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The Numbers Game: The Short Game


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By Dave Koster via TheSandTrap.com
Just about all types of golfers will have over 50% of their shots from on or near the green. So why don't most of us practice that way?

tng_title.gifOver the past year, we've seen how hitting greens is the best predictor for success on the PGA Tour and, ostensibly, in general. The problem is that most of us amateurs don't have the luxury of being so accurate with our irons. So what are we to do?



Accept it. If you play a lot of golf and work on your game, it will get better. The great equalizer is a great short game. You will find numerous players that don't hit it long and may not hit a lot of greens, but can get up and down from a bucket. This week in The Numbers Game, I'll show you just how important the short game is and it may change your approach to how you practice.

Tom
Let me tell you the story of Tom. He is a 28 handicap golfer… shooting around 100 every time out. Tom may hit a couple greens a round (most likely on the par threes). All in all he is happy to make a couple pars a round and ecstatic if there is a birdie. Unfortunately, for every birdie there are four or five snowmen on the card.



So we know what a typical round looks like for Tom. We're not going to miraculously turn his swing around and make him hit a ton of greens all of a sudden. The most logical place to help Tom is to look at where most of his strokes are taken and help that area.



Driver/Fwy Wood 18
Mid/Long Irons 27
Wedges/Chips 20
Putts 35

Over 55% of Tom's shots were taken with wedges or putters. Most of us know this to be true… that the majority shots taken are within 75 yards of or on the putting green. How many times have you thought to yourself "How could I take four shots to get it in the hole with a sand wedge in my hand?" I have numerous times.



The problem with Tom is that when he wants to practice, he goes and beats a large bucket of balls. This is not bad in and of itself, but the fact that most of those are with his driver is where his good intentions go wrong. Tom is a sad story because he wants to get better, but is going about it the wrong way.



If I was Tom's friend, I'd take all his clubs away from him for a week except for his wedges and putters. If he just managed to improve those parts of his game enough to save 10% of his shots, he would drop his 100 immediately to a 94 or 95. Also, speaking from experience, sinking a few putts will do wonders for the other parts of your game… confidence can spread from the flat stick to the irons to the driver.



Quincy
Our next story is about Quincy. Quincy is the guy who hits the ball only 180-200 yards off the tee but straight as an arrow. He struggles to hit most par fours and par fives in regulation, but he chips and putts with the best of them.



Quincy shoots 88 on a bad day and 82 on a good one. The only difference between the two is if he happens to hit a couple stray shots on the same day he misses a putt or two. Quincy is steady. He's the higher handicapper you want on your captain's choice team.



Quincy is also the guy who plays 80 times a week and probably has for the past 40 years. He knows his game well and has been comfortable with it. Here might be a typical breakdown of Quincy's round.



Driver/Fwy Wood 21
Mid/Long Irons 20
Wedges/Chips 14
Putts 29

Quincy is closer to 50% of shots taken with a wedge or putter. He might take a bit longer to get to the green, but once he does, he doesn't waste any time.



So what's the problem with Quincy? Not much, but he's the perfect guy to pair up with Tom. Not only would it show Tom that he doesn't have to hit the ball a mile to score, but the value in those two clubs I left him with standing on the range.



Steve
Steve can play. He can hit the ball well, makes few mistakes and has a decent short game as well. On average, Steve will hit around 10 or 11 greens, take about 30-31 putts and finish 18 holes in 75 or less strokes.



Steve's spread of shots is going to look quite a bit different than Tom's or Quincy's:



Driver/Fwy Wood 16
Mid/Long Irons 16
Wedges/Chips 12
Putts 30

The numbers above might be different but the percent of wedges, chips, and putts is nearly the same at 57% (47/74 = 57%). I actually thought it might be a bit higher given the fact that Steve won't be spending time hacking around the hazards and more around the green. I'd hate to put a blanket statement out there… but you have to think that the better you get your opportunity for improving your game lies more and more in the short game. More than half of Tom's, Steve's, and just about everyone's shots are taken from around the green.



Steve may be a better golfer than Tom, but he still has to improve in the short game. 30-31 putts are not going to do it when Steve is hitting 10 or 11 greens. The average tour pro is down around 29 to 29.5 putts per round while hitting 12 to 13 greens. That's a big difference.



Tom's Outlook
I picked a guy like Tom because there is a bit of him in every golfer. At some point in time, just about all of us have largely ignored the short game. Whether it was intentional or not does not make a difference. We all have to catch up in that area of the game.



The Tom in us needs to watch Quincy for a while. That's why I said earlier that Quincy would be a perfect partner. Tom's probably playing with three other guys just like himself. They admire the beautiful drive, but not the effortless up and down from 20 yards. I was that way for a long time.



Just look at the numbers though. You can help over 50% of your game by practicing with basically two clubs instead of the other 12.



That's not only simple math, that's The Numbers Game this week.

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