If you’ve been paying attention to the underlying “noise” around the PGA Tour, you realize that the winners each week are consistently high in one key statistical category – greens in regulation. With all the distance stats, putting stats and other, the statistics guys are beginning to zero in on the real truth – the golfer who gives himself the most birdie opportunities is more likely to win.
The other side of that coin is that even a long approach putt is generally a lot easier shot than a routine chip or pitch, and certainly a lot more productive than a bunker shot or recovery from who-knows-what. We talk about how good these guys are around the greens, but the very best are only 55-70% in scrambling and/or bunker saves, and that’s not anywhere close to their two-putts-or-better percentage.
So, no matter how you hit it from the tee, what really matters most to your scoring – day in and day out – is how many greens you are hitting in regulation. And since that’s so important, let me suggest a few tips to help you improve that ratio:
1. Play the right tees. The entire concept of “par” is that you should take two shots to reach a par-four hole and three to reach a par-five. On the one extreme, the PGA Tour pros have rendered par-fives non-existent. The number of holes each year that are just out of reach is a minimal number. And it’s not a par-five if most of the field are hitting mid-irons on their second shot. On the recreational side, don’t let your ego or testosterone get in the way of fun golf. Play the set of tees that allow you to play golf the way it was meant to be played. Tee it forward!
2. Hit fairways. Even if you have to give up some of your distance, keep it in the short grass. Your ability to hit the green increases dramatically if you are not behind a tree, in deep rough or worse. I’ve written before about the driver being the first scoring club, because it is. Keep it in the short grass and your scores will go lower.
3. Play for the “fat”. Hogan was the maestro in hitting greens in regulation, far superior to any players today. But in his day, if you didn’t win often, and at least finish in the top ten each week, you couldn’t make enough money to stay out there. So he was notorious for hitting lots of greens. And his strategy was to do just that. Hogan advocated hitting to the middle of every green, knowing that a two-putt par was going to be pretty easy on two thirds of the holes and a make-able birdie putt on the other third. He would work the ball right or left to make it “chase” toward the hole, and high and low to keep it close to front or back pins. But the fat middle of the green is a very nice place to be most of the time.
So, try these tactics the next few rounds and see if your scoring doesn’t improve. My bet is that it will open your eyes to a different way to play this game.