Golf can be a complicated game with lots of areas to focus on. Do you work on your putting? This could be long putting, short putting or breaking putts! Or do you spend time on your iron play? Maybe long irons, short irons, sloping lies, wind shots etc etc. The list of areas to improve are endless and with a limited amount of time available the process can seem quite overwhelming. But, there is a much simpler approach that can reap the biggest rewards.
Pick the lowest hanging fruit
To simplify this process we need to pick the lowest hanging fruit. In other words we need to find the area of your game that will see the biggest improvement on your scores without having to spend a lot of time on it.
A quick analysis of your game over your previous five rounds will help to highlight your lowest hanging fruit. Paying attention to simple stats such as:
- Number of balls lost
- Number of greens in regulation. Specifically on holes where you don't receive a shot!
- Number of shots taken from within 100 yards
- Number of 3 putts
By analysing these simple stats you will start to get a general idea of where you need to improve.
Making sense of the stats
Firstly, lets think about where your stats should be in relation to your handicap. In my experience many golfers have unrealistic expectations about where their games should be. Playing off of a 14 handicap and missing the green from 100 yards may seem really disappointing but, should it be? What is the general standard for a 14 handicap? Are you setting yourself up for failure with unrealistic expectations?
Many golfers expect too much of their shots because of the TV coverage we watch on a weekly basis.
We watch the TV coverage and see the best players in the world hit fantastic shot after fantastic shot. But this coverage is designed to encourage you tune in because no-one wants to see golfers hitting poor shots.
In reality the top players are not hitting these fantastic shots all the time. Brooks Koepka during his fantastic 2019 season, which saw him rise to number 1 in the world, had an average proximity to the hole from 75-100 yards of 18ft. Not quite the tap in birdies we see on TV.
Instead of judging your game against the TV coverage of the worlds best players, start to compare yourself against your own stats.
Many of my students find it difficult to keep stats on their game so I use years of data to set benchmarks that relate to their handicap. My experience shows that shots from within 100 yards are the quickest route to scoring improvements.
To improve from 100 yards in, the first area to focus on is proximity to the hole. As we saw above, Brooks Koepka averages 18ft but this is an unrealistic target for the average golfer. Instead, the numbers below show the average proximity to the hole by handicap. How do you measure up?:
- 8 handicapper = 34 feet
- 14 handicapper = 40 feet
- 20 handicapper = 48 feet
These stats are made all the more interesting when you consider that 20 handicap golfers 3-putt 19% of the time. Hitting an approach shot from within 100 yards to 48 feet will result in getting down in 4 shots far more than getting down in 3.
Using the above examples, a 20 handicap golfer would see a drastic reduction in their scores if they could improve their proximity to the hole by 10ft and by working on their distance putting. A much easier element of the game to improve, compared to the complexities of driver swing improvements, which will reap the biggest rewards.