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Is “make more birdies” really the best advice to shoot lower scores?

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I often hear golfers say, “I need to make more birdies to shoot lower scores.” This statement has been uttered by the team I currently coach, and through three tournaments this fall, it got me wondering how accurate that statement was for our level of play.

Our players’ scoring averages range from 74 to 87, having played in a minimum of two tournament rounds and up to seven tournament rounds. Most often, I have heard the statement above from our players who are in the middle to higher end of the scoring averages. So, I took a look into our scoring breakdown using the data we collect with GameGolf.

Here are the rankings of birdies per round for the seven players who have traveled this fall

1 2.7
2 1.42
3 1.17
4 1
5 0.5
6 0.42
7 0.33

The difference from the top to the seventh spot is 1.09 birdies per round. The player with the top spot has a scoring average of 74, and the player in seventh spot has a scoring average of 84.67.

Here are the rankings of double bogey/worse for the seven players who have traveled this fall

1 0.42
2 0.85
3 1
4 1.42
5 2
6 2.5
7 4

The difference from the top to the seventh spot is 3.58 doubles/worse per round. Again the player at the top has the 74 scoring average and the player at the bottom has the 87 scoring average.

Diving a little deeper, the players on the team with the top three scoring averages (74, 77.29 and 78) occupy the top three spots in both of these rankings. And taking a look at all the players’ differentials, their rank stays the same compared to their scoring average rank.

The fact that many golfers overlook when making the statement “I need to make more birdies to score better” is that each hole accounts for about 5.5 percent of your round. So, if we take our player who averages one birdie (minus 1) and 2.5 doubles/worse per round (plus 5, conservatively), 5.5 percent of her round is birdies and 13.75 percent of her round is doubles/worse.

If she were to simply focus on making more birdies per round to “balance out” the current 2.5 doubles/worse per round, she would need to increase to five birdies per round. That would be a jump up to 27.5 percent of her round. Compare that to shift a focus to minimizing the doubles/worse category. If this same player could even shave her doubles/worse to 1.5 per round (plus 3,  conservatively), it accounts for 8.25 percent of her round.

If we take a look at the top five scoring averages from the LPGA, Women’s DI and Women’s DII we see the scoring averages range from 68 to 72. While the birdies per round range from 2.4 to 4.8. An interesting thing to note from these numbers is that both the low scoring average and best birdies per round do not come from the LPGA players. While difficulty of the course setup may play into this factor, it can highlight that those women who are playing to make a living are making sure that they are keeping their cards clean of the big numbers because they do not have enough holes to make up for those errors with birdies.

While birdies are always more fun to celebrate, in stroke play you are better off to learn how to turn doubles into bogeys and bogeys into pars for better scores.

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Erin is the Director of Student Athlete Development and Women's Golf Coach at Wingate University. Erin holds a Masters of Arts in Sports Management from Wingate University and is Class A member of the PGA of Canada, a member of the Women’s Golf Coaches Association, and two time SAC Coach of the Year. She aims to help guide student athletes through their time at Wingate, making connections of what they learn in their sport and how they can apply it their careers after graduation.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Jack Nash

    Nov 21, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Make more birdies or make fewer mistakes. Like they say “golf is a game of how good your misses are”.

  2. Obee

    Nov 21, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Great post. Thanks. You MUST be able to make 12 – 16 pars per round on a regular basis to play below scratch golf. And the other 2 to 6 holes should be bogeys or birdies the overwhelming majority of the time.

    Simple game when you think of it that way, but the devil is in the details, of course.

    WHY do so many otherwise talented, athletic players make so many bogey and doubles?

    The answer completely depends on each player. For some, it often starts with poor decision or a poor state of mind. For others, lots of bogeys and doubles are inevitable because they have a pronounced swing flaw(s) that will simply result in very inconsistent ball-striking.

    They key is to identify each player’s weaknesses and develop a strategy for that individual player to make MORE pars and fewer doubles (which, consequently, will almost always result in more birdies as well).

  3. Ron

    Nov 21, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Good article – with numerical support to back it up (esp. since golf is about numbers!)

    Speaking of numbers, I’m 78, a low single-digit, and this year have my lowest scoring average ever. How? Several ways. I practice wedges a lot. I play the appropriate tees (~6000 yd courses). But mainly, I’ve learned how to salvage bogeys on holes if I get out of position: Put the ball back in play, try to get within 100 yards of the green, accept getting down in no more than three from there and move on. Not as exciting as cutting the corner of the dogleg or going over the hazard or some other hero shot, but – on average – lowers scores. Do I make a lot of birdies? Occasionally. But I’ve also had birdie free rounds with only three or four bogeys.

  4. Adrian

    Nov 21, 2018 at 2:58 am

    I am torn by this article because I believe that every golfer as they improve will learn to keep big numbers off the scorecard but there must come a time when you are capable of making your fair share of birdies or your improvement will stall. If you can make birdies in bunches it is a matter of time before you eliminate big numbers. Birdies or better are the only eraser on the scorecard and the better you get at the game the fewer doubles or worse you make and the more birdies or better you will make…hopefully !!

  5. Peter McGill

    Nov 21, 2018 at 1:23 am

    But if I can turn those triples and doubles into birdies…?

  6. Stephane Barras

    Nov 21, 2018 at 12:57 am

    Could Erin, the author, give us an answer about Alexdub comments ?

  7. PSG

    Nov 20, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    This article is kinda nonsensical because it assumes the goal is to shoot the best score possible and not to win the tournament (which are not the same thing).

    If -10 wins the tournament, who cares if the college or LPGA player keeps “bogies off the card” and shoots -2? They still lost. Better to shoot +4 at least trying to shoot -10.

    The goal of competitive golf isn’t to post the best score you can every round. Its to win the tournament. For a dude who shoots 95 on a Sunday this is pretty good advice. For a dude who is trying to get through Q-School or keep his card this is awful advice, as all that matters is how he does *Relative to the other players*.

    If you are trying to make your personal bests (good for you!) then this is right. If you are trying to beat a field (where someone is likely to go very low) then this is wrong.

  8. Taylor

    Nov 20, 2018 at 9:37 am

    When I tried to turn the corner, I had a guy tell me “give yourself 13-14 birdie putts a round. Pretty much guarantees and even par or better round as long as you stay away from the big numbers

  9. TheCityGame

    Nov 20, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Any advice that starts with “make more birdies” or “avoid more bogeys” is basically looking at symptoms and not cures. It’s often presented like bogeys and birdies are in opposition to each other. . .as if gunning for birdies on every hole leads a player to too many doubles.

    It doesn’t work like that. Players who make more birdies are also players who make fewer bogeys. This is true of amateurs and the pro tour (go look at stats for bogey avoidance and birdie rate. . .it’s almost all the same guys at the top of the list and they’re also the best scorers. https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.02414.2018.html and https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.156.2018.html)

    Advice should be “get better” — whatever that means for an individual player — and when a player “gets better”, she will make more birdies and avoid over-par scores a lot more.

    I will agree. . as I’ve gotten better, and more regularly shoot in the low/mid 70’s, the most important thing in scoring is over-par avoidance.

    But, that hasn’t come from a strategy of not trying to make birdies. I’m still trying to make birdies all the time. And I make more than I used to. I also avoid big numbers more often.

    So, no, “make more birdies” is not really the best advice to shoot lower scores, but neither is “make fewer over-pars”. The best advice to shoot lower scores is be a better golfer (more accurate, longer, better short game, etc.)

  10. Murv

    Nov 20, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Pretty much stating the obvious for average players.

  11. Duffy McHackster

    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Nice to see an article that makes sense to us less skilled types. I manage about a dozen birdies a season, so not at all realistic to expect much improvement there. We can learn to play smarter, manage the course better, and work on the things we can realistically improve. As we get older, we aren’t likely to gain distance, so we need to understand our limitations and and not bite off more than we can chew.

  12. alexdub

    Nov 19, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Am I missing something? Looking at the first data table concerning average birdies per round, the difference between the first spot (2.7) and the seventh spot (.33) appears to be 2.37 — not the 1.09 stated in the article.

  13. BL

    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:58 am

    This is by far the smartest post ever on this site! Well done Erin!

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Viral star, Hosung Choi, set for second start on the PGA Tour

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Hosung Choi, the man who has become a viral internet star due to his unique golf swing, made his PGA Tour debut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year, and the South Korean is set to make his second start this summer, after accepting a sponsors exemption to play the John Deere Classic.

Choi missed the cut on his debut at Pebble Beach, firing rounds of 72-75-77 while playing alongside the likes of Jerry Kelly and Aaron Rodgers.

The 45-year-old won the 2018 Casio World Open at the back end of last year but has been quiet on the golf course in 2019. Besides his missed cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach, Choi has only made two other appearances, missing the cut at the Kenya Open and finishing T12 at the Singapore Open.

Those who have bought tickets for this year’s John Deere Classic in July can look forward to all of Choi’s beautiful eccentricities.

 

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Morning 9: Nelly! | Ogilvy on Rules changes | Phelps on watching Tiger | Nantz: “Best event I’ve covered”

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

April 18, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Meanwhile, on the LPGA Tour…
…some actual golf action, to begin…
AP Report on round one of the Lotte Championship…
  • “Nelly Korda took advantage when Hawaii’s tough trade winds took a break.”
  • Korda rolled in the last of her nine birdies at the 18th in a bogey-free round of 63 Wednesday for a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Lotte Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club.
  • “I got here Saturday and I swear I couldn’t even walk because it was so windy,” said Korda, who is making her Lotte debut. “But I like the place. Everyone is really friendly and it just feels good to be here.”

Full piece.

2. Ogilvy on Rules changes
…the always interesting, abundantly informed Australian sounds off…
Writing for Golf Australia…
  • All of which brought me immediately back to the notion that the idea of simplifying rules almost automatically makes them more complicated. That it is what almost always happens when a committee decides something. I actually have some experience in that area, when I was on the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council…”
  • “…There were so many contingencies because a committee was involved. And it seems to me the same thing has happened with this ball-dropping thing. Nobody in the world now knows how to drop the ball properly. So we have a more complex situation than we had on December 31, 2018.”
  • “But it should be so simple. All we have to do is make it easy for a player to get the ball from hand to ground so that the game can continue. It’s that straightforward. But now we have a situation where you have to stand a certain way – you can’t bend your knees – and you have to drop from this exact height; not too low or high. The simplest thing in the world is now complicated.”
Also notable: this statement...”I have to think 99 percent of golfers have never consulted the rulebook on that one and things have been fine as far as I can see. This is really just a pro golf issue. So what is the point in foisting it on everyone?”
3. Phelps on watching Tiger
…how one GOAT got in prime position to watch another…
Tyler Lauletta at Business Insider…
  • On Wednesday, Phelps spoke with NBC Sports about how he wound up at the Masters in the first place, explaining that it had always been a dream of his to attend the tournament, and him being there for Woods’ big comeback win was more luck than anything.
  • “A mutual friend is a member,” Phelps said, explaining how he got his invite to one of the most difficult tickets in sports. “A buddy of mine called me Monday before the Masters. ‘I have a ticket? Do you want to go? I have a plane. Do you want to go?’ I was like, awesome, I’m going to the Masters for the first time.”
  • “As to how Phelps fell into front row seats to watch Woods tee off at No. 16, he says it came down to a helpful strangers that got to the tournament early on Sunday.”
  • “We started walking around the course and ran into a couple of nice people who had gotten to the gate early, at 3:30 a.m,” Phelps said. “They said, if you ever want to come back and sit on 16 with us, we have a couple of chairs. We got lucky, met a super nice guy working there that had some seats set up in some primo spots that we just had some pretty amazing access to.”
4. Even Stevie watched!
…tuning in for his former boss…
TVNZ report…
  • “Writing for Australian outlet the Player’s Voice, Williams says he now concentrated on playing golf rather than watching – until Monday morning earlier this week.”
  • “…I try to keep up with the news and will read about golf – but I just don’t watch it. Ever.
  • “Except for last Monday.”
  • “Fourteen years! It’s almost impossible to believe. And it had been 11 years since his last major – the US Open at Torrey Pines – which he had no right to win thanks to his torn cruciate ligament and fractured tibia.
  • “But that’s Tiger Woods – he does things no-one else could dream of doing.”

 

5. OWGR points for the Tour Championship
…two sets of books…
Doug Ferguson writes...”The PGA Tour will continue to keep a traditional score, even if it won’t be published, so that world ranking points can be awarded.”
  • “The Official World Golf Ranking board met last week at the Masters and approved a PGA Tour proposal that awards full ranking points based on where players would have finished without the staggered start.”
  • “The No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup starts the tournament at 10 under, with the No. 2 seed at 8 under, and then 7 under, 6 under and 5 under. The next five players start at 4 under, all the way down until Nos. 26 through 30 begin at even par.”
6. “Best event I’ve ever covered”
…says Jim Nantz regarding the 2019 Masters…
The Washington Post’s Ben Strauss quoting Nantz…
  • “I’ve done 34 Final Fours, had Super Bowls, Peyton [Manning’s] farewell. It’s been 48 hours since it ended, and I’d say it’s going to feel about the same 10 years from now,” said Nantz, who has already called this year’s Super Bowl and Final Four in addition to the Masters since February. “It’s the best event I’ve ever covered. And I feel very fortunate to have been in that spot.”
7. DeChambeau’s grip change
…much lighter, but still Jumbo…
Andrew Tursky at PGATour.com on the pre-Masters overhaul…
  • “After a 14-hour range session in Dallas the week before the Masters, Dechambeau made a 75-gram reduction in his oversized JumboMax grip weights in his Cobra clubs. His new grips, made from a different lightweight compound, now measure just more than 50 grams, considered to be a “normal” weight by industry standards, despite their relatively massive size. He also changed from True Temper Dynamic Gold X7 shafts – extremely heavy and stiff iron shafts – to Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts, which flex more than his previous gamer shafts.”
  • “Ever since he came on TOUR, DeChambeau used JumboMax grips on his clubs that measured about 125 grams per grip. He now works on his equipment with Cobra’s TOUR Operations Manager Ben Schomin, who says Dechambeau has improved his wedge play since first coming out on TOUR, but lately DeChambeau had struggled to find consistency with the flight of his wedges. The main issues were that spin was inconsistent and they tended to fly too high. For his part, Schomin built him wedges that used weld beads on the heel to help with face closure. While Schomin says it helped, DeChambeau — currently T105 in Strokes Gained: Around the Greens — wasn’t satisfied with his wedge play.”
  • “Schomin and DeChambeau, chasing consistency with the wedges, decided to begin testing different variables. As it turned out, DeChambeau liked the feel of a 50-gram grip, versus his old 125-gram grips, and the new build allowed DeChambeau to flight the wedges lower, and gain spin and launch consistency.”
8. An interesting note on Masters coverage
…how did Molinari set himself up for his water-destined third shot at the 15th?…
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers…
  • “Thanks as always to ClassicTVsports.com for charting all the shots televised during the final round of a major. The site confirmed what I believed to be true while being in and out of the Augusta National media center on Sunday: Molinari’s second shot on No. 15 never made it on TV.”
  • “Even after his disastrous double bogey on No. 12, Molinari arrived at the Augusta’s final par 5 tied for the lead with Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Xander Schauffele. So why wasn’t his second shot shown? Well, it was just a layup after a poor drive, but that punchout from the right pine straw proved to be pivotal. It wound up running through the fairway and into the left rough. It should be noted you can see the shot on the Masters digital platforms, which, remarkably, attempted to show every shot from the tournament.”
  • “Although Molinari only had 79 yards for his third, which was shown live, his angle was so extreme that his golf ball caught a pine tree and dropped into the pond guarding the green. A surprised Molinari, who had just one bogey through the first 60 holes of the tournament, never recovered from his second double bogey in four holes. Meanwhile, Woods hit two great shots on the hole to find the green. And two putts later he had the solo lead for the first time all week, a lead he would not relinquish.”
9. Ho Sung mania is coming to the John Deere Classic
…the fisherman’s swing returneth to the PGA Tour…
The tournament announced Chou has been handed a sponsors exemption to the July tournament.
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Meteorologist received death threats for interrupting Masters coverage during most-watched morning golf round of all time

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Tornados brewing in the Georgia area meant an earlier start than usual for the final round of the Masters, and one CBS46 meteorologist was to receive death threats for interrupting coverage of the event to update residents in the area of the conditions.

Ella Dorsey took to Twitter on Sunday to report not just the vile abuse she was receiving, but also the importance of the work she was doing which cut into local Masters coverage.

Per The Weather Channel who spoke to local experts, who while being prepared for the backlash in interrupting the coverage to warn residents, were stunned by the level of abuse of some. On the subject, station news director Steve Doerr said

“The venom around this was insane, even by social media standards.”

CBS released its viewing figures for Sunday’s morning round, with an average of 10.8 million viewers tuning in to watch Tiger Woods claim his fifth green jacket. That total bested the 8.56 million number, according to Nielsen data, from the 2000 Open Championship which previously held the morning record.

According to CBS, the broadcasts viewership peaked between 2.15 and 2.30 ET with 18.3 million tuning in.

 

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