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Dave Pelz with research on why average golfers need better short games

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How important is short game to a golfer’s score? According to Dave Pelz, it’s critical. A new video from the short game guru, which is part of Cleveland Golf’s #own125 campaign, reveals that PGA Tour players get up and down when they miss a green roughly 60 percent of the time.

The video also reveals statistics for scratch, 10-handicap and 20-handicap golfers, which (not surprisingly) are much, much lower.

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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. jjoro

    Nov 26, 2015 at 10:28 am

    What a revelation from a self made, self centered genius. I bet he is the ONLY “guru” to figure that out. WOW, we need a better short game. Kinda like he messed up Phils Putting with his genius observations. He probably thinks the answer is to make more Putts,,, DUH.

    • DonW

      Feb 16, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      Pelz may have an interest in selling his short game training classes and publications, but HE IS CORRECT, the short game is the most important area for score improvement. You can’t recover from a missed putt and putts are easier if your short game is more accurate.

  2. Mat

    Nov 12, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Pelz also says… tour pros 1-putt half the time from 8ft or less.

    The conclusion I draw from this is simple…

    If you hit a GIR, your odds of two-putting from anywhere are in the high 60s or better.

    The odds of you hitting a green within 8 feet of the pin from anywhere not on the green is likely lower than 25%, and it goes down fast.

    Therefore, if you want to par a hole, you want GIR. Most GIR shots are attack shots from 75-175 yards. Practicing those areas, and focusing on your equipment in that area, making sure you don’t have huge gaps is really key.

    Pelz is absolutely right when he suggests knowing your partial swing numbers. If you have a 46 yard shot, you should be able to get within a couple yards of it, thus giving you a scramble opportunity. However, he isn’t taking into account the real statistics of accuracy. Longer drives make easier second shots. Second shots will determine your likelihood of par-vs-bogie more than any other factor.

    As a 10, if you GIR, you are 70% to par, and 98% to bogey. If you miss GIR, you are 15% chance to par, 60% chance to bogey.

    As a 0, if you get your scrambling up to 30%, you’ve shaved 0.15/sph. If you get to iron play of that caliber, you’ve gone from 30->60% GIR, you reduce 0.45/sph. I’ll spend my time where it’s 3x more effective, thanks.

  3. Hudson

    Nov 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    This article looks totally wrong in my case :
    On my last three rounds (I am a 10/12 HCP), I lost a total of 33 strokes (on 47 holes)
    based on the STROKES GAINED (LOST) approach.

    Here is the breakdown:

    Tee Par 4/5: -13.2 (39.6%)
    Recovery: -0.1 (0.2%)
    Second shot on par 5: -2.2 (6.5%)
    Lay up P3: -1.2 (3.5%)
    Lay up P4: -1.3 (3.8%)
    Lay up P5: 0.0 (0.1%)
    Attack 0-50 m: -2.7 (8.1%)
    Attack 51-100 m: -2.2 (6.7%)
    Attack 101-150 m: -4.3 (12.8%)
    Attack 151-200 m: -4.4 (13.3%)
    Putting: -1.8 (5.3%)

    So it means that I am LOSING the most strokes on three parts of the game:
    1) Driving (39.6% of the total lost strokes)
    2) Attack 151-200 meters: -4.4 (13.3% of the total lost strokes)
    3) Attack 151-200 m: -4.4 (13.3% of the total lost strokes)

    Short game would only be fourth for me and putting is my best part as I only lost -1.8 strokes on 47 holes…

    This confirms what I have seen and calculated for 2 years now based on the strokes gained method…
    See here below if interested:
    http://golf-made-in-us.blogspot.com/

  4. ders

    Nov 12, 2015 at 3:01 am

    I reject the “practice your short game” conventional wisdom (as a player who sucks I get all kinds of unsolicited advice on my game). I’m happy when I shoot low 90’s but my average putts per round is just under 34. I take an average of 8 penalty strokes a game. What part of my game should I work on? Its clearly not the short game. If I get my drives under control, I drop my scores by at least 8 strokes. I COULD NEVER PRACTICE ENOUGH TO TAKE 8 STROKES OFF MY PUTTING (my putts per round would be lower than Jordan Speith if I did that). And putting is boring, its not the reason anyone plays golf. Nothing amps you up more than a great drive and nothing bums you out more than slicing your tee shot into the lake. If I hit fairways, I’m having fun regardless if I’m 3 putting every hole.

  5. Reeves

    Nov 9, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Ok, Dave Plez has some wonderful ideas and he has a great short game school….but you are looking at elite amateur training…How many weekend duffers or retired people who play once or twice a week are really going to pay what his short game schools (or days) cost and even if they did or could how many would put in the practice time, very few. What the ever day player needs is very short and usable fixes that can keep the ball in play..that is where the need is not short game schools and fixes that take hours of practice. Here is an example of what the average Joe and Jill need out on the course…Putt every short shot you can, leave the wedge in the bag all you can around the green….just saved everyone a few shots and got you off the green so the 5 some behind you has the extra time they are going to need to read their putts from every angle….the ones with all the Plez school training…

  6. golfraven

    Nov 5, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Last time I played a round with my brother I was all other with the tee shot, imprecise with the green approach but then made great saves and one putter first three holes (par, birdie, par) and then I received an emergency call and had to go home. I could have easily played 3 over but went away with a smile. That is why you need good short game if you are a weekend player.

  7. ca1879

    Nov 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Best short game in the world won’t help if you’re getting up and down for bogey or worse. You have to get it there first.

    • Cliff

      Nov 6, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      The best short game will help if you can’t get the ball to the green. Why is that so hard to understand for people. I can hit 2 crappy shots and be by the green, chip it close and make par. I can also hit 2 good shots and miss the green, chip to 20′, and make bogey. Those 2 good shots don’t put the ball in the hole!

      • Double Mocha Man

        Nov 10, 2015 at 10:39 pm

        But those two good shots might put you close enough for a birdie putt.

  8. Large chris

    Nov 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I certainly believe the more sophisticated recent statistical analysis work, that shows driving and GIR to be far more important than it used to thought….

    BUT the much more useful approach for the average golfer is to focus on becoming ADEQUATE in every area. I play with average golfers every weekend, and most have one or two glaring weaknesses, eg off the planet wild driving, total inability to get out of a bunker (think Boomer in the pebble beach pro am), unable to put a roll on a 3 foot putt, 20% of irons topped or shanked….

    Focus on becoming ADEQUATE in every area first, before worrying about which bits to spend most time practicing on.

    • Cliff

      Nov 5, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      I’ve made plenty of pars rolling the ball off the tee. I’ve never made a par 3 putting, unless it was a par 5.

      • Large chris

        Nov 5, 2015 at 6:54 pm

        Then just imagine how many birdies you could make by not topping it…

  9. ptat

    Nov 4, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    It helps Dave sell more wedges for Cleveland is why

  10. Craig

    Nov 4, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I play off 16 averaging 44 putts and i’ve been focussing on my putting (without much success obviously!!!), but playing with a 2 h’capper recently really highlighted to me that it may be my chipping which is as much to blame. In particular from under 10-15 yards off a green he was typically up and down in 2, where i was 3 or 4. So this makes sense to me…

    • Mat

      Nov 12, 2015 at 11:13 pm

      I’ve been there, man. Only one thing helped me… and I went from averaging 40 to about 34 putts now. Unless you are inside 8 ft, assume that you will miss your first putt. Odds are that almost always you will. That’s ok, that’s normal. Just putt in such a way that you will make your second putt. Forget about the hole and draining the long ones… it’s all a bit of luck at our level anyhow. However, if you put yourself in a position to make the second one, your total strokes will fall faster than any other way statistically. GL

  11. AJ

    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Why would anyone advocate the importance of 1 aspect over another, it is all important to your score right?? poor shot game, long game, putting etc. are all detrimental to you score, enjoyment, and a waste of everyone’s time. what is worse.. watching a 20 hdcp zigzag down the fairway or chunk and skull it around the green after? there is no secret to better golf, it is all about practicing every aspect. poor golf is only due to a lack of preparation.

    • Cliff

      Nov 4, 2015 at 10:29 am

      I’ve never shot a good round with bad putting.

      • other paul

        Nov 4, 2015 at 9:10 pm

        I shot 90 when I hit 16 greens in reg one round. Drove great, approached well, wedges fine, putted like crap. 3 putted the whole way.

      • TheCityGame

        Nov 5, 2015 at 9:14 am

        I have. A LOT. I shot 78 with 39 putts one day.

        But, I’ve never shot a good round with poor ball striking.

        Basically what Pelz is saying here goes against all modern knowledge of scoring. It’s borderline non-sense. He mentions shot link data in the opening line, but apparently has no understanding of it.

        Read Broadie.

        • Cliff

          Nov 5, 2015 at 10:53 am

          If you consider 78 a good round….

          • Joe

            Nov 5, 2015 at 11:39 am

            78 is a good round for the average golfer. Those that agree with Pelz are above average golfers.

            If the true average golfer could save just two strokes off the tee (one less ball OB / Lost) just once per round, they would do better than improving their scrambling percentage from 5% to 15% (which is 1.8 strokes if you assume you miss every green).

  12. Kerryn Jamieson

    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    What I think is being missed here is that the title of the article reads “average” golfers. While driver distance may be an indicator for handicap you have failed to realise that most of these “average” golfers are physically incapable of producing the techniques required to hit that long drive. However they are more likely to be able to produce the physical techniques required to have just as good a short game as a pro. Changing the full swing motor pattern in a 50 year old to get them to swing at 100mph is near on impossible but getting them to hole 90% of 3 and 4 footers and chipping the ball to that 3 and 4 foot range is a much more achievable task and therefore I do believe that improving their to improve their scoring results improving the short game is a goal that is realistically achievable.

    • AJ

      Nov 4, 2015 at 8:52 am

      That is why we have forward tees, use em! They’re Not just for ladies and kids……

    • other paul

      Nov 6, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      I’m 33 and changed my motor pattern for my golf swing in about 6 months. Went from straight and 97MPH swing up to 117 MPH swing and less straight, but I am sorting it out now (fat grips helped). Read Kelvin Miyahiras articles and use a camera. Focus on body positions and then worry about the club after.

      • Another Paul

        Nov 11, 2015 at 12:01 pm

        Can I ask, 97 to 117, are these verified on a trackman type of device? And were they maximums or averages, and are these numbers for a driver swing? Also did you just use the info on Kelvin’s website or did you actually see him for a lesson/s? finally can I ask what was your handicap reduction in that 6 months? His site looks interesting 🙂 Many thanks 🙂

  13. snowman

    Nov 3, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Pelz still clings to his 1980’s mantras. He’s not all wrong; no doubt Short game is Important, but there has been lots of study done on this and the major difference in Scratch/Pro and Higher Handicap is quality of Ball striking. There are exceptions — e.g. guys that are mediocre ball strikers and short game or putting magicians, but on average the lower handicap, the better the ball striker. As an illustration to prove the point, someone asked ‘do you have a better chance to beat a pro in a chipping contest or a ball striking contest?’. Unless you have the yips, you are almost certainly closer to a pro short-game than pro ball striker. If you want to really lower your handicap, become a long, reasonably accurate sdriver, and a GIR machine. Once you get to a 5 or better, then you can really prioritize that short game. Side note: I read somewhere that Driving Distance the key determinate in your handicap potential. Oops, Please disregard the above comment. I forgot everyone on WRX is 2 hdcp or better and already carries their driver over 290.

    • alexdub

      Nov 4, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Totally agree with this statement. Ball striking has a tee-to-green effect; that is, improving ball striking has the potential to improve every part of your game. Conversely, practicing 100 yd. wedge shots does not translate into a better driving game (or long iron game, for that matter).

    • Mike

      Nov 14, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      I’M A SENIOR 67 years old and I play 6-8 times a month. Been a 3-5 handicap or better since I was 9 years old. In my life I have had 5 lessons and been to Pelz’s short game school twice. I really wish people would learn 1) put the driver in the bag and use whatever you can hit the fairway with. 2) Work on your putting 3) don’t try to knock the cover off the ball. try to make solid contact. Listen to Pelz. 100 yards in is where the scoring happens. Just My $.02!

  14. Steven

    Nov 3, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    This is not what a strokes gained analysis would show.

  15. cdvilla

    Nov 3, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    I’m living by this well-reasoned argument posted on this very site! Drive it well enough then hit it on the green more often. I’ve built my practice around this approach and it’s working for me.

    http://www.golfwrx.com/285949/the-truth-behind-greens-in-regulation-and-scoring/

    • RHJazz

      Nov 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      The logic in the linked article is very sound. Of course we could score better if our short game was better in general, but I agree with cdvilla and the other article – it’s far more reasonable to think you can significantly improve your score by hitting more greens in regulation.

      • Ian

        Nov 4, 2015 at 8:08 am

        +1. My #1 goal is GIR and that generally starts with a good drive.

    • kevin

      Nov 6, 2015 at 6:22 am

      I’d like to add to this… In my last round, I hit 3 GIR! Three. T-H-R-E-E!! For an 8 handicapper hitting 3 GIR???

      Well, I shot 12 over – was scrambling on 15 holes and managed to up-and-down (or chip in) 5 times for a dismal one-third in scrambling! There’s a graph indicating the capability of scrambling based on your handicap – I should be off a handicap of 5 or lower based on my scrambling. The odds are just not in your favour if you are missing greens in regulation.

      All this time, I thought my short game was rubbish – meantime, I can rest easy knowing that the hour a day short game practice I do in my backyard is paying off.

      SO, I NEED TO HIT MORE GIRs!!!!!

      My chipping and putting is decent – only 1 three putt, 4 one putts and 2 chip ins (one for bird and one for bogey). I can’t remember when I last had more than 2 putts per hole.

      I lost 4 shots off the tee with my driver (2 drives under trees forcing me to punch out, one into a fairway bunker with no chance for a GIR and lost two shots on a miss hit tee shot). That totals 5 lost shots…
      Further in my analysis, I found I lost two shots on a 7 iron approach shot – tried attacking a sucker pin! Another lost shot (again with 7 iron) in green side bunker short siding myself for a difficult up-and-down. Lost a shot on tee shot of a par 3 landing in green side bunker – it was a very difficult bunker shot of 20 yards up hill (I got the ball to within 15 feet but missed the putt, should have done better with the tee shot).

      Only lost one shot to chipping…

      I’m probably not considered an average golfer but really, if you keep focusing on the short game, the rest of your game will fail you and you’ll be left trying to save bogey with your amazing short game…

  16. David

    Nov 3, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    “Average” players could score better if they improved their short game = fact

    • TheCityGame

      Nov 5, 2015 at 9:18 am

      “All” players could score better if they improved their short game = fact

      “All” players could score better if they improved their long game = fact

      “All” players could score better if they improved their putting = fact

  17. Alec Emerson

    Nov 3, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    This is woefully innacurate. The importance of the 4 parts of the game is 1. iron play, 2. driving, 3. putting, and 4. shortgame. Firstly, while it is true that after a poor drive, you have more time to recover than after a poor short game shot, players misses with longer clubs tend to be further from target, thus increasing probable score on the hole. A bad drive could result in a 2 stroke penalty (stroke and distance), while even the very worst short game shot is only an effective 1 shot penalty (chunk your chip and move it 5 feet). Again staying with the worst shot example, the very worst short game shot vs the best is almost never more than 2 shots (up and down vs down in 4), while the best drive (down the middle in 1) vs the very worst drive (ob, then skank into the rough) yields a greater difference in average scoring than 2 (usually about 2.5)

  18. Jon

    Nov 3, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Just like putting stats between pros and amateurs, don’t you think better golfers are typically in a better position to get up-and-down than less skilled golfers, which in turn makes these conclusions less valid? Nice video editing though.

    • Mike

      Nov 3, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      have you ever watched pros on the putting green before a tournament? they have a putting coach and hit a million putts. they are not only more skilled but practice like crazy.

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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