a chance to make regionals, they needed to have 4 players per round average about 72 in a tournament schedule which featured places like Inverness, Crooked Stick, Collection River and Ohio State. This means at a course like Ohio State with a course rating of 76.2 and yardage of 7455, you would need to be approximately a +3 handicap to help Michigan State. That’s ridiculous at the best of times; now consider the tournament is in March when the weather can be 40 degrees. Scarlett, 7500ish yards, 40 degrees, and a 73 average?! There are only several hundred players in the world that can do this and Michigan State needs four of them (at least).

If you have a scoring differential that’s not negative, it does not mean that you cannot play college golf. It also does not mean that you don’t have a future in golf. However, it likely means considering schools outside of the top 125 in Golfstat Cup in Division One Golf. When doing the search, if you are serious about a future playing golf, I would encourage you to carefully weigh more than just ranking; find a place where you will have the opportunity to play every event. This will give you 100+ college starts over 4 years, which is likely to provide you a solid foundation in tournament golf to prepare you for the next level.

I hope this article has given junior golfers, their parents and coaches insight into recruiting from a coach’s perspective. Having been involved in college athletics for 15+ years, it has been my experience that college golf is a meritocracy and follows the simple principal; if you are good enough, you will make it. So even if right now your game is not at that level, find a place, work hard and compete. No reason we will not see you on TV someday.

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Dan

    Jun 10, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Great article. As a former college player it’s really eye opening the amount of talent competing for so few spots.

  2. Aaron

    Jun 10, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    It’s shocking to me how many high schoolers think they’re going to play golf at Auburn or Duke just because they start for four years.

  3. Nick

    Jun 10, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    I also believe in being able to play somewhere all the time. I would also suggest looking at competitive Division II schools. I was about a 75-76 average golfer in high school and went to a DII school where we were ranked in the top-10 every year and had chances to win national titles. The competition was great, but I also liked the fact that DII still had a strong focus on academics, which I think is great. We still traveled and played great courses. Personally, if a golfer can’t play for a top-50 team in DI, I would strongly suggest a top tier DII school. I may not have have played against many guys who made it out on tour, but there were still quite a few who played on tour and won that I competed against.

  4. Jack

    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Agree with everything said except…over 4 years at a school where you play EVERY event, if your team has 10 regular tournaments, a conference championship, regionals, and the national championship, that’s 13 events a year. 52 over four years, not 100+? Are you assuming that the player is playing a full amateur schedule in addition to college golf, or are you counting each individual round as a start? Sorry to nitpick, just don’t want parents or kids thinking a school is gonna have them play in 25+ events over an 8 month season.

  5. shawn

    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Deer coach. I am a jr goffer an I reely reely luv goff and I wanna play fer u if u giv me a chance. I once scored a 59 an had a hole in 1. I feeel i will be a toor goffer if u giv me a chance to play fer u. thanx a lot.

  6. Tom

    Jun 10, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    sub 70’s in competetion on a regular basis

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Opinion & Analysis

The 21 best golf podcasts you should be listening to in 2018

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What’s the best golf podcast? Debating that may be as fruitless as the Jack vs. Tiger debate, because there are a bunch of darn good ones out there right now. You don’t have to be an astute observer of the media space to know podcasting has exploded in popularity in recent years. Indeed, it seems like everyone has a podcast these days, including your grandmother’s Scrabble enthusiast pod.

Returning to the original question: this is a subjective list that isn’t meant to be exhaustive. If there’s a podcast you enjoy that finds itself outside the ropes, feel free to mention it in the comments.

So grab your earbuds, Beats by Dre, or wireless headphones if you’re really cool, and take a look at some notable podcasts by category.

GolfWRX Radio

Obviously, I’m strongly biased towards the GolfWRX’s podular offerings, and since this is, you know, GolfWRX, we’ll start with our pods.

19th Hole: Michael Williams talks to luminaries of the game and interesting folks alike in his pod. Heck, Michael’s first guest was Bob Vokey! Williams is well-wired and well-traveled, and oh, he has by far the best radio voice of anyone on this list, so he’s got that going for him. Other guests include Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Scott Van Pelt, Rees Jones and many other legends.

Gear Dive: I’ll avoid any play on his last name, but Johnny Wunder’s Gear Dive is an inquisitive look into, well, golf gear. Wunder has spoken with everyone from Charles Howell III, to Fred Couples, to the boys at Artisan Golf. If you love golf equipment, or consider yourself a gearhead, this is the podcast is a must.

Two Guys Talking Golf: Editor Andrew Tursky and resident equipment expert Brian Knudson are the golf buddies you wish you had. The pair discuss equipment, club building, happenings on the PGA Tour, and an abundance of random golf-related and tangentially golf-related topics. Most recently, TG2 answered 30+ AMA-style questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram page, and they’ve had guests on such as Billy Horschel, Ping’s Marty Jertson, Scotty Cameron, Bob Vokey, Aaron Dill, GolfWRX Forum members and many others.

Unlocking Your Golfing Potential: This instructional podcast series hosted by coach Will Robins teaches golfers how to improve their games without improving their technique. If you want to lower your scores, and change your outlook on the game of golf in general, I highly recommend this podcast.

Listen to all the GolfWRX podcasts on SoundCloud or iTunes.

DFS golf podcasts

Golf is one of the fastest growing and most popular DFS sports. Accordingly, every DFS site in the world and most major outlets have a fantasy-related podcast. These three are among the longest running and finest in the space, although Matthew Wiley of Golflandia deserves a special nod for his spectacular rambling ridiculousness and high entertainment value.

Pat Mayo: Mayo is an OG of the fantasy sports podcasting game in general and fantasy golf pods in particular. And honesty, he must have cloned himself sometime in the past because his output absolutely mind-boggling. Plus, he’s one of the few podcasts on this list that records video, so if you’re looking for a pod with a visual component, Mayo is your man. Listen here.

Fantasy Golf Degenerates: Brad and Kenny go together like, well, Brad and Kenny. These two have been grinding out a weekly fantasy golf podcast since PGA DFS was in diapers a few years back. Brad is the ownership god and Kenny’s course previews are second to none. Well worth a pre-tournament listen every week. Best enjoyed with Crown Royal. Listen here.

Tour Junkies: PGA DFS podcasting’s other dynamic duo, David and Pat, have similarly been ‘casting since the early days of the…hobby? Come for the weekly entertainment, but stay for their inside knowledge of Augusta National (where David was a caddie). The pair have branched out into interviews–Kevin Kisner, Bob Parsons, John Peterson–which are well worth checking out too. Listen here.

Now, let’s take a look at some of what the the PGA Tours and Golf Channels of the world have under their umbrellas, as well as the rest of the colorful bouquet of golf golf-related podcasts that focus on everything from the intersection of golf and science to the intersection of Barstool Sports and golf.

From longstanding outlets

Talk of the Tour: While Mark Immelman’s “On the Mark” is good, on “Talk of the Tour” John Swantek “visits with a variety of players, writers, broadcasters, industry leaders and insiders from throughout the world of golf,” as the official description indicates. Given the Tour’s access and reach, the results don’t disappoint. Listen here.

Golf Channel Podcast: Is the title creative? No it is not. Is the podcast good? Yes it is. Not only does the whole range of on-air GC talent appear on occasion–Brandel Chamblee’s recent appearance was excellent, as was Tiger Tracker’s. Listen here.

Golf Digest Podcast: The folks at GD get top-notch (to quote Judge Smails) guests and turn out quality takes from a strong team of writers. Listen here.

European Tour’s Race to Dubai: Yes, turning the season-long points race into the title of a podcast is odd, but Robert Lee’s (not the Civil War general) podcast “features exclusive interviews with star names, incisive analysis of the latest action, all the key news and a light-hearted look at life on tour,” per the description. Listen here.

Matty & The Caddie: ESPN’s Matt Barrie and former comedian/current ESPN golf analyst Michael Collins join forces to interview both athletes and celebrities, inside and outside the ropes. Lately, the list of big name guests includes Golden Tate, Nick Faldo, Chris Webber, Joe Theismann, Alfonso Ribiero, Brian Urlacher, Joe Carter, George Lopez, Jack Nicklaus and more. Listen here.

Other ‘casts

No Laying Up: From Twitterers with day jobs to an upstart media outlet, NLU’s podcast was the tool that led to the merch, the features, and Soly, Tron and company’s other efforts. If you’re unfamiliar, start with the most recent episode (Justin Thomas) and work your way backward. You won’t regret it.

The Fried Egg Golf: Andy Johnson has become a force and a voice in the world of golf media in a very short period of time. While he and his guests do good work in discussing the pro game, Andy’s forte is golf course architecture, and he cooks up architecture discussions better than anyone in the podcast universe right now. Listen here.

Fore Play: Honestly, the iTunes description for Barstool’s golf pod is pretty good: “Trent, Riggs and their wide variety of guests talk about everything golf like normal folks sitting at a bar watching coverage, venting about the game’s difficulties, and weighing in on pro gossip. Your classic golf addicts, the “Fore Play” crew brings a young, unique voice to the rapidly-evolving game, discussing freely and openly everything golf.” Pretty much sums it up. Listen here (warning: explicit).

The Clubhouse with Shane Bacon: Mr. Salt-Cured Pork has had something of a come up, hasn’t he? The Fox hosting duties and more are well earned, as Bacon is a strong voice, and his network affiliation ensures a quality roster of guests. Listen here.

ShackHouse: Geoff Shackelford joins forces with “podcast personality” per the iTunes description, Joe House to “break down the biggest golf stories, interview some of the biggest personalities in the game.” Really, this show is all about Shack’s singular perspective. Listen here.

Feherty: I mean, what can you say? If you like David Feherty and his show, you’ll love his podcast (I do), because it is essentially his show. And if you don’t, you won’t. Listen here.

The Erik Lang Show: Ah, the singular Mr. Lang, who, doing things his own way, wrote his show description in the first person: “Hi! I’m Erik Anders Lang. I’ve worn a bunch of hats in this life from waiting tables, photography, doc filmmaking, hosting Adventures In Golf (PGA TOUR / Skratch TV) and now – a PODCAST! The Erik Lang Show is me pontificating on life, golf and travel.” Listen here.

Callaway ShipShow: Far from a content marketing gimmick, Callaway’s content marketing is, well, really good content. Harry Arnett’s “ShipShow” is kind of like the younger, goofier brother of “Callaway Live.” Billed as discussion about “compelling people, culture, narratives, and current events in golf,” the ShipShow is always a swashbuckling good time. Listen here.

Golf Science Lab: Cordie Walker pulls back the curtain and cuts through the hooey of the “mythology” of golf instruction and the game in general. He says he’s “making a difference in the way golf is taught, learned, and practiced,” and honestly, he’s not wrong. If you’re an instruction and improvement enthusiast, this is your ‘cast. Listen here.

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Opinion & Analysis

Do you know how to drop in 2019? Are you sure?

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Starting January 1, 2019, golfers will have to get used to the new Rules of Golf. Many changes were made to create the new rules, but one of the most important changes without any doubt are the dropping rules. You might say: “Come on, it’s easy! We just have to drop from knee height, right?” Well, it’s not that simple. There are quite a few other things you need to know, which I will clarify below.

Q1. What is “knee height” exactly?

“Knee height” means the height from the ground to your knee when in a standing position. 

Q2. So I cannot just kneel and thereby place the ball instead of dropping?

Good thinking… but no 🙂

Q3. What part of the knee do I have to drop from?

It’s not (at the moment) clarified which part of the knee is “the knee,” but there cannot be any doubt that you can drop from the whole knee.

—-o0o—-

FACTS: “CORRECT WAY TO DROP”

The 2019 Rules of Golf state that you are dropping the ball correctly if all these requirements are fulfilled:

  1. The player himself must drop the ball
  2. It must be dropped from knee height
  3. The player must not give it any spin, etc.
  4. Before the ball hits the ground, it must not touch any part of the player or the player’s equipment (e.g. his bag)
  5. It must be dropped in the relief area (the relief area is defined in the rule you are taking relief under), i.e. it must first touch the ground inside the relief area when dropped.

If just one of these requirements is not fulfilled, you are not considered to have dropped in a correct way. You must re-drop until you have dropped in a correct way (without any limit as to the number of re-drops).

If you play a ball not dropped in a correct way, you incur a one-stroke penalty — unless you played from outside the relief area, in which case you incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or lost hole in match play (see FACTS 2).

—-o0o—-

Q4. What is the penalty for not dropping from knee height?

You can and should correct your error before playing the ball. If you re-drop in a correct way, correcting your error, there is no penalty. If you don’t and make a stroke at the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty (since you did not drop in a correct way). See “FACTS 1”.

Q5. What if I drop almost from knee height.

Well, as a starting point you have to drop from knee height. If you dont’t, you will have to correct your error by re-dropping correctly (see “FACTS 1″). 

There is a “I-did-my-best-so-please-don’t-penalize-me-rule” saying that when finding a “location,” you are not penalized for finding a wrong location if you made a reasonable judgment. It is for now not certain if this rule also encompasses a situation in which you don’t drop exactly from knee height simply because you cannot see that spot with certainty when looking down.

On one hand, you could argue that this interpretation would be in accordance with the spirit of this rule (don’t penalize a player doing his best). On the other hand, it seems that the knee cannot be that hard to find (!) and that a “location” probably must be interpreted as “a location on the golf course.” My conclusion would be that there is no excuse for not to being able to drop exactly from knee height, and thus this rule did not apply in this situation.

There is also a “naked-eye rule” saying that if the fact (here: the ball was not dropped from knee height) could not reasonable have been seen with the naked eye, the player is not penalized even though video evidence shows something different (i.e. that it in fact was not dropped exactly from knee height). In my opinion, this naked-eye rules is not applicable here, since a player will be said to be able to find the knee with a reasonable effort. 

So… in my opinion there is no excuse not to drop from knee height!

—-o0o—-

FACTS 2: RELIEF AREA.

A relief area is the area in which you have to drop (see “FACTS 1”) and in which your ball must end after a drop. 

Example: If you deem your ball in the rough unplayable, you can for example choose with a one-stroke penalty to drop a ball within two club lengths from — and not nearer the hole than — the spot where the ball lay. This area is called the “relief area.”

If your ball ends outside the relief area in your drop, your required action depends on whether or not you dropped in a correct way (see “FACTS 1”). 

  1. If you did not drop in a correct way: You must re-drop again (without penalty) without any limitations as to the number of re-drops until you have dropped in a correct way. 
  2. If you did drop in a correct way: The player must re-drop (in a correct way!) a ball one time (without penalty). If the ball still ends outside the relief area, the player must then (without penalty) place a ball on the spot where the dropped ball first touched the ground in the re-drop. If he player does that, no penalty is incurred. If he does not but plays a ball from outside the relief area, he plays from a wrong place thereby incurring a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or a loss of hole in match play.

—-o0o—-

Q7. Who should drop the ball?

Only the player can drop the ball. Not the caddie, not other players, not anyone else! See “FACTS 1”.

Q8. What is the penalty if your ball strikes your bag or yourself in the drop?

The answer depends on when it happens (i.e. when it strikes you or your equipment):

  1. If it happens before the ball strikes the ground: There is no penalty presupposing that you re-drop before you play the ball. You have to re-drop no matter how many drops it takes for you not to strike your bag or yourself. If you don’t re-drop and play the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty.
  2. If it happens after the ball has struck the ground: There is no penalty, and you shall not re-drop.

Q9. Where must I drop?

You must drop in the “relief area,” which is defined in the rule you are dropping under. If you declare your ball unplayable, for example, then one of the options is to drop within two club length – not nearer the hole – than where the ball lay. This area is the “relief area” in which:

  1. Your ball must land in the drop (see “FACTS 1”) and
  2. Must end (See “FACTS 2”)

Q10. What if I drop from shoulder height?

That probably will happen quite a few times in the beginning of 2019. In this case, you are not dropping in a correct way, and you must re-drop without penalty before you make the stroke. See “FACTS 1.”

Q11. When do I have to re-drop?

The re-dropping rules are simplified. Under the current rules, there are a lot of situations where you are required to re-drop, e.g. when the ball rolls closer to the hole than the nearest point of relief, when the ball rolls into a bunker (and stays there), when the ball rolls more than two club lengths from where it first struck the course, etc. These rules are quite difficult.

In 2019, it gets easier. You have to drop in a “relief area,” and the balls needs to end it that area. If you drop outside this area or if the ball rolls and stays outside this area, you are required to re-drop. See “FACTS 1” and “FACTS 2.”

Q12. Do I have to re-drop (as it is today) if the ball rolls more than two club lengths away from the spot that the ball first struck the course in the drop?

First of all, in 2019 there is not such a “two-club-length rule.” The re-dropping rules are explained in “FACTS 1” and in “FACTS 2” above. 

  • If you take relief (e.g. from a path) and must drop within one club length (of the nearest point of point of complete relief), you will always have to re-drop if it rolls more than 2 club lengths (since the relief area is exactly two club-lengths long measured from the two points farthest from each other). 
  • If you drop after a rule requiring you to drop within two club lengths, sometimes you must re-drop if the ball rolls more than two club lenths and sometimes not. The only thing that matters is that the ball must be dropped in the relief area (see “FACTS 1”) and must end in the relief area (see “FACTS 2”). Otherwise, it must be re-dropped.

Q13. I have a bad back and therefore I cannot take my arm down far enough to be able to drop from knee height. What do I do?

I don’t know. My guess would be this: A player who cannot drop from knee-height due to back-problems most likely cannot play golf at all. In other words, a player able to play golf will almost always be able to drop the ball from knee height.

In the extremely rare situations where a player cannot drop from knee height but can play a round of golf, there is a “do-what-is-fair-rule” stating that in situations not covered by the Rules of Golf, you should do what is fair. Maybe that would lead to the conclusion that it was OK for a player to drop from a place higher than knee height (e.g. just from the position the arm is when it is stretched and relaxed alongside the leg).

Q14. Is a taller player going to drop the ball from a higher place than a lower player?

Yes!

Q15. Isn’t that unreasonable?!

Well, that’s for you to decide 🙂 Who said that the 2019-Rules of Golf where easy to understand?

Rules Mentioned in Article

  • 14-3: Dropping the ball
  • 20-2c: “Naked-eye-rule”
  • 1.3b(2): “Reasonable-judgment-rule”
  • 20.3: “Do-what-is-fair-rule (when the situation is not covered by the rules).
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Opinion & Analysis

How to qualify for the U.S. Amateur (in-depth statistical analysis and tutorial)

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This is a follow-up of sorts to an article that I published on GolfWRX in May 2017: A Modern Blueprint to Breaking 80.  

With the U.S. Amateur concluding at iconic Pebble Beach last weekend, I thought of the many amateurs out there who would love to one day qualify for this prestigious event. Personally, I made it to the State Amateur level, but work and life got in the way and I never made it to the next step. For those who aspire or wonder, here’s an outline of what your game should look like if you want to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.

Scoring

To start with, your USGA Index needs to be 2.4 or lower to even attempt to qualify. If your course is rated 71.5/130*, the best 10 of your most recent 20 scores should average 74.3. This score will adjust slightly up if your course is rated more difficult, and slightly down if it’s rated less difficult. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming the average course and slope rating above.

*Note: 71.5/130 is the average rating of courses played by single digit handicap golfers in the ShotByShot.com database of 340,000 rounds.

Your average scores by par type will be:

  • Par 3:  3.21
  • Par 4:  4.20
  • Par 5:  4.86

The Fastest and Easiest Way to Lower Your Scores

Every round is a mix of good shots, average shots and bad shots/errors. The challenge is to determine which piece of your game’s unique puzzle is your greatest weakness in order to target your improvement efforts on the highest impact area. If you track the simple good and bad outcomes listed below for a few rounds, your strengths and weaknesses will become apparent.

Tee Game or Driving 

Goals: Hit EIGHT fairways and limit your driving errors to ONE, with the majority being the less costly “No Shot errors” (more on this later).

Distance: I will ignore this and assume you’re maximizing distance as best you can without sacrificing accuracy.

Fairways: Hitting fairways is crucial, as we are all statistically significantly more accurate from the short grass.

Errors: Far more important than Fairways Hit, however, is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. To help golfers understand the weaknesses in their game, my golf analysis program allows users to record and categorize the THREE types of Driving Errors: 

  1. No Shot: You have missed in a place from which you do not have a normal next shot and require some sort of advancement to get the ball back to normal play.
  2. Penalty: A 1-stroke penalty due to hazard or unplayable lie.
  3. Lost/OB: Stroke and distance penalty. 

Approach Shots 

Goals:  ELEVEN GIRs and ONE penalty/2nd             

Penalty/2nd:  This means either a penalty or a shot hit so poorly that you are left with yet another full approach shot from greater than 50 yards of the hole.

The chart below displays the typical array of Approach Shot opportunities from the fairway (75 percent fall in the 100 to 200-yard range). The 150 to 175-yard range tends to be the most frequent distance for golfers playing the appropriate distance golf course for their game.

Short Game (defined as shots from within 50 yards of the hole)

Chip/Pitch: If you miss 7 greens, you will have 6 green-side save opportunities. Your goals should be:

  • Percentage of shots to within 5 feet: 40 percent
  • Percentage of Saves: 47 percent (3)
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green):  6 percent, or approximately 1 in 17 attempts.

Sand: You should have 1 of these green-side save opportunities. Your goals: 

  • Percentage of shots to within 8 feet: 35 percent
  • Percentage Saves: 32 percent
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green): 13 percent, or approximately 1 in 8 attempts.

Putting: You need just over 31 putts.  Aim for:

  • 1-Putts: 6
  • 3-Putts: 1

The chart below displays the percentage of 1-Putts you will need to make by distance, as well as the typical array of first-putt opportunities by distance. Note that 62 percent of your first-putt opportunities will fall in the 4 to 20-foot range. Adjust your practice efforts accordingly!

Good luck, and please let me know if and when you are successful.

For a complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to ShotByShot.com and sign up for a 1-round free trial.

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