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+3 Player - Better to Hit All Fairways or Make All Up-and-Downs Inside 30 Yards?


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I was inclined to hit all fairways because of the importance of the long game in accordance to strokes gained but nearly every response to this tweet is the short game. There’s nothing about what type of course or other factors. There’s no answer either I’ve only scrolled down a couple of screenfuls of the thread. For a higher handicap I would be more assured of my answer and I’ll still stick to hit every fairway but not so sure. 
 

 

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Guaranteed up and down inside 30 yards seems like a no brainer.

Fairways are overrated as long as the ball is in play and not in trouble. They’re still going to miss greens from the fairway.

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Without hesitation, I'd take the up and down inside 30 yards all day long.

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I also agree with the up and down every time 30 yards and in. That's such a tricky area of the game. Also, this would help all areas 30 yards and in. Fairway, rough, first cut, sand, etc. Just seems like it would be overall more beneficial. Not to mention, being in the fairway doesn't always mean having a great lie/shot at the green. Could be side hill, blocked out by obstruction, in a divot....

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Add me to the up and down chorus. On a course like the reno Southern Pines a +3 could easily come out 3-4 shots better. Me? Prolly 10 shots.

I'm only half joking.

Vishal S.

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29 minutes ago, billchao said:

Guaranteed up and down inside 30 yards seems like a no brainer.

Fairways are overrated as long as the ball is in play and not in trouble. They’re still going to miss greens from the fairway.

This!

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Initially, I thought up and down every time. Gosh, if I had that, I’d drop at least 3-4 strokes a round. I’m strong tee to green but phenomenally suck around and on the green.

But even +3 golfers lose a ball off the tee or at least behind a tree. Not sure of occurances per round which is the hard part. But they can certainly add up. I’ll still go with up and down but it’s by a smaller margin than I first thought. 

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I agree with others that fairways are over rated, so I would pick up and down anywhere inside 30 yards.

I am not anywhere near a +3. Looking at my own fairway stats, shotscope says I hit 25% of fairways, and in spite of that, I  think I still manage a combination of 12-14 GIR/nGIR (usually more nGIR than GIR) per round. If I got up and down for every nGIR, I might drop anywhere between 3-10 strokes a round. I assume a +3 would have much less trouble getting GIR/nGIR from off the fairway.

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I thought the same thing most do, that I'd want the up-and-down. Seems like a no-brainer.

I looked at strokes gained out of curiosity.

2022 PGA Tour Strokes gained stats: 

From the tee: #1 ranked player: 1.025 SG, #100: 0.017 SG, #193 (last place): -1.5 SG. Range = 2.575 difference between first and last

Around the green: #1 ranked player: 0.519 SG, #100: 0.026 SG, #193 (last place): -0.747 SG. Range = 1.266 difference between first and last. 

This suggests that at the tour level, a player has more to gain by improving their driving than improving their shots around the green. 

Thoughts? 

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18 minutes ago, Big Lex said:

I thought the same thing most do, that I'd want the up-and-down. Seems like a no-brainer.

I looked at strokes gained out of curiosity.

2022 PGA Tour Strokes gained stats: 

From the tee: #1 ranked player: 1.025 SG, #100: 0.017 SG, #193 (last place): -1.5 SG. Range = 2.575 difference between first and last

Around the green: #1 ranked player: 0.519 SG, #100: 0.026 SG, #193 (last place): -0.747 SG. Range = 1.266 difference between first and last. 

This suggests that at the tour level, a player has more to gain by improving their driving than improving their shots around the green. 

Thoughts? 

That’s a bad way to look at that.

They don’t measure the same thing at all.

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15 minutes ago, Big Lex said:

2022 PGA Tour Strokes gained stats: 

From the tee: #1 ranked player: 1.025 SG, #100: 0.017 SG, #193 (last place): -1.5 SG. Range = 2.575 difference between first and last

Around the green: #1 ranked player: 0.519 SG, #100: 0.026 SG, #193 (last place): -0.747 SG. Range = 1.266 difference between first and last. 

This suggests that at the tour level, a player has more to gain by improving their driving than improving their shots around the green. 

Thoughts? 

I think you are correct. It seems there is more separation value in driving then chipping. BUT...... does just hitting the fairway more often improve a tour player's strokes gained? I argue no. My own Shot Scope stats say I hit the fairway 38% of the time. I would suggest however, there are at least 4 holes on my home course where I don't aim at the fairway... or at least don't mind if I miss it, just as long as I miss it correctly. 

I'm guessing the pros (along with other really good players) also don't always play from the fairway, and don't care if they miss it. 

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The response will vary from person to person.  I'd think a +3 is already fairly good at both of these skills, so it would come down to whether or not the OTT or ARG shots gained boost will help them score better.  

As a 4 handicap, I think the 30 yard up and down at 100% would be better for me.  I generally top out at 260-270, and don't get in trouble off the tee that often.  I don't think ensuring that all my 240-270 yard drives finish in the fairway would be super-helpful. 

If you could up it to 300 yards, all in the fairway, I would pick the drive.

John

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18 minutes ago, ChetlovesMer said:

I argue no.

Yes.

It’s like a 70 yard advantage on every drive that would have gone in the rough.

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For a +3 handicap golfer, who probably hits more greens then they miss. Hitting the fairway more often means they would hit more greens. The driving would have a secondary influence of not having to deal with the short game. Also, +3 golfers probably get up and down more often than not, so the improvement there less. 

Imagine if you had a +3 golfer who hits the ball 290 yards off the tee. Ask him to just drive out, in the middle of the fairway, 290 yards, drop a ball and see what they shoot? I think they would shoot way lower than if they had to hit the tee shot with the assumptions they can try to chip in, but if not then just pick up and take a par. 

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44 minutes ago, iacas said:

Yes.

It’s like a 70 yard advantage on every drive that would have gone in the rough.

I didn't know it was that big of a difference. 
So, if I'm reading this right than a 200 yard drive in the fairway is the same number of strokes gained as a 270 yard drive that's a foot off the fairway? 
Humph.... I wouldn't have guessed that.

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1 hour ago, Big Lex said:

From the tee: #1 ranked player: 1.025 SG, #100: 0.017 SG, #193 (last place): -1.5 SG. Range = 2.575 difference between first and last

Around the green: #1 ranked player: 0.519 SG, #100: 0.026 SG, #193 (last place): -0.747 SG. Range = 1.266 difference between first and last. 

This suggests that at the tour level, a player has more to gain by improving their driving than improving their shots around the green. 

That's a bad way of looking at it and they don't measure the same thing at all, because… SG:OTT is pretty much the same # for each player in every round (14 times).

SG:ATG first off includes shots from outside 30 yards and in (to the hole), and secondly (more importantly), isn't a uniform measurement because it's a counting stat of sorts: players who miss more greens have more chances to gain or lose strokes. A poor approach shot player who has a great short game can gain more strokes because they have more short game shots over a player with the same quality of short game who hits more greens. They both might scramble at 75%, and yet… the "guaranteed up and down" would benefit the player who missed more greens more than the one who didn't, even though their short games are just as good as each other's.

1 hour ago, ChetlovesMer said:

It seems there is more separation value in driving then chipping. BUT...... does just hitting the fairway more often improve a tour player's strokes gained? I argue no.

Again, yes.

Let's say you hit it so that you have 160 yards left to the hole. On the PGA Tour, every time you're in the fairway instead of the rough, that's over a quarter of a shot difference. Let's say hitting the fairway gives you 20 yards more roll, now you're looking at 3.23 - 2.91 = almost a third of a shot (0.32).

The math here isn't too complex IF we use PGA Tour stats. I'm surprised nobody has done this yet.

  • The average PGA Tour player hits 60% of his fairways. That's about 8.4 fairways per round, missing 5.6. 5.6 * 0.25 = 1.4 strokes per round.*
  • The average PGA Tour player hits 12 GIR/round, leading to 6 up-and-down chances. They get up and down 86% of the time from 0-10 yards, 64% of the time from 10-20, and 52% of the time from 20-30 yards. The average of those§ is 67%. So you might think getting up and down from within 30 yards is 2 shots.

Now, the * and the § mean that I have more to say…

* This assumes no penalty shots, and that the drives that miss the fairways are always just in "rough." Take even one penalty stroke every other round, or one obstructed shot, etc. and this number goes up about 0.5. Hitting the fairway is important for a good player. It matters less for a poorer player.

§ Averaging these assume that players are missing the greens equally, and that's not true. The distribution for good players (and all players, really) are weighted heavily toward the "closer to the green" side of things. That means shorter shots (and higher scrambling percentages) are favored. This reduces the "2 shots." I also think the times a player doesn't get up and down (i.e. they take 3+ shots) are offset by the times they hole out, while this question never assumes you hole out. You always get up and down. Also, the PGA Tour stats only count the shot where you miss the green with your approach shot. If you're greenside in 5, the stat isn't tracked.

More below.

56 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

For a +3 handicap golfer, who probably hits more greens then they miss. Hitting the fairway more often means they would hit more greens. The driving would have a secondary influence of not having to deal with the short game.

Yes, but we can account for that in looking at the chart above (if we had one for +3s).

56 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

Also, +3 golfers probably get up and down more often than not, so the improvement there less.

It's probably not 66% though.

23 minutes ago, ChetlovesMer said:

I didn't know it was that big of a difference.
So, if I'm reading this right than a 200 yard drive in the fairway is the same number of strokes gained as a 270 yard drive that's a foot off the fairway? 
Humph.... I wouldn't have guessed that.

I mean… the chart above… 180 fairway = 3.08, 100 rough = 3.02.


All that said, I think it's a good question because the real answer is probably "it's quite close." I don't think it's a slam dunk "take the short game."

  • That said, if you KNEW you were going to hit the fairway, you could really lay into the ball. You might hit it 20-30 yards farther if you knew you couldn't miss the fairway.
  • If you KNEW you couldn't fail but to get up and down, you could more aggressively go at flags, because at worst you guarantee par and you might make some more birdies. And so long as your tee shots let you get near the green, you could also rip it a bit more there because if you could get within 30 yards, you're again guaranteed a par.

I have to imagine that neither of those bullet points are part of the question, though.

Of course, the differences are dependent too on how far you hit it, how many fairways you miss (and what the cost is when you do), how good or bad your short game is… etc.

And of course, that chart is PGA Tour players, not +3s.

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  • iacas changed the title to +3 Player - Better to Hit All Fairways or Make All Up-and-Downs Inside 30 Yards?

I was referring to strokes gained around the green, not approach the green. 

Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
Strokes gained: around-the-green measures player performance on any shot within 30 yards of the edge of the green. This statistic does not include any shots taken on the putting green.

JP Bouffard

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