“What’s the most important stat in golf?” As a golf statistician, I’m asked that question more than any other. To answer it, I explain that there isn’t a most important stat I can point to for all golfers. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses and find our own special way to reach our number. That being said, the question is still an important one that deserves further study.
Research into my company (ShotbyShot.com) database of 280,000+ rounds reveals that the game is actually a very important balance of different facets of the game, and I have yet to see a player that performed at the same handicap level across all five facets of the game in my 29+ years of golf analysis. Golfers of all levels are balancing the number and frequency of good shots/good results against the frequency of errors.
I refer to this as Golf’s SeeSaw Effect.
The secret to scoring at every level is much more than the ability to hit good shots. It’s also the skill to manage one’s game and limit the frequency and severity of bad shots or errors.
When I started my company over 29 years ago, I discovered that one of the major deficiencies in golf statistics was that they did not address the negatives in the game. Even today, the PGA Tour produces 650+ stats on each player and only ONE of them addresses a negative: 3 Putt Avoidance. In fact, when I search the Tour’s ShotLink stats for “Penalties,” I get the surprising answer below.
Are we to assume that penalties do not happen on Tour? Believe me, they do!
The significant role that errors play in our games led me to make sure that I built them into my version of Game Analysis (ShotByShot.com). As you can see by the graphic above, the seesaw effect is that the more good shots/results on the left match up with the fewer errors on the right, the lower the one’s handicap will be.
Good Shots/Results Defined
- Greens Hit in Regulation (GIR’s).
- Chip/Pitch shots hit to within 5 feet of the hole (Chip/Pitch = shots from within 50 yards of the hole).
- Sand shots hit to within 8 feet of the hole (Sand = shots from sand within 50 yards of the hole).
- 1-Putts from 4–10 feet (or greater).
- Tee shots hit out of play (requiring an advancement, or resulting in a penalty).
- Chip/Pitch shots that miss the green either short or long; fringe results are not errors.
- Sand Shots that miss the green either short or long; fringe results are not errors.
- 3-Putts from 30 feet and closer.
The seesaw graphic above is telling us the following about the zero handicap golfer:
Good Shots/Results = 18 (on average per round)
- GIR’s: 12
- Chip/Pitch shots to 5 feet: 2.5
- Sand shots to 8 feet: 0.5
- 1-Putts from 4-10 feet: 3
Errors = 1 (on average per round)
- Tee shots hit out of play: 0.4
- Chip/Pitch shots miss green: 0.2
- Sand Shots miss green: 0.1
- 3-Putts from 30 feet or closer: 0.3
Note: How can a golfer hit a Tee shot out of play 0.4 times per round? Easy. The zero handicap golfer will make one of these driving errors on average every 2.5 rounds or four in every 10 rounds.
Record these simple stats on a separate scorecard for the next 3-5 rounds to see where you fall on Golf’s SeeSaw. This exercise will reveal the true strengths and weaknesses of your game.
For a Complete Strokes Gained analysis of your game, log on to www.shotbyshot.com.
The 19th Hole Episode 159: Howard University coach Sam Puryear
Host Michael Williams talks with Howard U. coach about the trials and triumphs in the fledgling golf program. Also features Adam Martin of Haig Point (SC) and Eduardo Mestres of Los Siete Misterios Mezcal.
The Wedge Guy: The Red Zone
For those of you who are big football fans, we are lost in the off-season, waiting a few more months before we get to watch our favorite pro or college teams duke it out on the gridiron. Living in Texas, of course, football is a very big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.
In almost every football conversation on TV, you hear talk about “the red zone”. How a team performs inside the 20-yard line is a real measure of their offensive prowess, and usually a pretty good indicator of their win/loss record, too. It breaks down to what percentage of the time a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and how often they come away empty.
I like to think we golfers have our own “red zone”. It’s that distance from the green where we should be able to go on the offensive and think about pars and birdies, ensure no worse than bogey . . . and rarely put a double or worse on the card. Your own particular set of red zone goals should be based on your handicap. If you are a low single digit, this is your “go zone”, where you feel like you can take it right at the flag and give yourself a decent birdie putt, with bogeys being an unpleasant surprise. For mid-handicap players, it’s where you should feel confident you’ll guarantee a par and rarely make bogey, and for higher handicap players, it’s where you will ensure a bogey at least, give yourself a good chance at par, and maybe even a birdie.
But regardless of your handicap, your own “red zone” should begin when you can put a high loft club in your hands – one with over 40 degrees of loft. Of course, that has changed a lot with the continual strengthening of irons. In my early days that was an eight iron, then it migrated to a nine. But regardless of your handicap or the make and model of irons you play, my contention is that golf is relatively “defensive” with all the other clubs in your bag. With those lower lofted irons, your goal should be to just keep it out of trouble and moving closer to the goal line . . . er, the flag. Even the PGA Tour pros make a very small percentage of their birdies with their middle irons.
When you can put a high loft club in your bag – whether that’s from 150 yards or 105 – that’s when you should feel like you can put your offense into high gear and raise your expectations. It’s no longer about power, because this isn’t about raw distance, but rather distance control and precision. From the red zone, it’s about trusting your technique and your equipment and taking it to the golf course a little bit.
As most of us are in the early stages of the 2021 golf season, one of the best things you can do for your golf improvement is to begin tracking your “red zone” performance. Put the numbers down as to how you are scoring the golf course from your 9-iron range on into the flag. My guess is that you’ll see this is where you can make the most improvement if you’ll give that part of your game some additional time and focus. Any golfer can learn to hit crisp and accurate short range approach shots. And so you should.
Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you’ll see your scores come down quickly.
Club Junkie: Reviewing Titleist TSi3 drivers and fairways! (Finally!)
The moment you all have been waiting for: I finally have a TSi3 driver and 3-wood in my hands! Talking about how they performed and maybe some shaft changes for each in the future.
‘Shut it!’ – Paul Casey puts disrespectful spectator in his place
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