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The Wedge Guy: Is your driver the first “scoring club”?

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I was traveling Sunday and didn’t get to watch the end of the PGA Championship, so imagine my shock Monday morning when I read what had happened on that back nine. Like most everyone, I figured Brooks Koepka had his game and his emotions completely under control and Sunday’s finish would be pretty boring and anti-climactic. Man, were we wrong!!?

As I read the shot-by-shot, disaster-by-disaster account of what happened on those few holes, I have to admit my somewhat cynical self became engaged. I realize the conditions were tough, but it still boils down to the fact that Koepka nearly lost this PGA Championship because he couldn’t execute what I call “basic golf” – hitting fairways and greens – when it counted. And Dustin Johnson lost his ability to do the same just as he got within striking distance.

I’ve long been a critic of the way the game has come to be played at the highest levels; what we used to call “bomb and gouge” has become the norm at the professional tour level. These guys are big strong athletes, and they go at it harder than anyone ever did in “the old days”. Watch closely and you’ll see so many of them are on their toes or even off the ground at impact, especially with the driver. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t see how that can be the path to consistent shotmaking.

So, my curiosity then drove me to the year-to-date statistics on the PGA Tour website to dive into this a bit deeper. What I found was quite interesting, and I believe can be helpful to all of you readers as you think about how to lower your handicap this season. Follow me here, as I think there are some very helpful numbers from the PGA Tour.
I’ve long contended that golf is a game of ball control . . . let’s call it shotmaking. Your personal strength profile will determine whether you are a long hitter or not, and there’s probably not a lot you can do (or will do) to change that dramatically. But PGA Tour statistics indicate that accuracy, not distance, is the key to better scoring.

The Tour leader in driving accuracy is Jim Furyk, the only guy who is hitting more than 75% of the fairways. The Tour average is under 62%, or not even 2 out of 3. That means the typical round has the tour professional playing at least 4-5 approach shots from the rough. I’m going to come back to that in just a moment and explore the “cost” of those missed fairways.

The Tour leader in greens-in-regulation is Tiger Woods at 74%, almost 3-out-of-4 . . . but the Tour average is less than 66%, or just under 2-out-of-3. I believe enlightenment comes by breaking that GIR statistic down even further.
From the fairway, the Tour leader in GIR is Justin Thomas at 85% and the worst guy at 65%, three points better than the tour average for GIR overall. Hmmmmm. From the rough, however, the best guy on Tour is Taylor Gooch at 63.4%, which is not as good as the very last guy from the fairway.

But let’s dive even a bit deeper to better understand the importance of driving accuracy. Is it true these guys are so good from the rough that hitting fairways doesn’t matter? Not according to the numbers.

From the rough in the range of 125-150 yards – a wedge for most of these guys – the tour’s best hit it 25-27 feet from the hole and only 30 tour pros are averaging inside 30 feet from that distance. But from the fairway, 25 yards further back – 150-175 yards – the tour’s best hit it inside 21-23 feet, and 160 guys are getting closer than 30 feet on average. Even from 175-200 in the fairway, the best on tour hit it closer than the best on tour from the rough 50 yards closer.

So, what do you do with this information? I encourage any serious golfer to really analyze your own rounds to see the difference in your scoring on holes where you find the fairway versus those where you don’t. I feel certain you’ll find throttling back a bit with your driver and focusing more on finding the fairway, rather than trying to squeeze a few more yards of the tee will help you shoot lower scores.

If you have the inclination to see what more fairways can do to your own scores, here’s a little experiment for you. Get a buddy or two for a “research round” and play this game: When you miss a fairway, walk the ball straight over to the fairway, and then 15 yards back. So, you’ll hit every approach from the fairway, albeit somewhat further back – see what you shoot.

Next week I’m going to follow up this “enlightenment” with some tips and techniques that I feel certain will help you hit more fairways so you can take this to the bank this season.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, or SCOR, but you would certainly know his most recent accomplishment: the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2015. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have possibly stimulated other companies to also try to raise the CG and improve wedge performance.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. SteelyDan

    May 23, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Tour players are not trying to maximize distance. They make concessions for accuracy. On average, they hit down with the driver. Great article.

  2. Daniel Kidd

    May 23, 2019 at 6:08 am

    I see both sides of the debate. From experience, I see what you are saying Terry, but I also agree with some of the naysayers in the comments too. On the one hand, I have almost always found a 330 yd hole more difficult when I bash driver as hard as I can, rather than hitting to the 100 yd marker and wedging in. It’s rare when laying back that I make worse than par, and I make about the same number of birdies. Definitely make more bogeys when hammering away.

    On the flip side, the pro game is different from ours, and their skill with the half shots and from the rough is so good they can get away with bashing it off the tee and attacking all the par 5’s (even if they can’t reach them all in two). Plus, the rough at the courses we usually play isn’t as penal as tour rough.

    I did find it fascinating that the worst GIR player from the fairway is better at hitting greens than the best player from the rough. You’d think that stat would have some of the pros thinking of placing more emphasis on finding fairways.

  3. Sahil

    May 23, 2019 at 2:50 am

    I get what Terry is saying. To discount the driver, in my opinion can hinder your game, although at my club games there are few guys who use only an iron of the tee and they play off a 10 H.I and less but none are less than 7. The guys who really play well (H.I of 8 and less) hit driver consistently and fairly accurately. But I think “do what ever it takes to keep your ball in play”.
    The consistent club winners do this consistently.

  4. Bob Jones

    May 22, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    Terry, accurate is good, but so is long. It is not true that if you hit the ball farther you will always be in the weeds.

    I can dial back my tee shots so I always land them in the fairway. But if I hit my normal tee shot and miss four fairways, and am 25-50 yards longer every time (to use your yardage), I am going to shoot a lower score because on those ten holes I hit the fairway I will be using an easier club to hit into the green, and that more than makes up for the fairways I miss, which will not always cost me the loss of a stroke anyway. I keep records. Of the holes were I get a par or birdie, I miss the fairway about half the time. I get away with it because I don’t miss by much and the rough we play from on recreational courses isn’t punitive.

    As for hitting greens, I score lots of pars by getting up and down from greenside. GIR is overrated, if you ask me.

  5. Jamie Collis

    May 22, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    I learnt to play golf in Canada and the US and the rough is manicured compared to the Australian courses I now play. The Australian rough consists of gras tuffs, bare lies and uneven ground and as a HC 9 I find it difficult to hit greens from these lies. For this reason, the foundation for my best rounds are long drives in the middle of the fairway which makes it easier to hit greens in the 2 club winds we typically play in.

  6. Pelling

    May 22, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Brooks Koepka hit a gap wedge 160 yards to one foot on #10 for birdie. That seemed to be his scoring club. The ball goes too far.

  7. Drew

    May 22, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    I find it comical that many GolfWRXers apply articles they read about statistical analysis on the tour to their own game, as if they are playing “the same” game. Realistically, as pointed out many times in these comments, you are not playing the same game as the pros. You are playing shorter courses, you are playing shorter/thinner rough, you are not as precise with your ball striking, you are not as accurate with your distance control, and you are not as accurate in general at navigating your shots as the Pros.
    I’d like to add a couple points to Terry’s case about the advantages of hitting the fairways that he didn’t touch on, but I feel greatly affect the recreational golfer’s success on the course because of our lack of precision and accuracy compared to the pros. From the fairway, the impedance of overhanging trees is dramatically eliminated, our angle to the pin is greatly improved, and the visual aesthetics of the hole are generally better (for example seeing the front of the green instead of only a giant bunker). These are all things that improve a recreational golfers confidence when standing over the ball for their second shot, and confidence is something all recreational golfers need more of. Outside of the fact that we cannot shape the ball left or right to miss a tree and still hit the green, or flight a punch out to roll up accurately from 150 away, or be assured we are going to get enough club on the ball out of the rough to carry the bunker 125 yards away like the pros can, we just simply do not play the same game as them. We need clean, confidence inspiring looks.
    As a more general statement to take away from all this, off the tee you should hit the absolute longest club you can that will not get you into trouble a significant portion of the time. If Driver could roll through the fairway and put you under a tree, take 3W and assure yourself you will have a look at the green. If rolling through the fairway still gives you an unimpeded shot to the green, then take driver. Manage your game, do not just think because Brooks and DJ can bomb and gouge that you should too.

  8. Terry B Koehler

    May 22, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Thank you all for sounding off and “taking it to me”. I apparently did not make my point as I had intended. I agree with all the comments that the long hitters on tour are dominating, and probably will from now on. And I have great respect for Mark Brodie’s work. But our games are a far cry from theirs, and the courses we play are much different, as several of you pointed out. The point I was trying to make — and apparently did not do very well — is that even tour professionals are not nearly as good at hitting greens and getting it close from the rough as they are from the fairway even 25-50 yards further back. Given that statistical insight, it would make sense that this would apply to us recreational golfers as well, wouldn’t it? From my personal observations, scoring is just easier for all of us when we keep the drives in the fairway, just as it is for tour players. And that we probably suffer more from errant drives than they do, because we do not have their skills around the greens. Finally, I was trying to communicate that most recreational golfers are not going to make the physical commitment to change their body with lots of gym work to continually add yards; given that, working on hitting more fairways would probably help lower scores.

    Thanks again to all of you for sounding off, though. That keeps me on my toes.

    • Barney Puttick

      May 23, 2019 at 3:43 am

      Great article Terry, and as a coach I will use your thoughts with my recreational students , as I agree the fairway is the way to go !

  9. jgpl001

    May 22, 2019 at 5:43 am

    The wedge guy is correct but the the ave club player and the ave tour pro was never further apart – in 1970 the ave club hcp was 18 and today it is 18, but the stats on tour across this period is startling

    On the PGA tour short hitters rarely win – a wedge from the rough for these guys is preferable to 6 iron from the fairway

    I don’t see any new OEM drivers boast about more “accuracy” or talk about “dialling it back a little”

    We have been conditioned for “more speed”, “everyone gets faster”, etc.

    For me I know if I keep it in play I score well, if not I don’t – simple, but as a dedicated ho I will always looks for anything that give me an extra yard….and I am not a short hitter…

  10. JP

    May 21, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    Terry K got schooled here.

  11. Stephen Peltier

    May 21, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    I’ve actually done a lot of deep analysis on this, even threw some AI machine learning at it and my conclusions are as follows. People that can hit the golf ball well score better than people who suck at hitting the golf ball.

  12. Steve Wozeniak PGA

    May 21, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    Terry,

    Golf wrks readers know a little more than you thought huh!!!!!!

    No worries you will do better next time.

    Steve Wozeniak PGA

  13. Alex

    May 21, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Because you’ll win your club championship in a scratch division going 69, 70 or something like that on a course that rates out at 74 or so. On a PGA tour course that rates out 78 or 79 at least with way faster green, more tucked pins, and even longer rough a 69 and 70 will make cut but thats about it most likely. I agree to the average or even club scratch golfer being “long enough” and hitting fairways and greens is the way to go…most of us don’t have the 63 gear in us even at our own home comfy track. The sport the guys on tv play might as well be another sport. Every week somebody gets hot and goes low 60’s and its a birdie fest. If we go out and got 69 70 in a 2 day tournament thats probably 7/10 birdies depending how you attack par 5s. Every week somebody has one round that they make that many birdies and they sit atop the leaderboard and so on and so forth and it becomes a tournament for racehorses and we see them get deeper than 15 most weeks. The way they are doing that is basically putting all their eggs in the basket of attacking par 5’s the random short par 4 and rolling the dice that the driver makes more birdies happen and worry about worse results later. The majority of us are trying to post scores to get a better handicap, the majority of them are trying to make money and either win majors and be hall of famers, win tournaments and then a major, finish top 10 and then a win, make cuts and ultimately keep their card. There is some young bomber waiting on the Web that is capable of shooting 62 and taking a journey man’s card. They are full sprint all the time on tour cause if its their week they go all out to win because it might not happen ever again. Us mere mortals will shoot another 71 or 69 or whatever before summers end and the way to shoot a bunch of low to mid 70’s doing it is fairways and greens. They are also just a lot more talented than all of us and that’s a hard pill for most of us to swallow, but the truth hurts.

  14. PSG

    May 21, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    *sighs*

    Basic things seem somewhat beyond this guy.

    Why would a guy playing to shoot the best score he can use the same strategy as a pro who either wins the tournament or doesn’t care?

    The pros play bomb and gauge because there is a 70 person field and somebody in that field who plays bomb and gauge will win. We don’t have a 70 person field, Terry. The two goals are completely different. The pros are not trying to shoot their best average score over time, they’re trying to spike a tournament.

  15. Zach

    May 21, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    I agree with the people saying to A) read Every Shot Counts and B) that you need to consider the courses most Ams play vs. the ones PGA tour pro’s play. The greens that probably 90% of us play on are slow, maybe the nicest ones stimp around 9 or 10; Those greens are much slower and softer than what is on tour. I can afford to bomb the ball into the rough at my courses because I can easily hold a green with a wedge from the rough, whereas guys on Tour still might see significant run out on firm and fast greens, even from 130 yards away.

    Also consider the rough on most courses that the Tour stops at is much thicker and longer than what majority of us see. The rough at Bethpage was unreal…and how many courses have fescue like that? Only in certain areas.

    DJ and Brooks vs guys like Chez Reavie and Furyk … Who are you betting on to win the next major? Tiger literally made a career out of being the longest guy out there, fairways were an after thought. He was so good from the rough it didn’t matter.

    • T

      May 21, 2019 at 7:34 pm

      Eldrick was able to escape from the rough because of square grooves. Yes he thrived in that era.
      What was the one complaint from that time? That the rough didn’t mean anything as they could gouge it out and the ball still stayed on the green.
      Don’t let his supposed skill fool you.

  16. gery katona

    May 21, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    I’m just a 66 year old 15 handicapper that used to hit my drives about 220yds. But I changed my strategy and swing after reading some stats that show there isn’t very much correlation between fairways hit and GIR, or more importantly, scoring. I mainly apply lag with the driver as opposed to trying to muscle, or push the club into the ball and gained at least 20 yards, I would say more than that. The longer the drive, the easier all the rest of the shots are. Less club into the green means closer to the hole. Closer to the hole means fewer putts needed. The drive sets up the hole and distance cannot be ignored. Also, I play mostly public courses and a fair number of private ones as well. On most of those courses, the rough is not very consequential anyway, so just rip it the best you can. Now matter how weak you are, a longer drive helps anyone.

  17. D

    May 21, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Complete and utter tosh.
    Where are the Stats singling out Bethpage, Shinnecock, Erin Hills or even Chambers Bay? Where are the driving stats and GIR stats from those majors?
    The reason is obvious as to why I would talk about those: the Rough is more than twice as thick as at regular Tour stops.
    Even the week before Bethpage. That Trinity Forest course has NO rough. None. Wide open fairway. The penalty was missing greens, greens that have rolling drop offs and slick slopes al around.

    Your article is shyte.

    The reason why the feet have to come off the ground for the driver compared to the old days of Persimmon is because the ball is 2 inches off the ground on a tee now, when the ball was barely ¼ inch off the ground in the old days.

  18. Doug

    May 21, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    Mr Koehler, read “Every Shot Counts” by Mark Broadie to see how to actually apply the math you are speaking of and realize it supports the opposite of your conclusion. Within the skill range of PGA tour players, distance is one of the biggest determining factors of success.

    Leave actual math analysis to trained professionals. This opinion piece degrades your credibility.

    • Jack Attack

      May 21, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      I’ll second Doug’s comments. Broadie’s book provides a framework on how to accurately breakdown and understand where players are better or worse than the field. The speculation in this article is just wrong and a waste of time.

      Do us all a favor and read Mark Broadie’s book, and then come back with a new & informed piece for WRX.

      • Scratchscorer

        May 21, 2019 at 5:13 pm

        I’ll third that. Read the book and you will have an understanding of how much distance matters.

    • Kyle

      May 21, 2019 at 5:37 pm

      Yep. The math doesn’t lie. There is a reason these “bomb and gougers” are so successful.

  19. Payton

    May 21, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    You forgot to account for the fact nobody hits 100% fairways. Missing 2 more fairways and having wedge instead of 7 iron means you will make up strokes through your round. The biggest gains for average players isn’t squeezing out a few more yards, unless your hard swings squeeze 10+ more yards, it’s about not hitting 3 wood or other shorter clubs. The 20+ yards lost by clubbing down are a significant loss if it’s not required by the hole.

  20. Bones

    May 21, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    People have already done the math on this and this isn’t exactly the result. Maybe read what Mark Broadie & Scott Fawcett have to say on the subject…

    • Scratchscorer

      May 21, 2019 at 5:17 pm

      Exactly. I don’t understand how articles that contradict the statistics are still being perpetuated as true. This is golf propaganda.

  21. NYCBethpageBlack

    May 21, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Reality is most of the courses on the PGA allow for bomb and gouge. They are typically very long and many are fairly open with relatively wide fairways and the rough/trees don’t really destroy your scoring ability until you are way out of the fairway. Take the TPC courses for example. I have played 6 different TPC courses, and even when on my bad driving days, I still shoot in the mid-low 80s from the tips (Registered HCP is ~10).

    And then there is Bethpage black. I play there 2-3x yearly and while trees are rarely in play, the deep rough is 3 feet or less from the fairway. If I don’t drive the ball well on the Black course, I will not break 90. Period.

    We all saw that second shot DJ hit on #1 this weekend that went about 40 yards, right? That ball was less that 12 feet from being in the fairway. On most TPC courses he can still hit that shot on the green with some spin to boot; on the black course, he couldn’t even get it halfway to the hole.

    The reason guys play golf the way they do now is that the majority of the courses got longer after the Tiger era, but only some punish missing fairways. Sure, if you hit it into the woods or 20 yards off the fairway, all the PGA courses play difficult, but few will punish you like bethpage black if you are not flat on target.

  22. Benny

    May 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

    TK15 Bad math and anedotal proof, you can do better.

  23. Jeff

    May 21, 2019 at 10:55 am

    This may be true for amateur golfers but is far from the truth on the PGA. The longest players are far and away the best. You may not lose strokes from the fairway at 175 yds but the difference from being in the rough at 175 vs 125 is extremely different. If the best guy on tour is still only 3/4 fairways, that means 1/4 times he’s losing almost a full stroke by being 50 yds further back. There’s a reason why all the best players in the world are bombers. The misconception is that making the rough longer and the fairways narrower hurts those guys. It actually helps them because of how much larger a penalty it is to miss a fairway at 175 out vs 125 out.

  24. Tom

    May 21, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Yeah, This is exactly why Chez Reavie is winning so many events… Oh… wait… Nevermind. If you look at the top ten in accuracy off the tee. you have 1 win in the last 2 years. If you look at the top 10 in distance you have 5. I think I would take the distance…

    if you go out to top 20 in distance you have a lot more wins in the last two years. I counted 15 in think. If you go out to the top 20 in driving accuracy, the number is still 1.

    So the money goes to distance.

    • Tom

      May 21, 2019 at 10:31 am

      correct that, you have 3 wins if you go out to the top 20 in accuracy, but distance still has it, by a long distance.

    • Luke

      May 21, 2019 at 10:51 am

      I think their has to be some correlation between the stronger drivers also having the strength and clubhead speed being able to get the ball out of the wicked lies in the rough they face more often.

      Doesn’t mean the average golfer shouldn’t prioritize being in the short stuff.

      • Jeff

        May 21, 2019 at 10:58 am

        it’s more just that it’s easier to get the ball out of the rough with a wedge than it is with a 6i. I mean strength helps but loft makes the bigger difference here, imo.

  25. Juststeve

    May 21, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Reality has been somewhat distorted by the way the governing bodies pick courses and set them up. Last week at the Black is a perfect example. By selecting that course the PGA eliminated about half the field, the half who are not bombers. The course conditions, damp and soft eliminated another 20%, those who can’t carry the ball a long way. As a result only a relative handful of golfers were really in it to win. Koepka was the best of that handful last week.

    Consider now the results on a hypothetical different course, a Harbor Town or a Colonial for example. Now we have a tournament where most of the field has a real chance to compete, not just the longest hitter. We have a tournament where whoever has the best game throughout the bag has a shot at winning. More interesting in my opinion, but the networks like chicks did the big hitters.

    I’d like to see courses that are more available to all first class golfers. Marion is a great example. Difficult to be sure, fair, and the best overall golfer of the week has a real chance to win.

  26. Joe

    May 21, 2019 at 9:20 am

    I completely agree with this. Of course strong wedge play within 75 yards can certainly help “save” strokes, but for the purpose of scoring better I agree hitting fairways are more important. My lowest rounds this year have all come when ive hit 10+ fairways in a round.

    When the driver hasn’t worked for me, I’ve “scored” better when I put the driver away and hit a 2 iron in the fairway much more consistently.

    • tom

      May 21, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Your best round may come from when you hit the most fairways of course, what you don’t understand though is that these bombers are only hitting 1 or maybe 2 less fairways but are 40 yards ahead of you every time when they in the fairway. Sure they may make bogey on that 1 extra hole they miss the fairway on, but they are going to make a hell of a lot more birdies from 40 yards up when they are in the fairway.

      A second point is also that when you are 40 yards ahead (in the fairway or the rough it applies to both), you are reducing your chance of making a bogey by a significant amount when comparing it to being further back, so its a double winner.

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

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

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The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

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Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

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Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

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Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the U.S. Open

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Gary Woodland claimed victory at the U.S. Open in spectacular style, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Pebble Beach.

Hot

Gary Woodland produced a masterclass both with his irons and flat-stick all week long at Pebble Beach to claim his first major title. The 35-year-old gained 8.4 strokes over the field for his approach play and a monstrous 7.2 strokes over the field on the greens at Pebble Beach. Check out the clubs Woodland used on his way to victory last week in our WITB piece here.

Brooks Koepka continues to impress on the biggest stage, and the American’s play tee to green was once more outstanding in California. Koepka gained 14.4 strokes tee to green last week, which was the best in the field in this area.

Viktor Hovland has just about every golf fan excited after watching his brilliant display at Pebble Beach. Hovland was second in the field for strokes gained: tee to green at the U.S. Open, gaining a whopping 12.6 strokes in this area. All that was holding the amateur back was his putting, where he lost almost four strokes to the field

Cold

Justin Thomas continues to struggle after his comeback from his wrist injury, with the American missing the cut at last week’s U.S. Open. Thomas lost 2.7 strokes to the field on the greens at Pebble Beach, and worryingly for the 25-year-old is the fact that he has now lost strokes with the flat-stick in his last six consecutive events.

Dustin Johnson’s performance on the greens cost the 34-year-old dearly at last week’s U.S. Open. Johnson came into the event as one of the favorites, but a poor performance with the putter, where he lost 6.1 strokes, put paid to his chances. It was the worst performance for Johnson on the greens since 2017.

Bubba Watson continues to struggle, and last week it was his short game which was woefully misfiring. Watson dropped a combined 10 strokes to the field for his play on and around the greens at Pebble Beach for the two days he was in town.

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