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The truth behind greens in regulation and scoring



Have you heard teaching professionals say that the best way to cut five strokes from your average score is to practice your short game? On the surface, this sounds logical, but believe it or not, this is virtually impossible for those who can play bogey golf or better.

Analytics are in vogue in all sports, and golf is no exception. Statistical studies have shown that your average score is so closely tied to your average number of greens in regulation that this statistic alone will almost always predict what someone’s average score is in the long run, as the following chart indicates (par-72 course):

Greens in Regulation Table

Note that these are long-run averages, 20 or more rounds. Of course, there will be days when someone might hit 15 greens and shoot 80, or five greens and shoot under par, but over the course of 20 or more rounds, this chart will be accurate for virtually every golfer.


Jim Furyk hits 72.92 percent of GIR, which leads the PGA Tour in 2015.


But…let’s go back to the oft-stated premise that someone can cut five strokes from his average score through a better short game. Let’s use the example of the typical 85-shooter who averages five GIR. Assuming he averages par on all five holes where he hits the green in regulation, that makes him 13 over on the 13 holes where he misses the green. Now, that doesn’t mean this golfer will bogey all 13 holes. More likely, he will get up-and-down three times and go 6-over on three holes. To cut five strokes through the short game alone, he would have to get up and down eight times out of 13. That’s 61.5 percent.

Sounds doable, right? However, that 61.5 percent would have placed this golfer 26th in scrambling on the 2013-14 PGA Tour. Granted, it’s surely more difficult to get up-and-down on Tour greens, but still, can you expect a 13-handicapper to have this kind of percentage? No. The fact is, golf skill is relatively similar throughout the bag. In other words, a 13-handicapper will have about a 13-handicap short game, give or take a couple of strokes. He will not have a scratch-level short game on a daily basis.

To cut five strokes off of someone’s average score, he will almost certainly have to average two more GIR per round. While it is possible to cut four strokes through short game alone (according to the chart), this assumes the golfer is among the worst at the short game for his ballstriking ability and then becomes among the best.

In conclusion, if you average at the high end of the chart for scoring average and want to cut a couple of strokes, you can indeed do it through the short game. But if you are already scoring as well as you can for your GIR numbers, the only way to lower your average score is to hit more greens. If that’s you, you either need to get some lessons or, in the words of Ben Hogan to Gary Player regarding practice, “Double it!”

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Mark Harman is the national course director for the United States Golf Teachers Federation, the nation's second-largest organization of golf professionals. He has won 14 professional events overall and is a member of the World Golf Teachers Federation's Top 100 Teachers worldwide.



  1. Pingback: Why Greens in Regulation Matter - The Left Rough

  2. Aventurine Bracelet

    Jun 16, 2018 at 2:27 am

    If you desire to get a great deal from this post then you have to apply such methods to your won blog.

  3. Jim

    Apr 11, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Great article, spot on, I will definately be using this article and the score formulas posted to ID what I should be practicing. Avg GIR is just an approximation of avg proximity, the more samples the more closely GIR will match proximity. Keep in mind that as average GIR goes up, so will the average proximity of all of your other approach shots that missed the green, so your average scramble % will go up as well…further improving your score, I’m pretty sure over all length goes up as well with GIR. Having played with a lot of folks over the years who I would call “short game experts”, I noticed that they tend to gravitate towards golf courses that don’t have a lot of bunkers, nor elevated greens, etc. courses that reward their skills more frequently. Not playing a wide distribution of course types could contribute to the GIR formulas not working for some short game experts.

  4. david

    Mar 10, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Here’s the question I have regarding the GIR stats and scores: what are the yardages played from? 6000 or 6600? Big difference. I play to under 3 index, averaged 79 this year after 75 rounds with average GIR at 10. I also averaged 1 double bogey per round. My average tee deck was 6600. When I play at 6200 yards I usually score 74 no problem. Then of course there are course slopes, which I never hear placed as a factor of GIR’s and score. I would like to see these factors accounted for.

  5. Pingback: Big numbers from 2015 | golfaddictsrx

  6. Jeff

    Mar 28, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    I applied Riccio’s revised formula to all of my rounds the past two years and it was accurate almost 90% of the time. Unfortunately, when it wasn’t it was normally because I was worse due to penalty shots, than better because of some fortunate play.

  7. ron

    Mar 26, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    This is gold! Site moderators… we need a way to “bookmark” articles as a signed in user. If there is already such a feature I havent found it yet.

  8. Matto

    Mar 25, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Christ, this just actually makes me feel like crap! BUT….its made me take notice of my GIR & average putts etc. And it’s blatantly obvious what my problem is…. Here’s an example of my form and my most recent round a couple of days ago -I drive quite well, I hit a great 315m (347y) drive midway through the round. I have a pretty sound game from under 100, so– FIR; 9/14 (all missed fairways were perfectly playable)
    GIR; 10. Score 84. Putts; 40!!!!!!
    If I could putt, maybe even just get it down to 33-35, not too much too ask (?!) I could consistently break 80 (I’ve done it once in 30 years)
    I’m off to the practise green!

  9. myron miller

    Mar 23, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    I have the same problem with this statistic as the one on Fairways hit. Its been shown that that one is not really correct. If i’m 2 inches off the green on the fringe, that’s considered a green missed. Yet I could only be 5 feet from the pin. And if i hit the green and am 80 feet away with an impossible putt that’s considered a hit green. Yet it certainly is easier to get up and down from 5 feet than 80 feet.

    In addition, if I’m 3-10 yards short of the green in the fairway run-up to the green, Its really not that much harder to get up and down from there than just barely on the green. And especially those cases where the ball is touching the fringe. Any ball on the green and just touching the fringe is proven to be harder to putt than being off the green 4 feet further.

    I fully concur with M. Smizzles distance from flag is about as important as gir in scoring.

    Being a senior and having lost my WRX driving distance, I’ve had to develop a good short game. I do keep track of GIR, but I also keep track of up’s and downs from inside 10-20 yards as well. And I’ve found that generally my GIR doesn’t track well with my scores, but as my up/down percentage goes up, so my scores drop drastically. And even when I play shorter tees, my GIRs average doesn’t improve that much. But the shorter tees do help my up/down percentage as I’m playing more shots within 5-10 yards of the green and quite often directly in front in the fairway fringe in the front of the green (my second shots may not be able to reach the green but I can put them within 10 yards in the front and that’s a pretty easy chip or putt to get up and down usually. Getting Bunkers up and down is of course much tougher, but if many of your misses are on the fringe or just barely in the rough, then your GIR will be low, but you can still score pretty well if you’ve spent time working on those shots.

    Short story, Years ago, I lived in the mountains of Idaho (mile high). Being young and stupid, I was able to hit the ball the typical WRXers mile (lots of times well over 300 and sometimes 350. Elevation does help a lot. I used to play with 3 guys that were between 68 and 73 every week. I’d average over 300 yards driving distance. They hit it 175-200 down the fairway. They’d be slightly short on most holes, but got up and down remarkably well and generally shot high 60s and low 70s. I shot upper 70s and mid 80s because I had no real good short game (lousy if I missed green). That taught me that Chipping and pitching were way more important than people thought.

    My GIR % is not significantly better today but I shoot lower scores because my recovery % is much much higher.

    Remember Tiger in his heyday didn’t necessarily hit the most greens but was all-universe in getting up and down (not today but that’s something else).

    • Jeremy

      Mar 23, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      It’s just about averages. For every time you’re on the green with an 80-foot putt, you’re 5 yards from the pin in deep rough against the grain chipping downhill. In the long run those little outliers should average out. You may still be an anomaly, judging from the numbers in your earlier post. Maybe you play on links courses where being near the green is practically the same as being on it?

  10. Jonny B

    Mar 23, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Works for me. I can say having tracked GIR over the past two seasons and focusing the majority of my practice on iron play that I agree with the sentiments of this article. My average GIR has gone from 5.2 to 6.7 in one season, and my average score has gone from 86 to 82. Now I just need to make more putts! Average 32.4 right now.

  11. Jeremy

    Mar 22, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Good article Mark. Question for you and the group: if, over the last 20 rounds, I’m at 7.2 GIR but at the higher end of the score (83.1) what am I doing wrong? According to the charts and formulas I could/should be more around the 79-80 area. You say I can’t shave 5 strokes off, but a 4-stroke gap in the average score isn’t insignificant, and I’d rather be at the lower end of it.

    I’m thinking that, since my scores are at the low end for someone who only hits 5 greens in a round, perhaps I’m wasting those extra 2 GIR with bad putting (is 32.4 bad?). Or maybe it’s penalties from inconsistent tee shots.

    • Mark Harman

      Mar 23, 2015 at 11:19 am

      Hi Jeremy,

      For 7.2 GIR, your high end scoring average would be 82.6, so you’re not too far off that. Since you’re at the high end of the scoring average, it seems your short game and/or putting could be improved for your skill level. It most definitely is possible for you to improve 2 or 3, and maybe even 4 shots per round purely through short game/putting. The point of the article is that for most people, improving 5 shots through short game alone is very difficult, if not downright impossible.

      • Jeremy

        Mar 23, 2015 at 2:17 pm

        Thanks for the reply Mark. I went back over my stats and I think it’s actually the long game that gets me in trouble. Threw out a couple of high outlier scores and just looked at my 10 best (the ones used for HCP). Average putts are 31.6, which is good. GIR goes up to almost 8/round, and the avg score is 80.2. Then I saw that I’m averaging a little over 2 penalty strokes per round, so my What If score is 77.7 — right there in the wheelhouse of what your charts say.

        Short game feels pretty good. Just gotta stop blasting it OB I guess, and start hitting more greens.

  12. zoots

    Mar 22, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    What’s more doable for the average golfer: (a) Hitting irons like Henrik Stenson or (b) putting and chipping like Luke Donald?

    Answer: Practice your short game.

  13. bobbyd

    Mar 21, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I think you are picking an extreme. Typically it’s pretty hard to be on a green 26.6 yards away from the hole. what about the times you are short sided ten or so paces with 5 feet of green running away from you? bogey becomes a good number. The math this article provides is accurate. Tour average G.I.R. is around 66% or 12 g.i.r.s per round. Once you get to the point where you can hit around 10 greens a round you’ve probably developed a pretty ok short game as well. (or so i’d hope)

  14. 4pillars

    Mar 21, 2015 at 10:05 am

    This is easily the worst article I have read in Golfwrx, even Barney Adams is nit as bad

    Statistical studies have shown

    Whose statistics?

    Measuring whom?

    Over what period?

    Looks like the United States Golf Teachers Federation is even worst than the PGA

    • Anon

      Mar 22, 2015 at 5:11 am

      I agree with you.

    • patricknorm

      Mar 22, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Re read the article and don’t confuse causation with correlation. Think minimum 20 rounds not just one round. In fact, think 50 rounds and the article will make sense. If you are say a 5 handicap or lower I should not have to explain this concept. If you are a 18 handicap and play 10 rounds a season then, I understand your lack of understanding. We are talking anaylytics not anecdotes here.

    • Mark Harman

      Mar 23, 2015 at 11:15 am

      Hi 4pillars,

      The information comes from two studies: one that was conducted by a researcher in the 1980s (his name escapes me, but I used the information for years and had the chart written down and also memorized), and also through I study I personally conducted through the statistics collected by the Gulf Coast Scratch Tour (now the Miller Lite Scratch Tour) in the Florida Panhandle about 10 years ago. For the Scratch Tour study, I used only golfers who had played 12 rounds or more. Out of the 56 golfers who had played at least 12 rounds, 54 had their scoring average fall within the parameters listed in the chart. So the information is well-researched and valid. If you also apply the statistics to the PGA Tour, you will find EVERY PLAYER also falls into these parameters, too. So I hope that answers your criticisms, and if you keep statistics for your own game, I’m sure you will find it to be accurate, as well.

  15. Andrew Cooper

    Mar 21, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Improving a short game is often the easiest way to reduce scores however. A lot of regular golfers simply are not physically capable (without a new gym regime or reversing the ageing process) of producing enough power to hit 400 yard+ 4s or 200y+ 3s in regulation. A decent short game doesn’t require the same basic strength. If a recreational golfer develops a reliable chip shot, a pitch, and bunker shot (and that means nothing more fancy than eliminating the chunks and skulls) then their scores will improve fast.

  16. JSmith

    Mar 20, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    This lends credence to Earl’s wisdom to Tiger that if you hit 12 GIR, you should shoot even par or better.

  17. duffer888

    Mar 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Great article and what I’ve believed and charted for my game all along. Assuming I’m not 3-jacking every hole, more GIR means lower scores

  18. juststeve

    Mar 20, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    This piece makes th4e false assumption that for a poor scrambling 85 shooter the worst penalty for missing a green is to take three shots to get up and down. Not so as this discounts sand shots left in the bunker, chips and pitches bladed over the green and sundry other shots not too uncommon among high handicappers.


    • Art

      Apr 27, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      juststeve, the false assumption seems to be yours. See with averages, many scenarios are captured over time. So along with your pessimistic blow-ups, you also capture chip-ins, and actually getting up-and-down from time to time. Do you really need the article and author to examine every possible stroke permutation to reach an 85 average? Because in the end, it’s still an 85 on the scorecard.

  19. myron miller

    Mar 20, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Consider that its not considered a green in regulation if I’m 2″ off the green and only 5 feet from the pin. But is considered one if I’m 80 feet away. This is in the same category as Fairways hit in my opinion.

    Last twenty scores average 84.6 – avg greens in reg. 2 – no correlation
    Prior twenty scores – complete twenty prior – 80.2, avg greens 3 – again no relation to above table.

    I don’t count the number of times I’m just off the green barely into the fringe or just short of the green in front. But maybe I’m atypical as I very extensively practice these types of shots all the time. I expect to get up and down from these. From 25 feet or more, or in bunker or other bad situation, not really don’t expect that percentage, but even though it counts as a green missed, I see no reason that I can’t get it up and down if I’m on the front fringe say 5 – 10 feet from the edge of the green as if I were 1 inches onto the green. Yet one is a “good” statistical item and the other is “bad”

    And I thoroughly do agree with M. Sizzles point. 2 putting from 80-100 or more feet from the pin is not a given for your average 13-20 handicap especially if there is some slope and/or contour to the green whereas if you’re shortsided and on the fringe, it’s much more likely you can two putt from there.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Mar 21, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      I utilize BGIR’s. Bigger Greens in Regulation. I give myself an extra 10 feet out from the edge of the green. Generally, unless I have short-sided myself, I can get up and down from 10 feet off the green. So, while I average about 10-11 greens in regulation I average about 14-15 BGIR’s. And I actually think in terms of BGIR’s when I hit my approach shot… and where it should miss.

  20. MasterGeezer

    Mar 20, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Yup. For 99% of players, BS-free golf is just transportation shots and lawn bowling with a stick. Even one of the most intense major champions, Ben Hogan, exhorted us to remember it’s a game of leisure.

  21. Steven

    Mar 20, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Lucius Riccio at Columbia University did the original research on this and has stated it this way.
    Riccio’s Rule: Score = 95 – 2 * GIR
    Riccio’s Revised Rule: Score = 58 – 4/3 * GIR + Putts
    The revised rule is more accurate than the original rule. Riccio claims that it is accurate to within 1 stroke for 80% of rounds on the PGA Tour. Here is his presentation at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference:

    • Joey5Picks

      Mar 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      By that formula, hitting 8 greens and having 32 putts means I shoot 15. Something is off:

      58-(4/3*8)+32 = 15

      • Tom

        Mar 20, 2015 at 4:04 pm

        I think he meant 58-((4/3)*8)+32= 79 or 58-((4/3)*GIR)+Putts

      • Travis T

        Mar 20, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        Gotta use FOIL.

      • Steven

        Mar 20, 2015 at 7:15 pm

        The formula works as written if you follow the standard mathematical order of operations. It could also be written as Score = 58 – (4/3 * GIR) + Putts, but it gives the same answer.

    • Mark Harman

      Mar 23, 2015 at 11:25 am

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for the update on the researcher. I remember reading the information back in the 1980s and wrote it down and used it for years. I also confirmed it when I did my own statistical study of the Gulf Coast Scratch Tour in the Florida Panhandle about 10 years ago. Out of 56 players who played at least 12 rounds, 54 fell within the scoring parameters. My study also showed driving distance actually was the least important factor for low scores compared to GIR, driving accuracy, scrambling and total putts, but that’s another issue entirely.

  22. Philip

    Mar 20, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Uncanny how my scores last season tie very close to this article. I guess I wasn’t wrong in focusing on GIRs.

  23. Joe Peel

    Mar 20, 2015 at 2:44 am

    An outstanding article. I sent it to the guys I play with and am sure that they will track GIR for the next 20 rounds.

  24. Tom Duckworth

    Mar 19, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    He hit the nail on the head. I would rather be on the putting surface in regulation than sitting in the grass. A two putt is in play most of the time and three putting once in a while is not going to kill your round. I think more people would end up three putting after messing up a tough flop shot. I would rather have long putts than trying to scramble on every hole.

  25. Frank D

    Mar 19, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Where do these stats come from? it seems a little neat and tidy, it’s exactly: score = 95 – 2 * GIR, which i’ve heard elsewhere but never saw the numbers for…

    • a2

      Mar 20, 2015 at 1:34 am

      You don’t read, huh? It says, AVERAGE OVER 20 ROUNDS. Duh.

  26. spazo

    Mar 19, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    i’d argue that the more important metric is proximity to the hole. if you’re close but off the green, it’s likely as easier or perhaps easier to make par as it is to be far and away from the pin but on the green. there are obvious problems (e.g., bunkers often close to the pin but off the green, as are water hazards), but i would much rather have a 15-foot chip than a 50-foot putt.

    • a2

      Mar 20, 2015 at 1:36 am

      “15-foot chip than a 50-foot putt.”

      that would only make sense if you could have a flat chip from perfect lies every time. What if in your next round all you had were downhill chips from deadly tight lies over a hump or bunker? I know you would prefer to be on the green, then

      • Alex

        Mar 20, 2015 at 11:31 am

        Proximity to the hole is likely the better metric. Sure, sometimes the 15ft chip will be harder than the 50ft putt, but you will also have more birdie chances and less three putts.

        The holy grail of stats right now, Strokes gained, is closely tied with proximity to the hole. For amateur’s GIR is far easier to track and likely is closely correlated with proximity to the hole, so it’s a good proxy.

      • chris franklin

        Mar 20, 2015 at 5:12 pm

        Most greens are like a man’s torso
        The greens aren’t flat either

  27. Jhick

    Mar 19, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    I would say that being on the green 80ft away is much better than short sided in rough. Putting long distance is much easier/more reliable than trying to get a chip up high and stop fast.

    • The dude

      Mar 19, 2015 at 7:25 pm

      At what distance would you not take that bet?

      • Art

        Apr 27, 2015 at 6:33 pm

        M, you golf with some interesting golfers–chances are they can’t get the ball inside 20ft on a 50ft putt, but can get up and down with regularity from 50ft off the green? Out of rough?? That’s rather extraordinary.

  28. Large chris

    Mar 19, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Intuitively I’ve always thought GIR was a very good indicator of scoring average, but to state the obvious GIR isn’t just the approach shot but also requires a decent drive, certainly a drive that doesn’t find a hazard or goes OB. So GIR is a fairly comprehensive test of the long game.

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What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching



Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.

Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.

Broad-Spectrum Approach

Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.

I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.

There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.

Individual Transactional Coaching

Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.

What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.

For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.

Individual Transformative Coaching

Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.

Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.

Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.

Which One is Right for You?

It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.

Some things to consider when selecting a coach

  • Do they use technology?
  • What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
  • Do they make you a priority?

As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.

The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.

The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.

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The importance of arm structure



How the arms hang at address plays a vital role in the golf swing. Often overlooked, the structure in which we place the arms can dictate one’s swing pattern. As mentioned in the article How Posture influences your swing, if you start in an efficient position, impact is much easier to find making, the golf swing more repeatable and powerful.

To start, I opt to have a player’s trail arm bent and tucked in front of them with angle in the trail wrist. While doing so, the trail shoulder can drop below the lead with a slight bend from the pelvis. This mirrors an efficient impact position.

I always prefer plays to have soft and slightly bent arms. This promotes arm speed in the golf swing. No other sports are played with straight arms, neither should golf.

From this position, it’s easier to get the clubhead traveling first, sequencing the backswing into a dynamic direction of turn.


When a player addresses the ball with straight arms, they will often tilt with their upper body in the backswing. This requires more recovery in the downswing to find their impact position with the body.

A great drill to get the feeling of a soft-bent trail arm is to practice pushing a wall with your trail arm. Start in your golf set-up, placing your trail hand against the wall. You will instinctively start with a bent trail arm.

Practice applying slight pressure to the wall to get the feeling of a pushing motion through impact?. When trying the drill with a straight trail alarm, you will notice the difference between the two? arm structures.

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What is ground force in the golf swing?



There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.

Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal

With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.

Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.

If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!

Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.

Welcome to the world of 3D!

Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.

While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).

  • Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
  • Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
  • Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.

In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.

I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.


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