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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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Michael grew up working in the industry and always dreamed of becoming a PGA Professional. After a junior career that was highlighted with a few wins, Michael was briefly a member of the University of Louisville Golf Team before graduating from Eastern Kentucky University as a member of the inaugural class of the Professional Golf Management program. After doing everything in the industry on the green-grass side, Michael decided that he was truly passionate about teaching, and wanted to become the best instructor that he could be. Once Michael became a full-time instructor, it became crystal clear that he needed to expand his knowledge base to better help his students. Michael began by studying "The Golfing Machine" by Homer Kelley underneath the guidance of Scott Hayes. While TGM gave Michael a great understanding of the geometry and Kinematics of the golf swing, it still left questions that led Michael to purchasing his first set of Smart2Move 1D Force Plates. While learning about Ground Reaction Forces, Michael was introduced to Mike Adams and the rest of the BioSwing Dynamics team. Learning how to screen each athletes anatomy was a game changer for Michael and allowed him to understand what made each athlete different, and more importantly, how to coach each athlete to become the best they could. In addition to the network of BioSwing Dynamics coaches that Michael continues to work with, he has also completed the Scott Cowx Certified 5.5 program and uses that information to better understand wrist angle patterns and how those different patterns can be used to help players create a more consistent face angle. Michael continues to attend multiple educations every year and is always seeking to refine his information base. In addition to working with athletes of all abilities, Michael also mentors several of his fellow PGA Professional coaches. | Podcast on Apple | Podcast on Spotify | MichaelDutro.com | Measured Golf

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Pingback: Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2) – GolfWRX

  2. JJ

    Jan 18, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    Should you compare the club you are hitting from 150 yards versus what a pro is hitting from 150 yards? The pro probably has a pitching wedge versus my 7 iron. Should I expect to be 30 feet from the pin when I’m 120 yards out if that’s my pitching wedge distance?

  3. JB

    Jan 18, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    If we didn’t hit bad shots and all our shots were great the game wouldn’t be any fun…

  4. Funkaholic

    Jan 18, 2021 at 9:57 am

    I have to disagree with the sentiment about somebody buying forged blades. I know very few people you have done such a thing including myself. We have a different definition of “fun“. It may have taken me longer to master my clubs but I am a far better ball striker than most people because I chose that path. If you want to have fun and you’re not the obsessive type, go ahead and buy those game improvement waffle irons and get yourself some good scores early. This article is written by yet another phony “pro“. You guys are walking clichés.

    • Michael Dutro

      Feb 2, 2021 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Funkaholic. I think the point about buying forged clubs is mute as forged clubs continue to represent less and less marketshare. I have a set of “blades” that I play, but I don’t think that it is the best route for every golfer.

  5. Ben

    Jan 17, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Theres multiple parts? Lol. How about this: because you always think you’re better than you actually are at everything.

  6. gwelfgulfer

    Jan 17, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Except this isn’t true at all… Most don’t know the rules or how to apply penalties to the situations they find themselves in. Most weekend warriors (the actual vast majority of golfers in NA) over estimate themselves by likely 5-6 strokes at a minimum given not counting strokes properly and gimmes.

    • Betterthan gwuelfs backswing

      Jan 17, 2021 at 3:10 pm

      Stfu he didn’t mention about those that are inconsistent. It’s always mfs like you that gotta specify where a idea is astray. Clearly we’re talking about those who apply themselves.
      Man acting like you just dropped a truth bomb on someone

    • Milo

      Jan 17, 2021 at 4:48 pm

      I don’t give myself any penalties. How does that make you feel?

      • Acemandrake

        Jan 17, 2021 at 5:40 pm

        No scoring & no penalty strokes = Guaranteed good time

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