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The Rule of 24: How to shoot low scores like a tour pro without changing anything in your game

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I play a lot of golf, mostly at municipal courses, generally with average golfers who suffer from the current epidemic of LOFT (Lack of F***ng Talent). A couple of months ago, watching a pair older guys ride the struggle bus, I thought “someone’s gotta make this better.” When one of my regular playing partners called to tell me had quit, that he was done with the game, that he had other ways to torture himself, I set out to find a solution for him and everyone else who ain’t never gonna play on tour.

Unlocking a solution wasn’t easy. I thought about the question for months and months getting nowhere. And then one day I asked myself a simple question: How far does the average PGA Tour pro hit the ball? The number 300 immediately popped into my head. Next, I asked myself, how long is the average PGA tour course? 7,200 yards popped into my head. Then, I started doing some simple math in my head and stumbled on a simple key: 7,200 divides by 300 into a nice, neat number: 24. The average PGA Tour course is roughly 24 times as long as the average tour player drives the ball.

Could 24 times your driving distance be a basic anchor for how long of a course people should play? Could 24 be some sort of a key to unlocking the game?

Walking on the golf course the other day, I wondered what the rule of 24 would mean for my playing companions. First, there was Steve. He is a mid-40s investment banker who says he hits the ball 210 off the tee but really hits it about 180. He plays a course that is 6,200 yards short. His ratio? 34.4. Yikes. Then there is Patricia, his wife. She hit it about 130 and plays from 5,600—a ratio of 43! Okay folks, Dustin Johnson’s ratio is below 24, Steve’s is 34 and Patricia’s is 43. Who do you think is having more fun playing golf? No wonder the average golfer struggles, I thought, they are playing courses almost 2x the proportional length of a PGA Tour player’s course with 50 percent less power and accuracy. That ain’t nothing but crazy.

Based on that small piece of research, I decided to take the question a step further by asking a couple of more questions: How many greens in regulation does the average PGA Tour player hit vs the average 20 handicap male? The answer is approximately 12 for the PGA Tour player and one for the 20 handicaps. But why? My instincts suggested distance. I called a couple of stats people and asked a question: At what distance does the average 20 handicap man and 20 handicap women hit the green approximately 50% of the time? No one knew. So, I decided to do some really basic data collection to see what I would find. A week later and several 1,000 balls hit on the range by anyone and everyone I could round up later and measured on my launch monitor, the data suggested the distance of the 20 handicap men is approximately 110 yards and for the women, it’s 60 yards.

So how many times would a guy who hits it 180 have 110 yards on an average 6,200 golf course? Basically never. Pretty much same with the ladies hitting it from 5,600. No wonder the average 20 handicapper hits one green per round (if they are lucky)!

Armed with the data, I decided to test it with my favorite golfer—my mom. On a normal drive, my mom hits it about 135 yards. She plays to a 38 handicap. Based on my math, she should be playing a course that is about 2,430 yards. From that distance, she should hit 14 drives approximately 1,890 yards, leaving approximately 30 yards to each green on an 18 hole course.

With this math in mind, I created a 9-hole course and took her to play. The result? She hit 7 greens in regulation, had 2 birdies and 2 bogeys and shot even par. Did she have fun? Did she feel good. How did you feel the last time you shot even par? Exactly…

Since that day with my mom, I have been testing my method with others. Yesterday, I got paired with a lovely older gentleman named Michael. Michael is in his late 60s, is a lifetime golfer with a lovely swing and keenness for the game that was evident from the moment I met him.

Unfortunately, through the first 6 holes, from the senior tees, Michael failed to make anything better than double bogey and was very frustrated; his two longest shots were nowhere close to the green. On 7, I told him about the rule of 24 and asked if he would like to try it out? He agreed. I did the math. I walked him to 203 yards from the green. He hit an average driver and had about 85 yards. He pulled his 7 iron and hit a nice shot that hopped twice and ended about 18 feet from the pin. I gave him a high five and said “good par!”

“Par?” Michael asked, “Really, Brendan, I’m knocking that putt in!” Which he did. His first birdie in two years. Pretty cool.

Okay, folks, you all like to hit the big club far, but I gotta tell you something, I have yet to find someone who doesn’t prefer shooting par.

At this point, some of my math-inclined readers might be upset because they have figured out that based on my math, someone who flies it 240 would play 5,760. Immediately this might raise some eyebrows; that’s why there is another step: adding additional yardage to account that some of the holes will be par 5’s. To account for this, based on conditions, here are the additions of yardage

  • Players who drive it up to 100 yards; add up to 250 yards
  • Players who drive it between 101-225; add up to 750 yards
  • Players who drive it more than 225; add up to 1,000 yards

So do your own math or email me, and I will figure out your real average driving distance by 24 for you and tell you how long your average course should be to have the same chance at par (and fun) tour players do.

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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

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Barry

    Oct 28, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Loved it, great article. We just need course designers to incorporate additional tees to accommodate the appropriate length of course.

  2. Ian

    Oct 26, 2019 at 7:21 am

    in Germany where I live most courses are longer than 6000m (over 6500 yards) from the mens tees. So nice theorie but no chance ????

  3. Pete

    Oct 24, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Holy cow, please re-write that first paragraph … I think you showed a LOFT and were riding the struggle bus as an author when tryIng to draw in your audience with that start. Otherwise, very interesting article.

  4. Brandon

    Oct 24, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    I like to cheat at things I’m bad at, too.

    • larrybud

      Oct 24, 2019 at 3:51 pm

      Who is to say the ratio should be linear or that the ratio should use a driver for the baseline?

      According to trackman, the average pga tour player carries a 6 iron 183 yards. If i use a 6 iron ratio, I would be playing a course 700 yards longer than if I use the “rule of 24”. Why is your method any better than mine?

      This simple example proves the ratio should not be linear.

      You can also prove this to yourself by calculating the ratio between driver and, say, 9 iron, for a pro vs your own distances.

      The pro carries his 9 iron 54% of his carry distance on driver. The slower your swing speed, the larger ratio a 9 iron is to your driver.

      BTW, the average carry distance on tour is 275.

      • larrybud

        Oct 24, 2019 at 3:52 pm

        sorry, didn’t mean to reply to you, but to the article.

  5. MarkBlack

    Oct 24, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Great article. Gets me thinking. The problem is determining a driver length average. I know, seems doable enough but I vary between 220 and 310 on the same hole and with the same wind. YES – no bueno. Am a 5 handicap.

    5 iron much more predictable.

    I feel bad for short hitters, such as many ladies. They rarely get the opportunity to have GIR, even with pretty swings. 90% of courses do not have tees for someone who drives it 150.
    For me, distance of the course has less to do with my score than focus and staying on my game plan.

    Thank you for a thought provoking article.

  6. Brad M

    Oct 24, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    I’m always curious about the “average drive” as a basis for this type of advice. Is it avg. drive in the fairway? Avg. drive that’s playable (not needing a punch-out from trees, for example)?

    I typically play 6400-6800 yards. I’m 55 years old and an 10.6 hcap, maybe I’m your target for this article, maybe I’m not. If I’m not, then you might not need to read the rest.

    Here’s my barometer for fun, enjoyable golf. If I hit a decently struck drive in the fairway (for me 260), there are few 4’s and 5’s I can’t reach in regulation (or better) with my next shots. The challenge is that sometimes that’s a 4 iron, sometimes that’s a wedge. And if I miss the fairway, I want par to less likely and to use all my skill/creativity to eke one out. I like to play all my clubs, so this challenge is one of my favorite parts of the game. Will I hit a high percentage? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But to have it be all driver/wedge would remove a significant part of the fun.

    I play one very easy course, par 71, 6570yds and wide open, very little trouble. My 78’s and 79’s there are not nearly as satisfying as my 83’s and 84’s at more challenging courses, and even some of my 89’s elsewhere are more fun than driver/wedge all day.

    Many of us play for the challenge, and going lower by shortening the course isn’t that fun. When I start holding up golfers behind me because I’m taking too long, I promise I’ll shorten things up. But playing shorter just to shoot more 70’s than 80’s isn’t my idea of having more fun with golf. I do completely agree that many should move up. But there are reasons why some of us don’t.

  7. S

    Oct 24, 2019 at 9:42 am

    This is great stuff. Good research.

  8. B-Dubbs

    Oct 24, 2019 at 6:55 am

    I like it. I’ve heard a similar thing that I like better. Take your 5 iron carry distance and multiply by 36. Carry it 150? Should play from 5400. 195? 7000 is your distance.

    • Brad M

      Oct 24, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      I think this is a better barometer, the distance variability is reduced with 5iron so you’ll have a more accurate number. This actually shows I should be playing longer than my usual 6600-6800, and I can survive at 7000, but at the moment, that’s usually too much of a grind.

  9. paul rooney

    Oct 24, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Its a great insight into driving distance and length of course, it would be interesting to have a formula for SSS or slope! or a personal slope(ability) for example:

    driving distance /2 – handicap = personal slope – slope = score

    just a thought

  10. freowho

    Oct 24, 2019 at 4:16 am

    Longleaf tee system has already done all the work. You might get sued for plagiarism!

  11. Drew

    Oct 24, 2019 at 12:11 am

    I like the rule of 24. But shouldn’t we also account for handicap. My 20+ buddie can crush a drive 300 yards no problem (1 out of 5 tries). But no way should he be playing from the tips.

  12. Bob Jones

    Oct 23, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with the rule of 24. My research several years ago produced a number of 25, but that’s close enough.

    What I do now is take the distance of my average (not best) drive, and add on the distance I carry a 7-iron. I play from the tees that give me half the par fours at that combined distance or less.

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The Gear Dive

The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Lance Vinson Part 2

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In this episode of the Gear Dive, Johnny goes even deeper into the TrackMan data with Tour Rep Lance Vinson. It’s a ridiculous nerd out covering what the future holds, who is the most efficient player on tour, who hits it the best and a million other things.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

 

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: How is the new PGA schedule looking? Gross golf bag cleaning story!

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The new PGA schedule is out and how will so much major golf look in the fall. What golf gear would you buy with your stimulus check if you could blow it all on golf? Knudson has a gross story about cleaning out a golf bag.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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19th Hole

Tiger at the Masters: The 3 that got away

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This time last year, Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, breaking a 14-year drought at Augusta National and completing a storybook career comeback (see Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters WITB here).

Between his 2005 and 2019 victories, Woods gave himself several chances to reclaim the green jacket, but for one reason or another, the championship continuously eluded the 15-time major winner.

Looking back on that drought, three years in particular stick out in my mind where Woods (being the ruthless closer that he is) could, and maybe should, have capitalized on massive opportunities.

2007 Masters

A unique tournament broke out at the 2007 Masters with chilly and windy conditions meaning we would see an over-par score winning the event for the first time in a generation.

Unusually however was the fact that Tiger Woods had got himself into a fantastic position heading into the final day’s play—one stroke back of the lead and in the final group.

By the first hole on Sunday, Woods had a share of the lead. A couple of holes later, and he was the sole leader. But instead of the game’s greatest ever closer doing what he does best, we saw the first small chink in Tiger’s major armor.

Unable to keep up with the improved scoring on Sunday, Woods finished the championship two strokes behind Zach Johnson. It was the first time Woods lost a major in which he held the lead at some point in the final round.

11th hole Sunday. Woods saved par.

Summing up after the round why things hadn’t turned out the way the entire golf world expected, Woods said

“Looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That’s 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”

2011 Masters

In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, an electric front-nine charge from Woods coupled with a Rory McIlroy collapse saw the then 35-year-old tied for the lead heading into the back nine.

After back-to-back pars on the challenging 10th and 11th holes, Woods found the green on the 12th before it all slipped away. A disastrous three-putt was followed by a deflating five on the par-5 13th and an agonizing near-miss for birdie on 14.

In typical defiant fashion, Woods then flushed a long iron on the par-5 15th to give him five feet for eagle and what would have been the outright lead. But he couldn’t find the cup.

Directly following his round, a visibly miffed Woods said

“I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even. But I’m right there in the thick of it and a bunch of guys have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”

What happened was eventual champion Charl Schwartzel did what Woods said he should have done—shooting 4 under on the back to win his first major.

2013 Masters

Luck, or lack of, is a contentious topic when it comes to sports fans, but at the 2013 Masters, Woods’ shocking fate played out as if those on Mount Olympus were orchestrating the tournament.

Woods entered the 2013 Masters as the World Number One, brimming with confidence having won three out of his first five tournaments to start the year.

By Friday afternoon, Woods had cruised into a share of the lead, before crisply striking a wedge on the par-5 15th as he hunted for another birdie.

In a cruel twist of fate, Woods’ ball struck the pin and ricocheted back into the water. “Royally cheated!” shouted on-course announcer David Feherty. Nobody could argue otherwise.

A subsequent “bad drop” turned a probable birdie into a triple-bogey placing Woods behind the proverbial 8-ball for the rest of the tournament. The game’s ultimate closer should have been in the lead with two rounds to play on a front-runner’s paradise of a course; instead, he was in chase-mode. (From 1991-2012, 19 of the 22 winners came from the final group).

Woods tried to rally over the weekend, but if he didn’t think the 2013 Masters was ill-fated for himself by Friday evening, then he would have been excused to do so on the eighth hole on Saturday.

 

Had Woods’ golf ball missed the pin at 15 on that hot and humid Spring afternoon in 2013, then he not only wins, but he likely wins going away.

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