65/25/10 The Sequel - What do you REALLY mean by "work on" your short game and putting
It's funny, I haven;t been back to this site for a while, as I've been busier at work and then and actually learning/playing golf, but I noticed something about my game and went back to that old, very helpful, post about what ratio of time one should spend working on their game, and I felt inclined to post. I should've known about 5 old hands would come down on me like a ton of bricks, but the comments were correct when they did. To paraphrase, I think the mantra goes like this: The best ratio of time you employ working on your game should be around 65/25/10 (full/short/putting), unless you have some glaring weakness that requires the formula to change. Myriad statistics prove that GIR and good ball striking will almost always do more for your scores than anything else - just like that commercial for a 3-wood where the narrator says "they say short game is the best way to improve your scores, unless you don;t need a short game" and some pro (I think Camilo Villegas) rips the 3-wood 275 on to the green feet from the pin. I think several people have shown up on the forum in the past trying to refute this, and I believe it's irrefutable.
I tried to refute it (sort of) the other day, but I think the responses have yielded some new insights that I thought some people might find important. Here they go:
If you are a brand-new golfer, like I was at 35 in November of 2010, (I screwed around a bit as a kid when I was an athlete, but working on my game then meant taking beers to the driving range with my baseball player friends and trying to hit driver 300 yards or whack the ball boy in the cage when he was 200 yards away with a 5-iron). I think it may behoove you to make the ratio more like 30-40-30, or 35-35-30 (I'm being really scientific here!) for a few months. If anything, to improve your patience and willingness to work harder mentally. I used a heavy short game/putting ratio when I started because I fell in love with Dave Pelz (which has faded fast, but not in all ways) and I think it made me much more confident and relaxed to know that if it took me three strokes to get to within 40 yards of the pin on a par four, I had a good shot at bogey or double at worst, but quadruple was likely not a factor. It only took me like three months to develop a pretty good basic pitch, chip, greenside bunker shot, even a flop, and putting stroke. It drives me nuts now to watch 60 year-old men warm up, many who have probably been playing golf as long as I've been alive, with atrocious super wristy chipping motions, long, swooping pitching motions that look like they're trying to stab a fly on the ball, etc. I think beginning golfers should spend more time on short game/putting for a brief while because the motions are so simple and easy to maintain. After a few months of heavy work on those two, and then a year at 65/25/10, I think most people of average coordination can be above average short game players/putters, and they are skills that will last. I plan on needing a LONG TIME to hit the ball really well with my woods/irons/and full wedges.
I feel like I've moved up to intermediate level now (I usually score in the mid and low 80s), and I've also come to believe that "working" on short game/putting requires you to PLAY more, or at least work on shots on a course and not on the range. Most people have a home driving range or even two, and if they are range rats like me, they probably know every single bump around the green of their short game area. I could probably draw the short game area at Dobson Ranch Golf Club in Mesa, AZ from memory right now, down to how many teeth are on the sand trap rake (well, maybe not). I think my ability to chip/pitch like a pro there has given me false confidence in that part of my game. I think if you want to be a really good golfer, the old "practice on the range, but when you play just have fun and try your best" mantra isn't always true, even with other people. In playing more recently, I've noticed that chips I feel I should hit in my sleep may roll 5 feet more during a round, making a tap in now a 6 or 7 footer. We all know how those usually turn out. I think you have to try shots on the course, even with full swing, that aren't even necessarily the smartest ones. Maybe if you are lucky to play enough, you can make "practice" rounds for yourself, and then rounds when you dedicate yourself to just trying to score your best. How many cut shots around a big tree from pine straw have you practiced on the range? How the heck do you consistently find time to practice from a fairway bunker at 150 yards+? I think for short game this is even more important because a 180 yard approach from the fairway for most of us generally requires the same, or a very similar, swing, but almost every short game shot you see is likely very new. The slope is different, the angle to the green is different, the distance is different, etc. In short, I think my full swing on the course is very similar to how I perform on the range (it's of course a little worse, but I almost always hit long with a draw or hook, sometimes big, when I miss), but my short game and putting are nowhere near as good on the course as on the range. I think nerves has something to do with it (which is one reason why I still buy Dave Pelz's "no adrenaline swing" concept, even if I don't fully buy his technique), but it's also because a nuanced shot requires such precision. An 180 yard shot can be 10 yards left of your target and still be on the green, which should mean a two putt. 5 FEET off on a pitch or a chip and you're probably adding a stroke half the time at least, for an average amateur putter. Worse yet, I don;t think more short game practice at Dobson Ranch will make much difference. Shoot, I heard Tiger Woods has six DIFFERENT KINDS OF GRASS at his home short game area, so he can warm up with Bermuda, Rye, etc. Now that's what I need!
Anyway, hope this helps. Play more, and now when you slice it in the woods, you can tell people "oh, that was just me practicing my cut shot." Cheers!