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How close are you for your first putts?

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As the college golf season has ended for my team, it allows me to get my game back into shape.

After eight months of encouraging our team members to focus on what they can control and what we have been able to determine as key performance indicators (KPI) for lower scores, I now have a chance to continue to develop as a coach with me as the test subject. Anything I ask of my players I test out on myself first during the breaks in the academic calendar.

Our goals for KPI’s are:

  • Combination of 14 birdies/pars
  • 10 GIR
  • 1 or fewer 3 putts
  • 1 or fewer doubles/worse

The concept with the KPI’s is to limit the mistakes by taking the time to make a smart decision based on the situation. Breaking it down every way I could think of led to shooting 77. Not bad, and we’d take 4 “meh” 77s because it was more likely we’d only have one or two “meh” 77s and a couple of lower 70s. We had a pretty solid spring season after putting this into play, but with the strength of where women’s golf is, we were on the outside looking in as a team for NCAA Regionals.

With all this, and recently listening to a mini-series podcast put on by Golf Science Lab, I wanted to take a look at our 10 GIR KPI and see if we can adjust it with what Will Robbins and Cordie Walker discussed about proximity.

So, off I went and played a couple of rounds this weekend, posting scores of 75 and 78. Both rounds I hit 9 GIRs (just below the target number), yet walking away from both rounds felt completely different. I was pretty satisfied with how I played when I shot 75 and was very excited to get back at it later in the weekend. Compared to shooting the 78, I was rather discouraged. Sitting down to compare the rounds, specifically looking at the proximity sheds a bit of light.

For my round of 75, I averaged 21’ away from the pin when I hit shots to the green from outside 100 yards. When I was chipping I averaged 5.5’. For my round of 78, I averaged 30’ away from the pin when I hit shots to the green from outside 100 yards. When I was chipping I averaged 6.5’.

Overall pretty good stats both days, but it goes to show that every foot counts! Here are some interesting side stats:

  • My shortest birdie putt came on the day I shot 78
  • The difference between shortest (11’) and longest (43’) birdies putts the day I shot 75 was 32’
  • …and the day I shot 78: 56’ (shortest 10’ and longest 66’)

Seeing this, I will think through the importance of proximity for our team to be able to achieve our goals next season. I still think there is an importance of getting the putter in hand as soon as possible but just hitting a green in regulation does not guarantee a low score.

While I will not advise anyone to shoot at every pin, learning to recognize our shot patterns to not only have GIRs but also shorter first putts will be an important part of our 2019-2020 season.

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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.

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1 Comment

  1. Brandon

    May 29, 2019 at 11:12 am

    I have come to the same conclusion for my game and am working on getting approach shots closer to the hole. I would like to hear how you determine which pins are pins to shoot at and which are ones to play safe. I naturally play a draw and have found left pins are easier for me to go at but still trying to find a few criteria i can quickly go through to determine if a pin placement is a good one to attack for my skill set or if it makes more sense to aim for the middle.

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Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)

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In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill

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When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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Wedge Guy: The top 7 short game mistakes

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I’ve written hundreds of articles as “The Wedge Guy” and I’ve made it my life’s work to closely observe golfers and their short games. So, I thought I’d compile what I see into a list of what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevents them from optimizing their scoring. So here goes, not in any particular order:

  1. Tempo. Maybe the most common error I see is a tempo that is too quick and “jabby”. That probably comes from the misunderstood and overdone advice “accelerate through the ball.” I like to compare playing a golf hole to painting a room, and your short shots are your “trim brushes”. They determine how the finished work turns out, and a slower and more deliberate stroke delivers more precision as you get closer to the green and hole.
  2. Set Up/Posture. To hit good chips and pitches, you need to “get down”. Bend your knees a bit more and grip down on the club – it puts you closer to your work for better precision. Too many golfers I see stand up too tall and grip the club to the end.
  3. Grip Pressure. A very light grip on the club is essential to good touch and a proper release through the impact zone. Trust me, you cannot hold a golf club too lightly – your body won’t let you. Concentrate on your forearms; if you can feel any tenseness in the muscles in your forearms, you are holding on too tightly.
  4. Hand position. Watch the tour players hit short shots on TV. Their arms are hanging naturally so that their hands are very close to their upper thighs at address and through impact, but the club is not tilted up on its toe. Copy that and your short game will improve dramatically.
  5. Lack of Body/Core Rotation. When you are hitting short shots, the hands and arms have stay in front of the torso throughout the swing. If you don’t rotate your chest and shoulders back and through, you won’t develop good consistency in distance or contact.
  6. Club selection. Every pitch or chip is different, so don’t try to hit them all with the same club. I see two major errors here. Some golfers always grab the sand wedge when they miss a green. If you have lots of green to work with and don’t need that loft, a PW, 9-iron or even less will give you much better results. The other error is seen in those golfers who are “afraid” of their wedge and are trying to hit tough recoveries with 8- and 9-irons. That doesn’t work either. Go to your practice green and see what happens with different clubs, then take that knowledge to the course.
  7. Clubhead/grip relationship. This error falls into two categories. One is those golfers who forward press so much that they dramatically change the loft of the club. At address and impact the grip should be slightly ahead of the clubhead. I like to focus on the hands, rather than the club, and just think of my left hand leading my right through impact. Which brings me to the other error – allowing the clubhead to pass the hands through impact. If you let the clubhead do that, good shots just cannot happen. And that is caused by you trying to “hit” up on the ball, rather than swinging the entire club through impact.

So, there are my top 7. Obviously, there are others, but if you eliminate those, your short game will get better in a hurry.

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