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Is “make more birdies” really the best advice to shoot lower scores?

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I often hear golfers say, “I need to make more birdies to shoot lower scores.” This statement has been uttered by the team I currently coach, and through three tournaments this fall, it got me wondering how accurate that statement was for our level of play.

Our players’ scoring averages range from 74 to 87, having played in a minimum of two tournament rounds and up to seven tournament rounds. Most often, I have heard the statement above from our players who are in the middle to higher end of the scoring averages. So, I took a look into our scoring breakdown using the data we collect with GameGolf.

Here are the rankings of birdies per round for the seven players who have traveled this fall

1 2.7
2 1.42
3 1.17
4 1
5 0.5
6 0.42
7 0.33

The difference from the top to the seventh spot is 1.09 birdies per round. The player with the top spot has a scoring average of 74, and the player in seventh spot has a scoring average of 84.67.

Here are the rankings of double bogey/worse for the seven players who have traveled this fall

1 0.42
2 0.85
3 1
4 1.42
5 2
6 2.5
7 4

The difference from the top to the seventh spot is 3.58 doubles/worse per round. Again the player at the top has the 74 scoring average and the player at the bottom has the 87 scoring average.

Diving a little deeper, the players on the team with the top three scoring averages (74, 77.29 and 78) occupy the top three spots in both of these rankings. And taking a look at all the players’ differentials, their rank stays the same compared to their scoring average rank.

The fact that many golfers overlook when making the statement “I need to make more birdies to score better” is that each hole accounts for about 5.5 percent of your round. So, if we take our player who averages one birdie (minus 1) and 2.5 doubles/worse per round (plus 5, conservatively), 5.5 percent of her round is birdies and 13.75 percent of her round is doubles/worse.

If she were to simply focus on making more birdies per round to “balance out” the current 2.5 doubles/worse per round, she would need to increase to five birdies per round. That would be a jump up to 27.5 percent of her round. Compare that to shift a focus to minimizing the doubles/worse category. If this same player could even shave her doubles/worse to 1.5 per round (plus 3,  conservatively), it accounts for 8.25 percent of her round.

If we take a look at the top five scoring averages from the LPGA, Women’s DI and Women’s DII we see the scoring averages range from 68 to 72. While the birdies per round range from 2.4 to 4.8. An interesting thing to note from these numbers is that both the low scoring average and best birdies per round do not come from the LPGA players. While difficulty of the course setup may play into this factor, it can highlight that those women who are playing to make a living are making sure that they are keeping their cards clean of the big numbers because they do not have enough holes to make up for those errors with birdies.

While birdies are always more fun to celebrate, in stroke play you are better off to learn how to turn doubles into bogeys and bogeys into pars for better scores.

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Erin is the Director of Student Athlete Development and Women's Golf Coach at Wingate University. Erin holds a Masters of Arts in Sports Management from Wingate University and is Class A member of the PGA of Canada, a member of the Women’s Golf Coaches Association, and two time SAC Coach of the Year. She aims to help guide student athletes through their time at Wingate, making connections of what they learn in their sport and how they can apply it their careers after graduation.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Jack Nash

    Nov 21, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Make more birdies or make fewer mistakes. Like they say “golf is a game of how good your misses are”.

  2. Obee

    Nov 21, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Great post. Thanks. You MUST be able to make 12 – 16 pars per round on a regular basis to play below scratch golf. And the other 2 to 6 holes should be bogeys or birdies the overwhelming majority of the time.

    Simple game when you think of it that way, but the devil is in the details, of course.

    WHY do so many otherwise talented, athletic players make so many bogey and doubles?

    The answer completely depends on each player. For some, it often starts with poor decision or a poor state of mind. For others, lots of bogeys and doubles are inevitable because they have a pronounced swing flaw(s) that will simply result in very inconsistent ball-striking.

    They key is to identify each player’s weaknesses and develop a strategy for that individual player to make MORE pars and fewer doubles (which, consequently, will almost always result in more birdies as well).

  3. Ron

    Nov 21, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Good article – with numerical support to back it up (esp. since golf is about numbers!)

    Speaking of numbers, I’m 78, a low single-digit, and this year have my lowest scoring average ever. How? Several ways. I practice wedges a lot. I play the appropriate tees (~6000 yd courses). But mainly, I’ve learned how to salvage bogeys on holes if I get out of position: Put the ball back in play, try to get within 100 yards of the green, accept getting down in no more than three from there and move on. Not as exciting as cutting the corner of the dogleg or going over the hazard or some other hero shot, but – on average – lowers scores. Do I make a lot of birdies? Occasionally. But I’ve also had birdie free rounds with only three or four bogeys.

  4. Adrian

    Nov 21, 2018 at 2:58 am

    I am torn by this article because I believe that every golfer as they improve will learn to keep big numbers off the scorecard but there must come a time when you are capable of making your fair share of birdies or your improvement will stall. If you can make birdies in bunches it is a matter of time before you eliminate big numbers. Birdies or better are the only eraser on the scorecard and the better you get at the game the fewer doubles or worse you make and the more birdies or better you will make…hopefully !!

  5. Peter McGill

    Nov 21, 2018 at 1:23 am

    But if I can turn those triples and doubles into birdies…?

  6. Stephane Barras

    Nov 21, 2018 at 12:57 am

    Could Erin, the author, give us an answer about Alexdub comments ?

  7. PSG

    Nov 20, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    This article is kinda nonsensical because it assumes the goal is to shoot the best score possible and not to win the tournament (which are not the same thing).

    If -10 wins the tournament, who cares if the college or LPGA player keeps “bogies off the card” and shoots -2? They still lost. Better to shoot +4 at least trying to shoot -10.

    The goal of competitive golf isn’t to post the best score you can every round. Its to win the tournament. For a dude who shoots 95 on a Sunday this is pretty good advice. For a dude who is trying to get through Q-School or keep his card this is awful advice, as all that matters is how he does *Relative to the other players*.

    If you are trying to make your personal bests (good for you!) then this is right. If you are trying to beat a field (where someone is likely to go very low) then this is wrong.

  8. Taylor

    Nov 20, 2018 at 9:37 am

    When I tried to turn the corner, I had a guy tell me “give yourself 13-14 birdie putts a round. Pretty much guarantees and even par or better round as long as you stay away from the big numbers

  9. TheCityGame

    Nov 20, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Any advice that starts with “make more birdies” or “avoid more bogeys” is basically looking at symptoms and not cures. It’s often presented like bogeys and birdies are in opposition to each other. . .as if gunning for birdies on every hole leads a player to too many doubles.

    It doesn’t work like that. Players who make more birdies are also players who make fewer bogeys. This is true of amateurs and the pro tour (go look at stats for bogey avoidance and birdie rate. . .it’s almost all the same guys at the top of the list and they’re also the best scorers. https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.02414.2018.html and https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.156.2018.html)

    Advice should be “get better” — whatever that means for an individual player — and when a player “gets better”, she will make more birdies and avoid over-par scores a lot more.

    I will agree. . as I’ve gotten better, and more regularly shoot in the low/mid 70’s, the most important thing in scoring is over-par avoidance.

    But, that hasn’t come from a strategy of not trying to make birdies. I’m still trying to make birdies all the time. And I make more than I used to. I also avoid big numbers more often.

    So, no, “make more birdies” is not really the best advice to shoot lower scores, but neither is “make fewer over-pars”. The best advice to shoot lower scores is be a better golfer (more accurate, longer, better short game, etc.)

  10. Murv

    Nov 20, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Pretty much stating the obvious for average players.

  11. Duffy McHackster

    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Nice to see an article that makes sense to us less skilled types. I manage about a dozen birdies a season, so not at all realistic to expect much improvement there. We can learn to play smarter, manage the course better, and work on the things we can realistically improve. As we get older, we aren’t likely to gain distance, so we need to understand our limitations and and not bite off more than we can chew.

  12. alexdub

    Nov 19, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Am I missing something? Looking at the first data table concerning average birdies per round, the difference between the first spot (2.7) and the seventh spot (.33) appears to be 2.37 — not the 1.09 stated in the article.

  13. BL

    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:58 am

    This is by far the smartest post ever on this site! Well done Erin!

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Tour Photo Galleries

Check out Scotty Cameron’s 2022 “Las Vegas” putter cover

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Las Vegas traditions include both losing your shirt at the craps table and limited-edition putter covers from Scotty Cameron at the Shriners Children’s Open.

Last year’s “Let’s Roll” cover featured an abundance of red dice against a green background. 

Prior to that, the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign served as inspiration.

This year, Cameron and Company went with a silver cover with a traditional Vegas showgirl, “777,” jackpot, a pair of cards totaling blackjack, and more.

Check out Scotty’s 2022 “Las Vegas” covers, below.

Check out more photos from the 2022 Shriners Children’s Open here.

 

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Tour Rundown: Canadian Thanksgiving arrives early at Sanderson Farms | Fox, Hull

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Out in Mesquite, Nevada, on October 1st,  Martin Borgmeier won the Pro Long Drive 2022 Open Division championship with a blast of 426 yards. Quite the achievement for the German long-drive specialist, and certainly something that flies not quite on the pro golf radar. You have to wonder when the world tours will figure out a way to leverage the sideshow and main events and create even greater content for golf fans. For now, we have four events to run down from the past two weeks, and we’ll explain all about that as we move through four of the world’s great tours. Let’s have an October Rundown, whaddayasay?

PGA Tour: Canadian Thanksgiving arrives early at Sanderson Farms

It seems like forever since we’ve seen overtime in professional golf. We watched the Packers and the Patriots do battle in an extra session on Sunday evening, but golf has gone a few weeks since a good, old-fashioned, playoff. Thanks to Sepp Straka and Mackenzie Hughes, we were gifted some bonus golf in Jackson, Mississippi.

Both Straka and Hughes finished round four at 17-under par. Straka began the day two shots behind Mark Hubbard, with Hughes starting one back of the lead. Hubbard struggled on day four, ultimately finishing in a tie for fifth after 74. Straka notched six birdies on his scorecard, against one bogey, to move up two spots in the standings. Hughes posted four birdies of his own, against a solitary hiccough, and away the pair went to the 18th tee. After pars the first pass through, the duo returned to the final tee deck for a second crack at a resolution.

With light dwindling, both players found the fairway. From 164 yards, Hughes sent an iron skyward, landing it about fifteen feet right of the hole. Straka’s approach, from a bit closer, drew a bit past the stick and released to the side fringe, about 25 feet distant. Straka’s putt had great weight, but drifted left at the end. Hughes lined up his putt and delivered a dagger to the center of the hole. Canadian Thanksgiving had, indeed, arrived ahead of schedule.

DP World Tour: Dunhill Links is Fox’s second win of 2022

There’s is something Hoganesque about the career trajectory of New Zealand’s Ryan Fox. The 35-year old didn’t claim a major-tour title until his 32nd year, and that came in the Super Six (a great event if there ever was one) in Perth, in 2019. Fast forward to 2022, post pandemic, and Fox claims a second DPWT title, this time in United Arab Emirates, in February. Now it’s October, where the trees are bare of all they wear. Fox finds himself in the Kingdom of Golf, in the auld towne itself, St. Andrews. On Saturday at Kingsbarns, Fox posted a stellar 65, but still found himself chasing the leader, Richard Mansell. On Sunday at the Old Course, Fox had his stumbles, but found seven birdies around the loop to post a 64. When Mansell closed with 76, Fox had an unexpected, one-shot triumph over England’s Callum Shinkwin and Sweden’s Alex Noren.

LPGA: The Ascendant is second stateside win for Charley

England’s Charley Hull claimed her first LPGA win in 2016, at the Tour Championship. No one anticipated that six years would pass before trophy number two found its way to her hands. On Sunday, Hull stared down Lydia Ko, Xiyu Lin, and a host of other birdie machines, and eaked out a one-shot win at The Colony, in Texas.

Hull had taken over the lead on Friday, on the strength of a 64. Her two-shot advantage over Lin went away on Saturday, when she posted her highest round of the week, a 71. Knowing that low was the order of the day on Sunday, Hull began her march early. Four birdies in the first seven holes gave her the lead, but a bogey at the eighth brought a halt to thoughts of an early coronation. Hull regrouped on the inward half, ran off three birdies from 12 through 14, followed by another at 17. It was a good thing that she did.

Intent on chasing her down, Hiyu Lin closed in furious fashion. A birdie at 13 was followed by a birdie-eagle stretch at 16-17, and the lead was but one. Needing birdie at the last, Lin could only manage par, and the title went home with Hull.

PGA Tour Champions: PURE Insurance Championship to Flesch

Tour Champions was off this week, before resuming its schedule in Jacksonville, Florida. Last week, the PURE Championship along the Monterey Peninsula in California hosted junior amateurs from across the country. The First Tee saw these representatives paired with the senior professionals, and both sides of the age meter put on quite a show. Paul Stankowski and Ken Duke, both journeymen with a few titles on their resumes, shared the lead after 36 holes. With everyone at Pebble Beach for the final round, the playing field was level.

Making runs at the title were Ernie Els (64 for -10), Steven Alker (69 for same) and Stankowski (70 to tie the first two.) Facing a seven-feet birdie putt at the last for 68 and minus-eleven was portsider Steve Flesch. We wouldn’t be writing about him if he didn’t make it, and the lefty drained the curving putt to lock up another Tour Champions title.

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Team USA retains 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow

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The host team from all across America recovered from a lackluster Saturday. It put on a singles show on Sunday, winning 6.5 of 12 points from Team World. The final tally at the 2022 Presidents Cup was 17.5 to 12.5 for the Red, White, and Blue. There were two sides to this presidential coin, however. Days one and two saw Team World dig an inescapable hole, dropping eight of ten points. Days three and four saw the two teams play essentially even. Despite a few premature obituaries from some of our celebrated golf pundits, the Presidents Cup is alive and well. 2024 sees the tournament reach Canada for the first time, at the Royal Montreal Golf Club. Chances are that it will feel like a home game for the USA, unless the locals spike the poutine. That event is two years off, however, so let’s have one last look at the Sunday Singles, courtesy of my Saturday evening predictions.

Correct ~ Match One: Justin Thomas vs. Si Woo Kim

Si Woo says See-You to JT and Team World gets to 8-11

Did I know that Justin Thomas would demonstrate ignorance by conceding himself a putt? Nay. I just had a feeling that this battle of Players Champions would fall to the South Korean juggernaut. Thomas was two-up at the turn, but lost 10 and 11 to fall back to even. To their credit, both players went for broke, and the final seven holes saw five outright wins. Kim banged home a birdie at the last to eke out a 1-up victory.

Incorrect ~ Match Two: Spieth vs. Davis

Cam Davis dispatches Spieth and it’s now a two-point affair

This was the must-have match for Team World, and Cam Davis came out like he understood the plan. Wins at the first two holes had Jordan Spieth on the ropes, but the Texan responded like Spieth. His putter ignited with volcanic heat, and he proceeded to make nearly everything he looked at on the frog hair. Spieth squared the match at the fifth, fell behind at the eighth, and squared again at the ninth. On the inward side, he turned out the lights. A birdie-birdie-birdie-par run from 11 to 14 gave him a 4-up lead, and he sealed the deal with a par at the 15th.

Correct ~ Match Three: Burns vs. Matsuyama

Burns and Hideki trade 14 birdies and end up tied. 9.5 to 11.5

Well, it was only eight birdies, and Hideki even won a hole with a bogey. In the end, he almost pulled a Jordan Spieth out of his hat, with a chip-in at the last. The ball stayed out and the match stayed even. Do you know how hard it is to predict a tied match? Pretty hard!

Incorrect ~ Match Four: Cantlay vs. Scott

Another massive upset, as one-major beats none-major and Team World is just one back.

Adam Scott’s point was also a necessary one, but pars weren’t going to get it done against Captain Cantlay. The American went out in one-under par, and somehow built a two-up advantage over Scott’s even par. How does match play work again? Oh, right, like that. On the back nine, Scott did his level-best to strike, but he is no longer the Adam Scott of old, the major champion. Cantlay’s golf was equally uninspired, and the match ended at 3 & 2, after both players made par at the 16th.

Correct ~ Match Five: Scheffler vs. Muñoz

Colombia’s pride does some accordion-inspired Vallenato all the way to a personal Encanto, and the
game is tied!

Scottie Scheffler had a whale of a 2022. His first win and first major win, and the world number-one ranking all reached his doorstep. To allow him a week of exhaustion is just fine, but let’s not minimize the effort put forth by SebMu. The Colombian watched his opponent win three of the first six holes and jump out to a two-up lead. Muñoz won eight, nine, and ten, to flip the script. From there on out, he was rock-solid and claimed a much-needed point for the visiting side.

Correct ~ Match Six: Finau vs. Pendrith

Tony Two-Step takes down Maple Leaf One to stem the international tide. It’s 12.5-11.5 for the hosts.

It was a rotten week for the Maple Leaf. Pendrith couldn’t do much as a partner to anyone, and he had no answer for Finau’s finesse over the closing stretch of holes. Finau followed up a successful individual season with a strong team performance. He’ll look back on 2022 and smile.

Incorrect ~ Match Seven: Schauffele vs. Conners

Corey Conners vindicates Taylor Pendrith, and Team Canada scores one for the globe. Tied again.

These guys played some rotten golf over the first nine holes, at +2 and even par. They followed that up with more rotten golf on the inward half, posting matching even-par totals. It was an uninspired match that fell to the USA side. A point that could have kept Team World in the equation, somehow got away. Hopefully Conners will learn and grow, and be a grizzly bear in Montreal, in two-years time.

Incorrect ~ Match Eight: Young vs. Im

Cameron Young wins because he and I are both Demon Deacons, and that is all that needs to be said.
13.5-12.5

Easily my least-logical and most-emotional prophecy was … almost correct. Young rolled out of bed on the fourth tee and found himself three down, after three consecutive bogeys. From there, the legend of Sleepy Hollow gritted his teeth and ground his way back to even, by the eighth hole. A dogfight ensued, with Im winning two holes, and Young but one, down the home stretch. Still, #GoDeacs.

Incorrect ~ Match Nine: KH Lee vs. BillyHo

OK, back to cloudy logic. Billy Horschel is a grinder, and he finds a way to split his match with KH
Lee. 14 to 13 with two matches left.

Sorry, no video on this one. Go figure. Horschel was plus-two on the day when he conceeded the 17th hole to KH Lee, and his match went to the Korean by a tally of 3 & 1. Lee was one-under on the day, so by this juncture, we can conclude one of the following: Quail Hollow was an absolute bear on day four, or the teams were absolutely exhausted.

Incorrect ~ Match Ten: Homa vs. Tom Kim

There is a reason that this match is so late. Homa and Kim find three eagles and ten birdies around
the course, and TK delivers a TKO and squares the matches.

Max Homa has remade his persona. From Captain Twitter, the Californian just might become the next Captain America. Homa had a taste of international team play at the 2013 Walker Cup at National Golf Links of America. Now, the lad looks like he is here to stay. A team without Homa is like a day without … victories. Tom Kim tossed everything he had at the Burbank bombardier, and it just wasn’t enough. It was another one of those last-hole losses that doomed the visiting squad.

Incorrect ~ Match Eleven: Morikawa vs. Pereira

Morikawa has a PGA Champinship, while Pereira came oh-so-close at Southern Hill. The tables turn
and the pride of Chile outlasts the two-time major winner. For the first time, Team World takes the
lead.

Another upset special that didn’t pan out. We finally saw some electric golf on Sunday. Morikawa had three birdies, one eagle, and five pars on the outward half, and poor Pereira could just stand there and shake his head. Mito was one-under himself, but was three-down in the match. He went four-down at the 10th to another Morikawa birdie, and the end was in sight. The match finished 3 & 2 for the American, as he notched his sixth birdie on the day at hole 16.

Incorrect ~ Match Twelve: Kisner vs. Bezuidenhout

Kisner, the match-play specialist, faces the grittiest, South African golfer ever. The Christiaan with two As makes one ace in the final match, ties Kisner, and wins the Presidents Cup for Team Globe.

Another one with no video, so we’ll try to paint you a picture. You know, a thousand words are worth a picture, or something like that. I think that we’ve read the last of Kevin Kisner is a match play god and he should be on international teams. He might be that at the Dell, but he ain’t that with a team USA kit on. Bezuidenhout played even-par golf through 17 holes, essentially daring Kisner to out-duel him. Didn’t happen, and CBez snared a point for Team World.

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