Shot to a Spot
A few weeks ago, I wrote about golf entering the statistical era with the help of ShotLink. As more and more data is being analyzed, more is being written about which parts of the game are most important to scoring and winning out on tour. It started out with "strokes gained-putting" as maybe the best indicator, but of late, we are reading more and more about "strokes gained-shotmaking," which is the measure of a golfer's ability to keep it in play and hit greens in regulation. That was the topic of the April 18 blog, where we looked at the impact on your scoring by hitting a few more greens in regulation.

Very simply, hitting two or three more greens per round does two things for you:
  1. It gives you that many more birdie tries;

  2. It takes that much heat off your scrambling.

If the best players in golf get up-and-down less than 75% of the time, for the average golfer a missed green leads to a bogey or worse at least twice that often. Think about that.

I saw the other day another interesting statistic. On the PGA Tour, greens-in-regulation percentage drops by almost half on shots from the rough over shots from the fairway. If that doesn't hammer home the importance of hitting fairways, I don't know what will. But with the 25-year obsession with distance, my bet is more fairways are missed these days than even back in the days of persimmon drivers.

In that era (which I'm sure many of you completely missed) the driver was for positioning the ball in the right part of the fairway for an approach shot, not for just blasting as far "that way" as possible. Those top players of the era hit their drives to particular spots that allowed for the best approach to the green — and they didn't "let it all out" all that often. Ben Hogan, for example, in his 1949 book Power Golf listed his "regular" distance with a driver as 265 yards, but his "maximum" as 300. Who keeps 35 yards in reserve for only those times when you really need it?

So, here's a little experiment for you the next time you can get out for a "practice nine" in the afternoon or early morning. Each time you hit a drive in the rough, walk it out to the best side of the fairway for the approach and then back 15 yards. See if that correct positioning doesn't make every hole play a little easier.

And then, think about how much better you might hit your driver if you thought of each drive as a nice controlled shot to a spot, rather than just "hit it that way as far as I can."

Just something to change the game a bit and keep in interesting.
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[ comments ]
scottishguyiniowa says:
Having started the game playing with persimmon woods I know exactly where you are coming from on this post. I have seen the game change from get it in play to hit it as far as possible so you hit less club with your approach shot. Now considering the courses I learned to play on were links courses where the rough could be almost unplayable at times and I now play on a small town's course where the rough is kept short by the members. You can understand that everyone stands up and tries to rip their drive on every hole. There is little penalty for hitting an offline drive except maybe finishing behind a tree.
Personally I'll rarely hit a drive all out except for maybe par fives where there is a benefit of getting home in two and having an opportunity for eagle. If there is no hope of that I have been known to take an iron off the tee for safety and then lay up to the best place to attack the flag.
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