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Removing "strikes" to shoot lower scores

To reduce scores in line with the goal setting exercise, the first thing to determine is if we need to stop wasting shots or actively try to gain shots. There is a very distinct difference between the two and I believe they are commonly misinterpreted. In the last article I talked about tracking your stats to understand where you can improve. I mentioned that “good” stats are important. To understand good stats, we first must understand bad stats.

Traditional older stats would measure fairways hit, greens hit in regulation and total putts. To me, these stats can be very misleading. The reason fairways, GIR and total putts doesn’t hold up, is that all those stats are correlated and do not give a clear picture of strengths and weakness. As an example, if a player were playing a 400-yard hole and hit a drive 300 yards and 1 yard into the rough it would be marked as a missed fairway. From 100 yards, if they hit the green but were 60 feet from the hole and 3-putted they would mark down a hit GIR and a 3 putt. If they did this all day long and looked at their stats it would paint the picture of a bad driver and putter and a good iron player, while in reality, the biggest emphasis would be on approach play and hitting wedges closer to the hole. If you want to take a really deep dive into statistics and the true value of shot, Mark Broadie’s book “Every shot counts” is a fantastic read

Now that we have covered what stats not to use, let’s look at useful information to help lower your scores. The first thing I look at when trying to lower a player’s score are what I call “strikes.” Strikes to me are wasted or lost shots. I have 4 areas to measure: penalty shots/recovery situations off the tee, penalty shots/recovery situations on approach, multiple chip shots and 3 putts from under 30 feet. If you want a baseline for where to improve, you just need to keep track of these 4 things in your round. If you are seeing a pattern or a lot of strikes in a certain area, then we look at why and how to avoid them.

In looking at Penalty shot/recovery situations off the Tee and on Approach shots there are two things to consider: was it a bad shot or a bad decision. Just because the ball finished in a bad position, doesn’t mean the player hit a poor golf shot. A poor shot to me, is a shot that is out of the normal dispersion pattern of that player. If the player hits an average shot and the ball finishes in a bad position, then it was a poor decision or target that was the issue, not a bad shot.

To test your dispersion patterns, the easiest thing you can do is go to the range and pick a target. Hit 10 drivers at that target and pay attention to how far right and left the drives go from that target. Using tools like google earth, you can find landmarks that give you widths. In the image above you can see that on the driving range at Longboat Key Club, the back teaching area is 65 yards wide. Aim at the middle of it and see how many of the 10 balls stay inside that area. You should also notice the patterns of left vs right tendency. The more drivers you can hit, the more accurate you can be with your patterns. Scott Fawcett has incredible information on dispersion patterns and target selection is his DECADE golf program.

If you take that test and a high percent of your drives are outside of that area, then the focus needs to be on skill and improving that pattern. If a high percentage of your drives are in that area, and you have a lot of “strikes” off the tee, then the focus needs to be on your target selection on the golf course. For reference, the average PGA Tour dispersion pattern at 300 yards is 60 yards wide.

When you are picking a target, you need to consider where an average shot will wind up, not just a good one on the target. In the DECADE app there is a great target selection tool that shows dispersion in relation to selected target. For this example I used the second hole on Links at Longboat. As you can see, if I aim down the middle of the fairway, a high percentage of normal shots for me will end up in the water on the right. These aren't bad shots if they go there, it was just a bad target. To give myself the best chance of getting the ball on dry land, the second image shows where I need to focus my target aim.

The same exercise can be done with every club in your bag. Each club will have a different dispersion pattern, hopefully the pattern gets smaller as you get down into the shorter irons and wedges. You can utilize this information in your next round to pick better targets and see if you can eliminate the strikes. For those players that have a lot of strikes on approach shots, in your next round, try getting the number to the middle of the green, and aiming at the middle of the green as your target. Forget where the flag is(especially at Longboat where most greens are only 20 yards wide). See how many greens you hit and how many strikes you have, this can be a very telling sign on your dispersion patterns.

Dispersion patterns and target selection is a great example of combining skill and strategy in your game. To continue to try and reach your goals, make sure you continue to try learning where and how you can improve. I do believe that no matter the level, good target selection and thinking can reduce a great deal of wasted shots. Once we start eliminated the wasted shots, we can look at how to gain shots through skill acquisition in a variety of areas. I hope you found this helpful, in the next article I will look at removing strikes around and on the green. If you have any questions or want to set up a session to look at improving any of these areas, contact me or book a session online.

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