Stats that reveal the truth about scoring well at golf.
In Part one of this blog I claimed that The Money Ball of golf is the short game. Not putting and not the full swing. Chips, pitches, partial swings, flop shots and bunkers shots….in fact anything where the ball goes in the air but is not a full swing. Dave Pelz has proved years ago but no one seems to have noticed. To understand how this works we have to look a little more at the statistics he published in his Short Game Bible.
Full Swing % Error – The Key Statistic
Pelz found that the best strikers have a 5% error on their full shots. This means that from 180 yards their average shot will finish 9 yards from the hole (i.e. 5% of 180 = 9). Unfortunately for them, from 9 yards, they will usually two putt and score the same as the less accomplished strikers (6% – 8%) who still two putt but from a bit further away. Once you get to an average of over 8 % error then the long game starts costing too much at this level.
Now, imagine that you have a 5% error on your short shots from 20 yds. That means you get them to one yard (3 feet) away on average. From 40 yards you get them to two yards (6ft) away. This is close enough for a reliable one putt and will have a marked effect on scoring.
So if you are a professional or top amateur, you can say with certainty that getting close to 5% error on short shots will make more difference to your scores than improving your striking to the same 5% level. If you are a handicap golfer, it is even more important to be good at these shots.
You will remember from Part 1 that a really good (13 greens a round) ball striker could still have have 12 partial shots in his round (e.g. 5 missed greens, 4 par fives and maybe 3 short par 4s). A handicap golfer could have even more because he will miss more greens but also because he could duff a chip, leave the ball in a bunker or skull a pitch through the green and then require a second partial shot on the same hole. Remove these disaster holes from your round and start to get a few more up and downs and you will be a better player without changing your swing. All you need to do is ask your professional – or come to me – for a short game lesson.
What is in your bag?
When Dave Pelz published these stats it was common for golfers to carry two wedges. In fact one of his first pupils was Tom Kite who immediately added a third wedge to his bag and later won the US Open. At the time, this was quite a radical step but that just shows how times change. Having three or four wedges is accepted as normal now and Phil Mickelson won the Open this year with five…and no driver.
Four degree spacing on wedges is ideal so each club can create different shots and flights. I carry four wedges – 60, 56, 52 and 48 degrees and have removed my 3 iron. I carry just a 4 iron (200 yds), 2 iron (225 yds), 3 wood (245 yrds) and driver (280 yrds). You could also probably drop a longer club from your set and be able to cover the gaps without too much problem – there is a huge range of hybrids, fairway woods and longer irons to choose from so you can get even spacing at this end of the bag too.
See my wedges here… http://www.johnletters.co.uk/golf_product/range/?tid=8
What the Pros say….
Expert golfers instinctively know about the Money Ball of golf, even if they do not articulate it very often. I once had the great pleasure to host a Q&A with Padraig Harrington as one of the guests. He was asked how to improve at golf and his answer was highly informative. He said there were two ways. One was to improve your swing, it would take a long time, be really interesting and fun but would have no guarantee of success. The second was to concentrate on short shots, become an expert at up and down from 40 yards and less and not worry about swing technique so much. He also said that most would not do this because it was not perceived as so much fun. Interestingly, he was Open Champion at the time.
References My Short Game Bible – Dave Pelz