Originally Posted by Harmonious
Because I always bought into the "drive for show, putt for dough" mantra, I checked the stats for 2011. Turns out that mantra is right (sort of), at least for 2011. Someone else can do more thorough research for other years, but it shows that low scoring is most closely related to scrambling than either GIRs or putts gained. There are only two exceptions (Simpson, Toms) where their GIR rank is lower than either their Putts Gained or Scrambling Rank.
Thing is, other people have done the research, and the long game is proving to be more important. The same guy that came up with "putts gained" (and some other guys doing similar research) shows that long game does more for a guy's scoring than strokes gained putting.
But here's what you're not hearing (though I've said it a few times now): so what? The fact remains that practicing your short game and putting is easy to ingrain and maintain so you don't need to spend much time on it. I'm not talking about the relative importance of different sections of the game - I'm talking about how easy or hard it is to become proficient or improve at those sections.
A reasonably solid putter does not suddenly turn into a guy who takes 38 putts a round, especially if he devotes a little time to his putting. Putting and the short game are easier skills to ingrain and maintain. I'll keep typing it if you'd like, but it's getting tiresome.
Originally Posted by Harmonious
Looks like you can make big bucks either way, but at the upper echelon of golfdom, scoring and short game/putting are most closely related. Which is what Gaijin was saying about the difference between GOOD and GREAT.
Better statisticians than you have looked at the numbers and disagree, and I'm sure another armchair statistics guy could cook up stats in a way that show this goes the other way, too. Heck, Dave Koster came up with the 40/30/20/10 rule and I've applied it over time and it still works. The 40% is GIR, the 30% is putting. Why does Boo suck? Because he's SO BAD AT PUTTING it's not even funny. That orangutan that beat him up as a younger guy? He should get him to putt for him and he might keep his PGA Tour card. :P
But if you want to talk statistics (which again is not the topic), then fine - you exposed a flaw in that line of thinking by using simple rankings. Rankings don't account for HOW BAD or HOW GOOD someone is. Suppose everyone was a great driver of the golf ball and great with their irons. Suppose they're separated by a teeny tiny little margin until they get near the greens. Obviously in such a scenario, their short game and putting would - in this example - weigh heavily.
And that's almost what we see: the median GIR (95th anyway, rankings go to 193 currently) on the PGA Tour is Ken Duke at 64.32%. The guy ranked 10th is 68.56% and the guy ranked 180th is 58.89%.
So between the BEST and the WORST (well, nine spots away) is a difference of less than 10%, which is less than two greens in regulation per round. So on the PGA Tour a LOT of importance is placed on the short game, because they're all pretty damn good at getting on the green in regulation.
But back to the original topic, which is NOT about the relative importance, but rather, about how much practice is required to ingrain, maintain, or improve: so what? It still doesn't make the case for practicing your short game a lot because it's relatively easy to ingrain and maintain (or improve).
Originally Posted by Harmonious
For us mere mortals, I think there is a sliding scale. As you progress in the game and your ball striking improves, the emphasis should shift from "long game" to "short game". Neither should be neglected, of course.
The stats simply don't bear that out, and again, you're posts would indicate that you believe the short game is just as difficult as the long game.
Let me ask you this: if you take six months off from the game, what's tougher to get back? Your ball striking or your putting? If you took six months off and didn't touch a club, do you think that you could two-putt 95% of the time from 30 feet right away or hit an average green 60% of the time from 175?
I don't know about you, but I'm taking the guy with the putter in his hands. He's going to be closer to the 95% than you will be to the 60%.
I played with a lefty the other day and since I was just goofing around (business golf), when we'd get to the greens I'd putt and chip using his clubs on the back nine. I got up and down on two of the four holes I chipped/pitched on and I never three-putted. I left myself tap-ins (lining up from the other side cost me - I was never sure I was aimed exactly where I wanted to be).
Putting and the short game are easy to ingrain and maintain (or improve). So when you're practicing, I said above and I'll say again for the twentieth time, I'm not telling anyone to ignore their short game or putting. I am saying that devoting more than about 35% of your time to it is pointless (unless it's a glaring weakness). You're never going to turn into the guy that can make 75% of his twenty-footers. It's simply not going to happen. There's a both a ceiling on how good you can get with the short game/putting but there's also a floor that's pretty damn easy to stay above, too.
The bottom can fall out of your ball striking but unless you get the yips with the short game you can always count on it to be there for you at a pretty decent level.
Driving and the full swing are like a sports car: they need oil changes, they need gas, they need to be tuned, washed, waxed, whatever. The short game is like your bicycle: far less maintenance required and though you might not immediately be able to ride long distances hands-free to show off, you're not going to start falling over or having the pedals fail to go around all of a sudden, either.
tl;dr: This is not a discussion about the relative importance of different areas of the game, it's a discussion about how much one has to practice the different areas of the game to maintain or improve their proficiency in that section. With the full swing you have to spend more time because the motion is more complex and it's tougher to either maintain or improve than the short game or putting.