How Important Is The Fairway?
I read the other day that the correlation between fairways hit and scoring average has reversed and is heading back upward. If you'll remember, the USGA changed the rules governing the grooves on clubs because they saw a declining trend in the importance of hitting drives in the fairway on the PGA Tour. Their conclusion was that with the sharp-edged grooves, the importance of hitting the ball in the fairway was diminished as an important part of high-quality golf. So they changed the rules, required manufacturers to "dull" the edges of our grooves and watched the stats.

Now, in the third year of this new groove geometry, the PGA Tour stats in this relationship are apparently migrating backward, which is putting an increased premium on hitting drives in the fairway, in order to improve scoring.

I've written about this before, but I believe that fairways hit is one of the more important stats for recreational golfers as well. No matter where the course, a drive in the fairway lets you start the hole with an advantage. That goes for your second shot on par-5s as well. If you could hit more of your approach shots from the fairway, your scores will go down for sure. There are a number of ways to prove this to yourself, and my favorite is to play a practice round of golf and hit every approach shot from the fairway. If you hit a drive in the rough, walk it straight out to the fairway and hit from there. My own informal research is that it makes a huge impact for golfers of all skill levels.

So, now that you've learned that, how do you hit more fairways? That take some time on the range and/or with your professional, but mostly it takes a huge mental adjustment. We all are coached and coerced into thinking that the purpose of the tee shot is to move the ball as far as humanly possible. We are pounded with millions of dollars of advertising and TV talk about the "long ball." But a ball in the short grass makes any hole play easier.

To me, there are three keys to hitting straighter drives, and most of them will actually improve your distance as well:
  1. Grip the club lightly. If you have a light grip on the club, it prevents you from trying to muscle it too much.

  2. Swing at 85%. Just back off a bit on your entire swing pace, from start to finish. Feel like you are hitting the driver like you would a controlled 7-iron shot into a green.

  3. Aim small, miss small. That's a favorite line of mine from Mel Gibson's "The Patriot", and it applies to golf. Pick out a specific tree, corner of a house, edge of a bunker, etc. and aim your tee shot precisely. Take time to get set up with a dead aim on where you want the ball to go. Too often, we just aim "at the fairway", and that's not good enough.
I hope this helps you hit more fairways, though I realize that some of you are counting your last remaining golf days of 2012. Make them count the most and head into the off season with a new-found appreciation for that fairways stat.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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