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Putting and Short Game Strikes

After the last newsletter for tracking your “strikes,” I had clients asking for a way to keep track. I created a scorecard with a key for how to track your strikes and score them. You can print out the scorecard below, or just mark it on the course scorecard as you play. The more rounds you can track, the more patterns will emerge. If you really want to see where you are wasting your shots, keep your scorecards and look at your average strikes per round in each category. Once you get to 5 rounds, you should start to see a pretty clear picture.

The two strikes I didn’t talk about in the last article were short game and putting. While it is statistically evident that the long game is the most important part of the game, the short game and putting can certainly provide issues for a lot of players.

When looking at the short game I am talking about any shot within 50 yards of the green. Defining what is short game vs full swing can be tricky, so this basic definition provides a framework. In looking at short game, there is only one way to get a “strike.” A short game strike is any shot from inside 50 yards that doesn’t get on the green (This also means you can have multiple strikes on the same hole). Since the main goal of the exercise now is to determine where a player is losing strokes, I am not worried about getting the ball up and down.

As I have talked about before, expectation management is critical to making good decisions. In 2021 the best player on tour was 67% in scrambling, the PGA tour average was 57.94%. On the PGA tour the make rate at 7.5 feet is 50/50. What this should tell you is that if you do not get the ball up and down, it is not the end of the world. It also shows that Save Percentage is a correlated statistic. You can hit a great shot to 4 feet and miss the putt or an average shot to 15 feet and make it. For now, all we are looking at is whether you are losing shots around the green.

I will go into different short game shots and drills in a later article. As a simple exercise going forward however, ask yourself what is the easiest way to get the ball on the green? Short game shots provide a great deal of options and challenges. As players progress in their skills, some options will make it easier to get the ball closer to the hole but may carry more risk or be more challenging. If you find yourself with a lot of short game strikes, try and keep it simple. In many cases, this may mean using a putter. If you are in a situation where you must go over something like a bunker and the pin is close to the edge of the green, play the shot to the safer side of the flag and give yourself some room for error. The first goal of any shot around the green is to get the ball on the green, if it winds up close to the hole that is a bonus, keep that in mind when making your decisions.

The last area to track is putting. Again, strikes for putting are pretty clear cut for me. Any 3-putt from inside 30 feet is a strike, as well as any missed putt from inside 3 feet. On the PGA Tour, players average 1.98 putts from 30 feet and are 96% from 3 feet. When charting your strikes, I would specify if it was a 3 putt or a missed short putt. This will help guide your practice going forward. I will get far more in depth on putting in a later article, but from what I see with students, you cannot spend too much time working on your speed control. When speed control is really good, it becomes much easier to avoid 3 putts.

Understanding the current state of your game is the first step in getting better. The information I’ve covered should give you a clear picture of where you can get the most value for your practice. As with any endeavor you must know where to start. Look at your strikes and look at your scores and see how many shots you could save yourself in each area. If your strikes are low and your scores aren’t as low as you would like, then we focus on gaining strokes as opposed to trying not to waste them. This will be the focus of the next article. I hope everyone is enjoying this process. If you have any questions or want to create your own program with me, feel free to reach out any time to set up a lesson.

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