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How Good is Good Golf?

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JonMA1

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There’s been at least one thread here on TST asking what we consider good golf. Single digit, scratch, Tour pro… From the perspective of a poor player like myself who rarely plays with anyone who’s good, there’s almost no reference.

Most of the folks I play with are hackers. Sure, they’ll talk about how they usually shoot a couple strokes over par, then I’ll watch as they play at a level of golf not far from mine. I played with a couple of brothers recently who told me they’d been shooting in the 80’s the last couple of weeks. He made a point of saying he doesn’t usually shoot that low, but they’d both been playing good golf recently. I beat the one by two strokes and the other by several more. Not good golfers I thought to myself.

A few weeks ago, I was joined by a married couple at the 2nd of 9 holes. The husband was playing from the blue (middle) tees - just over 3,000 yards on what I consider to be a challenging course. Despite being older than me, he outdrove me by 25 yards while keeping every tee shot on the fairway. I watched this guy hit great shot after great shot, just the way golf is supposed to be played. He parred most holes. The only poor shot I noticed him hit, still resulted in a bogey.

After a few holes, I asked him if he tracked his HC and he told me he was a 14. After we finished the last hole, I jokingly called BS on his 14. He assured me the round was better than most as he finished with a 38. I had witnessed good golf that day.

While a handicap index of 14 seems unreachable to me, I’ve always thought of it as somewhat average for an avid golfer who’s played for many years. I no longer believe that. So if a 14 can tame a course that so many have been beat up by, what does single-digit golf look like.

Before this season, I’d only seen one person play from the tips of this course with any success and it was impressive. Last Sunday while playing the middle tees, I managed to break 100 for the first time from that distance. This was a goal of mine at the beginning of the season. It didn’t feel like anything special while I was playing, but I minimized the mistakes and lucked out on enough shots for it to happen. At one point, I caught up to three kids who were waiting for the fairway to clear and we BS’ed for a few minutes. One kid was playing from the tips. While talking to him, I noticed he was wearing a 2016 Michigan High School Athletic Association state championship t-shirt. I asked him about it and he told me placed 8th in the state tourney. He seemed disappointed, told me it was tough course and only managed a couple of 78’s (I looked it up and he spoke the truth). I asked him what he normally shoots from the tips at this course. Mid 70’s he said. Turns out he played for the same high school my son did. When I asked my son about him, he told me this kid was basically a prodigy in a school that doesn’t turn out a ton of good golfers. Was beating up on some of the area’s best HS golfers as a freshman.

So while I’m feeling  pretty good about breaking 100 from the middle tees, this modest 18 year old kid is shooting just over par from the tips. Not good golf, great golf.

Today I played a practice round from those same middle tees in preparation for a round I’m playing with an old friend in the morning. He and I used to play tennis every week and he’d kick my butt on a regular basis. We both quit playing tennis several years ago and both took up golf, purely by coincidence. Tomorrow will be the first time we’ve played golf together despite talking about it for the last few years. I’d really like to make a good showing.

I have no idea how good or bad he is, but I lost 12 balls in 18 holes today while working on keys 4 and 5 - probably a record. On the last hole, a turkey vulture kept hovering over the fairway and I imagined he mistook my round for a rotting carcass.

If tomorrows round is anything close to todays, my friend won’t be thinking about what good golf is.

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Good is always a relative term. I find a lot of it is in my head. I can be playing what I think is a horrible round, but the scorecard at the end of the day indicates otherwise. As I look back over it, I notice that my short game or putter saved me a lot. I can be playing an otherwise awesome round with that 1 or 2 "other" hole. Golf is just funny like that. 

I remember one time that I was playing a "horrible" round an noticed turkey buzzards circling above. I looked up at them and said, "Please come get me and put me out of my misery!!!":-)

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I have no idea what good golf is and figure it's relative at best. Good golf to PGA pros is surely different than good golf to us. Congrats on breaking a 100 from those tees however that's great. Don't worry about your score with your friend, stay loose!

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I am of the belief anyone can play good golf, relative to their own talent level.

I'm sure some golfers rate themselves based on a few good shots during a round, while others might go with their over all score. Some will play good golf with out regards to their actual game. Just being out on the course, enjoying them selves is a "good" day. 

What's good for me is consistently scoring around 80 which is my target number when I play for a score. Any score between 82, and 78 is in my good to great scoring range

I also believe that working on one's swing, while playing, (which is a good thing) shouldn't be a big deal, score wise. 

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I'll echo what others have said, good is relative to your skill level. As far as I'm concerned, if I play to about my handicap, I had a good day. Great would be shooting lower than it. A bad day would be 5 strokes higher in differential.

I hit good shots on bad days and bad shots on good days. I've played with good players who easily beat me on their bad days. It's all a matter of perspective.

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I've had the chance to play with some Coed women who play from the men's tees and score well, as in they can shoot in the 70's-low 80's consistently (none of them know what their handicap is because their tournaments are scratch events where handicap doesn't matter) and I've had the chance to play with a young man who was a 1 handicap. What I've learned playing with these individuals is that what is most impressive is their consistency. The ability to hit fairways and greens a majority of the time, was the major difference between them and I. My good shots were as good as theirs, sometimes even better, but they hit more good shots per round than I did. This relates very closely to what you mentioned about the fellow you played with who hit every fairway and made a lot of pars. To me that is "good golf". However, I also agree with the others who say that "good golf" is relative. Someone who is used to scoring under par wouldn't be happy with shooting par or just over par most likely, while someone like myself would love to be able to shoot anywhere near par.

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All I can say is that 'good golf' is certainly a relative situation that varies from player to player and from round to round.

I'm a 16.5 hdcp and a pretty consistent player to around that number.  That's not to say I can't shoot 82, which I did yesterday or 95 when I have 2-3 'disaster holes' over an 18-hole round.  But MOST of the time, I'm between 84-88 which is right in line with my hdcp.  When I manage to play 'good golf,' it would be the 82.  So relative to my 16.5 hdcp, an 82 is definitely good golf.

Just to give you an idea of how GOOD the 82 was, I finished double-triple on 17 and 18.  Just kind of ran out of gas, I guess.

dave

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I agree with everyone who says it's relative to how we play.

There are those who can hit a county mile and those who have control over every part of their game. On the few occasions when I've witnessed those who possess both, it was simply impressive. 

I wonder if during those ProAms or "play with a pro" events, the pros ever think "that guy's pretty good for an amateur".

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I also agree with everyone who says good is a relative term to oneself.  A scratch golfer who shoots an 85 will say he had a horrible day.  A golfer who struggles to break 100 who shoots an 85 will say he had a phenomenal day.

However, if you had to make good a non-relative term in the grand scheme of all golfers, I've always kind of looked at it like this: (and this stems from somewhere, i wish i could dig it up, that stated much more than 50% of golfers don't break 100 when they play.)

 

120+ or worse than double and a half bogey golf is horrible golf

110-120 or between double and double and a half bogey golf is bad golf

100-110 or between bogey and a half and double bogey golf is average golf

90-100 or between bogey and bogey and a half golf is ok golf

80-90 or better than bogey golf is good golf

<80 is great golf

scratch-ish or better is professional golf

 

Edited by bweiss711

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Sorry... I didn't have time earlier to respond. 

12 hours ago, Marty2019 said:

I don't have any comment other than to say I enjoyed reading that.  You're a good writer. 

I'm sure there's a myriad of typographical and grammatical errors, but thank you for the compliment. Don't know that anyone had ever accused me of that... certainly none of my teachers ever did. :-D

9 hours ago, CarlSpackler said:

I remember one time that I was playing a "horrible" round an noticed turkey buzzards circling above. I looked up at them and said, "Please come get me and put me out of my misery!!!":-)

Ha ha. Kind of like "I'd welcome the relief that death will bring"? I've had a few of those rounds but I'd wager the score was better in your horrible round than in mine.

9 hours ago, Gator Hazard said:

I have no idea what good golf is and figure it's relative at best. Good golf to PGA pros is surely different than good golf to us. Congrats on breaking a 100 from those tees however that's great. Don't worry about your score with your friend, stay loose!

Thanks @Gator Hazard. Today's round wasn't too bad. My poor play carried over to the first nine and I was thinking "oh no, here we go". But I did stay loose and ended up playing some respectable bogey golf on the back nine. 

8 hours ago, Patch said:

I also believe that working on one's swing, while playing, (which is a good thing) shouldn't be a big deal, score wise. 

I agree and the score didn't bother me as much as the feeling that I couldn't correct the problem yesterday. After a shaky start this morning, I made one minor adjustment and it seemed to do the trick. The score may not always reflect it, but my confidence level when standing over a shot is a big part in determining how "good" my game is.

8 hours ago, billchao said:

I'll echo what others have said, good is relative to your skill level. As far as I'm concerned, if I play to about my handicap, I had a good day. Great would be shooting lower than it. A bad day would be 5 strokes higher in differential.

I'm just learning about HC, course ratings/slope and differential. Even though I've scored much lower on different courses or from different tees, the 98 I shot from those tees was the lowest differential to date.

When I use "metrics" like a handicap index or average score to assess my game, I have to do so with the understanding that both are different and neither tells the whole story. Scoring average is a pretty good indication of improvement as long as I remember a 92 on one course is not as good as a 98 on another. As far as tracking a HC, one really good round might drop my index, but if I can't repeat it, it's a fluke and won't hold up for long. Still, the handicap system seems to be the standard from which the quality of our games are measured.

7 hours ago, Jeremie Boop said:

I've had the chance to play with some Coed women who play from the men's tees and score well, as in they can shoot in the 70's-low 80's consistently (none of them know what their handicap is because their tournaments are scratch events where handicap doesn't matter) and I've had the chance to play with a young man who was a 1 handicap. What I've learned playing with these individuals is that what is most impressive is their consistency. The ability to hit fairways and greens a majority of the time, was the major difference between them and I. My good shots were as good as theirs, sometimes even better, but they hit more good shots per round than I did. This relates very closely to what you mentioned about the fellow you played with who hit every fairway and made a lot of pars. To me that is "good golf". However, I also agree with the others who say that "good golf" is relative. Someone who is used to scoring under par wouldn't be happy with shooting par or just over par most likely, while someone like myself would love to be able to shoot anywhere near par.

I remember you posting about this last month or the month before. I was a bit envious because you had a chance to witness quality golf. When I watch the LPGA it has nothing to do with the "T's and A's". The top women golfers in the world are just such solid players and it's enjoyable to watch that level of golf.

Reducing the variance between one's best and worst shots seems to be a commonality among the good players.

7 hours ago, dave s said:

Just to give you an idea of how GOOD the 82 was, I finished double-triple on 17 and 18.  Just kind of ran out of gas, I guess.

I can have one or two blowup holes and still finish with a good round. Three or more and it's pretty much over. I rarely score birdies so it's really hard to recover from that much carnage. But it is still kind of fun just to see how well I can finish after starting a round off poorly.

4 hours ago, bweiss711 said:

and this stems from somewhere, i wish i could dig it up, that stated much more than 50% of golfers don't break 100 when they play.)

This had a lot to do with my original post. In my world, the stat highlighted above certainly applies. But my world rarely included playing alongside better players, so I had little reference to how well an honest 14 could play.

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On 9/6/2016 at 3:06 AM, Marty2019 said:

I don't have any comment other than to say I enjoyed reading that.  You're a good writer. 

I also enjoyed reading this. I agree you are a good writer.

I've also pondered this question (how good is good). Just my opinion, I think if you can consistently shoot in the 80's you are pretty good.

I decided next season I'm going to join the Men's Club at my home course so I can find out for sure. Since I shoot in the mid-90s I assume everyone is better than I am, but, I have beaten a couple of people I was paired with. I let myself be impressed watching people hit their driver, but I never watch them putt. That's where they really lose strokes. 

 

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I'm going to agree with almost everyone, I think "good golf" is a relative thing.  It may come down to "a little better than me".  I'm playing the best of my life, and intellectually I understand that my 3 handicap puts me in the top couple percentiles, but I still describe myself as "competent".  Good is somewhere better than where I am.

Looking at it another way, though, a good golfer doesn't necessarily have to play good golf.  I mean a "good golfer" in the sense of someone who is enjoyable to play with, or even to compete against.  Someone who understands etiquette, plays at a reasonable pace, watches his ball as well as the rest of the group, repairs divots and ball marks, lots of other little things that make someone good to play with.  Its not necessarily the quality of the shots, or the total score, but how a golfer treats the course and his playing companions and opponents that makes him (or her) a good golfer in my mind.

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I sometimes wonder for better players if it takes a great putting round to constitute a good round. Just because they will probably hit a good number of greens. If you hit greens then you'll probably have longer first putts, and more likely to two putt. A good player can shoot low single digit and feel like it was an OK round. Though maybe they might hit a high percentage of greens. 

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1 hour ago, saevel25 said:

I sometimes wonder for better players if it takes a great putting round to constitute a good round. Just because they will probably hit a good number of greens. If you hit greens then you'll probably have longer first putts, and more likely to two putt. A good player can shoot low single digit and feel like it was an OK round. Though maybe they might hit a high percentage of greens. 

It seems to me that good golf at the highest level happens with tight approach shots. There will always be one or two long putts that drop, and long putts definitely have to leave tap in pars, but throwing darts is where it's at.

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20 hours ago, iacas said:

I felt like this round wasn't very good:

http://www.gamegolf.com/player/iacas/round/1161074

And yet it was a 71.

I pulled a number of wedges. I hit makable putts just enough right or left that I knew immediately they'd have no chance. That sort of stuff.

I drove the ball well, and didn't make any big mistakes.

But yeah, "good" is relative.

I'm not suggesting that our games are in any way comparable, but I recently shot two 9 hole rounds where the first felt like one of the better rounds I've shot - lots of GIRs. On the next round, I mishit so many tee shots that I was scrambling just to score bogeys. It felt like one of the poorer rounds of the year. The "good" round resulted in a 46. The second, a 47.

Even though I'm fully aware of the effect bad putting has on my scores, I tend to judge my rounds more by how many greens I hit. This was an eye opener probably because these were consecutive rounds. I simply putted better in that "crappy" second round.

2 hours ago, saevel25 said:

I sometimes wonder for better players if it takes a great putting round to constitute a good round. Just because they will probably hit a good number of greens. If you hit greens then you'll probably have longer first putts, and more likely to two putt. A good player can shoot low single digit and feel like it was an OK round. Though maybe they might hit a high percentage of greens. 

Reminds me of the example Erik and Dave use in LSW to describe the importance of the full swing. Hopefully, I remember the story correctly... Dave won a tournament and, statistically, his putting was outstanding. But because of great ball striking, his proximity to the hole was key in sinking a lot of 1 putts.

2 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

I'm going to agree with almost everyone, I think "good golf" is a relative thing.  It may come down to "a little better than me".  I'm playing the best of my life, and intellectually I understand that my 3 handicap puts me in the top couple percentiles, but I still describe myself as "competent".  Good is somewhere better than where I am.

Ok, I'm calling BS on this (:beer:). I get the "relative" aspect, and compared to tour players there's a considerable gap. But c'mon... a low single-digit player cannot be considered anything but good.

3 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

Looking at it another way, though, a good golfer doesn't necessarily have to play good golf.  I mean a "good golfer" in the sense of someone who is enjoyable to play with, or even to compete against.  Someone who understands etiquette, plays at a reasonable pace, watches his ball as well as the rest of the group, repairs divots and ball marks, lots of other little things that make someone good to play with.  Its not necessarily the quality of the shots, or the total score, but how a golfer treats the course and his playing companions and opponents that makes him (or her) a good golfer in my mind.

This is a great perspective. I never even thought of it, but yeah, score is only part of it. Maybe having respect for the game qualifies. Take the 85 y/o I played with who still walks the course, has half the distance he had as a younger man, but still takes pleasure in hitting 'em straight (which he almost always did). He simply loved being out there. How can that person be anything but a "good" player. 

I asked a co-worker of mine once about league play and what it was like for a better player (like him) to be matched up with someone who is not very good. I assumed it wouldn't be a lot of fun. He replied that playing alongside someone with less skill is easy and can often be enjoyable, but those who freak out from poor play can ruin the round for everyone.

6 hours ago, Kalnoky said:

I've also pondered this question (how good is good). Just my opinion, I think if you can consistently shoot in the 80's you are pretty good.

I decided next season I'm going to join the Men's Club at my home course so I can find out for sure. Since I shoot in the mid-90s I assume everyone is better than I am, but, I have beaten a couple of people I was paired with. I let myself be impressed watching people hit their driver, but I never watch them putt. That's where they really lose strokes. 

From my perspective (mid to high 90's) 80's golf is pretty darned good.

Good luck with the club next season. Nothing like a little competition to test your game.

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On September 6, 2016 at 2:07 PM, bweiss711 said:

I also agree with everyone who says good is a relative term to oneself.  A scratch golfer who shoots an 85 will say he had a horrible day.  A golfer who struggles to break 100 who shoots an 85 will say he had a phenomenal day.

However, if you had to make good a non-relative term in the grand scheme of all golfers, I've always kind of looked at it like this: (and this stems from somewhere, i wish i could dig it up, that stated much more than 50% of golfers don't break 100 when they play.)

 

120+ or worse than double and a half bogey golf is horrible golf

110-120 or between double and double and a half bogey golf is bad golf

100-110 or between bogey and a half and double bogey golf is average golf

90-100 or between bogey and bogey and a half golf is ok golf

80-90 or better than bogey golf is good golf

<80 is great golf

scratch-ish or better is professional golf

 

Scratch doesn't even compete for my local club championship, let alone any kind of professional/tour play....

Very simply, it's all relative, based on the ability of the person observing another.  

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2 hours ago, David in FL said:

Scratch doesn't even compete for my local club championship, let alone any kind of professional/tour play....

This just blows me away... the idea that there are so many + players in a given area. As I stated in my OP, I just don't have much experience with the the talent that's out there. The couple of teaching pros I've talked to are "only" low single-digit.

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A 14 handicap on some 3000 yard(middle tee) par 35/36 could mean shooting 39-41. A 14 handicap from the pro tees at Pebble Beach means shooting high 40's. Some people just subtract from par

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1 hour ago, StefanUrkel said:

A 14 handicap on some 3000 yard(middle tee) par 35/36 could mean shooting 39-41. A 14 handicap from the pro tees at Pebble Beach means shooting high 40's. Some people just subtract from par

I believe it. This course is bit harder than most in the area (Blues x2: 6008 yds 70.4/129), but it's no Pebble Beach.

The 14 I mentioned in the OP told me he played in a lot of tournaments so I'm pretty sure his HI was legit. He just happen to shoot a good round of golf that day.

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