Let me bore you with some statistics: The average handicap in this country is 18 for men, 28 for women. But that’s misleading, because the real average golfer doesn’t even have a handicap.
There are 25 million or so golfers in the United States. Of those, perhaps 5 million have registered handicaps, the so-called avid golfers. So the handicap system is utilized by no more than 20 percent of all people who list golf as a hobby in this country. The rest either play too infrequently or, for whatever reasons, do not choose to record their scores. So there’s a good chance that the real average golfer handicap is a lot higher than the figures I quoted above.
We use the phrase Greens in Regulation (GIR) to describe the number of times a golfer is on a par 3 in one shot, a par 4 in two shots and a par 5 in three or less shots. But let’s flip that stat to “Greens Missed in Regulation” (GMR). The scratch (zero handicap) golfer misses seven to eight greens a round, the 85 shooter misses 14 to 15 greens and the 100 shooter misses all the greens on average.
That is why short shots constitute 60 to 65 percent of the game (putting alone is 40 percent). So the 85 shooter will take roughly 50 to 55 short shots a round. Yet 90 percent of the requests I get are for full swing lessons. In other words, 10 percent of golfers want lessons on the shots they play 65 percent of the time and 90 percent of golfers want lessons on shots they play 35 percent of the time. Go to a driving range or any practice facility in the country. If you see 20 golfers practicing at that facility, I’m betting that 17 or 18 will be hitting balls, and maybe two or three will be chipping or putting. This should be in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
I want you to consider this: If students are missing 14 greens a round, and they work hard on their swing and make a huge improvement in their ball striking, those golfers will still miss 12 greens a round in regulation. The point of all this is obvious: Take more lessons and spend more time on the short game. Here’s why I think it will lead to better scoring: Most golfers could practice until the cows come home and never hit the golf ball anything like a professional. There is so much going on in the full swing, it is unrealistic to even consider another 40 yards or the type of compression a pro generates. But I do not think it is unrealistic to believe the amateur could chip and putt perhaps, not like a pro, but more “pro like.” The motion involved in a chip, a putt or even a little pitch can be learned so much easier than a full swing. Practicing these shots is by far the quickest way to lower scores
Every year at the beginning of the season, it is a great idea to set goals and make golf resolutions. All the people who play for a living keep statistics on their games. These stats help them identify weaknesses. Maybe something like: I missed 12 greens; I was left with two bunker shots, three pitches and seven chips. How many chips did I get up and down, how many pitches, how many three-putts etc. Sometimes when players think they are strong in a certain area, they tend to spend less time working on it. By charting the shots, they soon discover how they are actually doing in that area!
Final thought: Often golfers think they lack feel in this area of the game, when in fact what is lacking is technique. I know for myself when I am thinking mechanics, I have zero feel for that shot. Worrying about hitting the ground or how far back the club goes or any other mechanical part of the swing is a prescription for disaster! Take some short game lessons, develop confidence in the stroke, and then all your focus can be on feeling that shot. Get the little swing down so routine that you don’t have to think about it.
As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.