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iacas

Blaming Strategy? Or Execution?

READ THE FIRST POST - The poll is only tangential  

66 members have voted

  1. 1. Jack Nicklaus caddies for an average 18 handicapper in one round and can only advise on course strategies… How many strokes does the golfer save?

    • 0
      3
    • 1-2
      31
    • 3-5
      22
    • 6-8
      8
    • 9+
      2


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Bob Ross, a 14-handicapper is 240 yards out from a par five after his tee shot. There are some greenside bunkers, from which the player is average for his handicap level, and little other trouble except way to the right and left where the usual group of trees and bushes separate holes on this lovely golf course.

He chooses to hit his three-wood, which normally travels about 220, and promptly slices the bejeezus out of it into the happy trees.

Was this a failure of strategy? Or execution?

We can't say. Not without more information.

If we knew that Bob normally hits his 3W 180-220 yards within an area about 40 or 45 yards wide, we can say that his strategy was fine. He simply failed to execute as he normally does.

If, on the other hand, he normally hits his 3W poorly from the fairway, and only really hits it well when he can tee it up a little, then it was a failure to plan or strategize properly. Perhaps, if this golfer has a hybrid that he hits well, or a 7-wood, that would have been the better strategic choice that follows "The Rule" from LSW.


Like the old "I'd be a much better player with a better mental game" excuse, golfers are quick to blame strategy when their execution is actually what deserves the blame.

I concocted this chart relatively quickly to describe what I see from players:

strategy_vs_execution.pngAs you can see, pros have almost no execution mistakes (they double-cross themselves or fat a wedge now and then, but they're good, so they don't do it very often). They also make strategic mistakes infrequently - they're good at shooting low scores, after all - but they do still make them.

On the high end of the handicap range, the execution errors start to vastly outnumber the strategic errors.

Yet think back to Bob. Most likely, most of Bob's 3-woods match the first description: they go 180-220 yards into an area 40-50 yards wide. Had he pulled that shot off, he'd have been fine. He failed to execute.

Yet far too often, average golfers blame their strategy. Why? I think for the same reason that they're often quick to blame "their mental game" or some other distraction like "Oh, I rushed that one" or something.

Again, why? Because it's easier. Strategy is something you can change in an instant, which requires no actual work. It softens the blow and feeds the ego. It's much easier to think to yourself "I could have made birdie there if I'd just chosen differently."

But be real with yourself: if you're not breaking 80 or 90, your execution mistakes vastly outnumber your strategic mistakes. You're not making bogeys and doubles because you're choosing poorly, you're simply not hitting good shots, and you can't shave 50% of the strokes off your handicap just by making better choices.

Yet golfers love to seek the quick fix. They love to think that a big improvement is just around the corner, whether it's by buying a new driver or putter, taking a few quick-fix type lessons, reading a tip in Golf Digest, or, often, by flipping a magical switch so that every decision they make is the perfect one every time.

It's not like that. Good golf, and improving at golf, takes work, and that work should be directed toward hitting better golf shots.


I've added a poll to the article.

I chose 1-2 shots. On a 35-footer downhill, Nicklaus would advise the player to hit the putt softly and look to cozy it up by the hole… but the average golfer already thinks that type of thing. They're not going out there ramming those putts (on purpose, anyway). Nicklaus can say "hit the middle of this green from 150 yards out," but the average golfer isn't trying to chunk it into the front right bunker… and he'll do that with Nicklaus advising him all the same.

If Nicklaus was allowed to watch the golfer play ten or twenty rounds, the number could go up to 3, 4, even 5… but that's about the limit.

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As you say, the possible improvement would come in the form of forcing the player to make strategic decisions based on minimizing tactical mistakes.  Decisions he wouldn't ever make on his own.

So.....  I'll say 1-2 maybe.  Just as likely zero because, let's face it, a high handicap player is just as capable of muffing an easier "smart" play as any other.

 

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I answered the question with a 9. 

I'm a 14 handicap (although not officialy) I can tell you that with expert green reading advice, I would save 5 putting strokes,  club selection 2 and a little vote of confidence and relax chatting another 2. I would imagine an 18 would be close to that.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

execution is actually what deserves the blame.

Absolutely!

I may not be typical and am not an 18, but this isn't even close. I play the same course almost every week. I know every nook and cranny, every fairway and every green on it. Of course failure to execute is the reason I score so high.

It's not uncommon to play a new course and not realize there's a hidden hazard on the other side of a hill, for example. But unfamiliarity would account for 1, maybe 2 strokes per round. Greens might be a different story. But again, if I played a course with flat greens I'd still miss makable putts.

BTW, having Jack - or any other pro for that matter - watching me play could only cost me strokes. :-D

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1 hour ago, Hategolf said:

I answered the question with a 9. 

I'm a 14 handicap (although not officialy) I can tell you that with expert green reading advice, I would save 5 putting strokes,  club selection 2 and a little vote of confidence and relax chatting another 2. I would imagine an 18 would be close to that.

I could have been clearer in the OP, but Green Reading is not "strategic." Please re-vote, @Hategolf.

I also doubt you'd save five strokes putting unless it's a really glaring weakness… but that's a whole different topic. (Green Reading is an SV③ skill, but the SCOR for 80s shooters as 0.15/21 = 3.15. If you shoot in the 90s, you're still only at 0.2*24 = 4.8.)

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I re-voted. I selected 3 to 5 this time removing green reading advice.

Advice on club selection should save 3 strokes, not so much from the tee as most higher handicappers would tend to be conservative when trying to score better, but rather on approach shots. In my case and people I play with I found we hit shorter irons short of the green but somehow we don't club up. Another 2 on chip vs bump and run and such.

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I renamed the title of the poll as I feel like most people are just reading the poll and not the first post very much.

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I feel like my execution errors are dropping a little bit, and my strategic errors are not yet. But I think that my game is in flux right now, but discipline can save strokes. For instance, I have begun to try to make one good practice. swing before every shot; two if I am in some difficult or uneven lie. I still forget on some shots, but this has lowered my score. I have begun doing a countdown from 5 before my drive, to sort of go through stuff mentally, this has cut strokes since I usually slice when I fail to concentrate on a hole. I rarely slice when I go through my routine.  The slice happens at address, if you ask me.

Figuring out which club to use based on wind conditions is another place where I make mistakes, but I feel like they will drop over time as experience grows. I suppose if I was playing at the same level for years and said this, I can see how people would roll their eyes. I make mistakes sometimes because as I improve ball-striking I get longer. Yesterday I hit the same six iron I always did on a certain par three, when there was no wind, and overdrove it by 15 yards.  Next time it will be a seven iron, and if I come up short, I know it is an execution error, but yesterday, it was a strategic error.

So I think the answer depends on where the golfer is on their journey. I have spend many hours and a few lessons working on execution, guided by pros, but strategy is something that I feel like I am on my own, and I have to learn by trial and error. Do I think that if I hit the perfect club each time and aimed at the correct line I would break 80? No. 

If the player isn't improving every month, leaving the "strategy' excuse behind in a year or two after he acquires some skill, then I agree.

Not taking lessons is a strategic decision...

Edited by Moppy

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7 hours ago, iacas said:

Yet far too often, average golfers blame their strategy. Why? I think for the same reason that they're often quick to blame "their mental game" or some other distraction like "Oh, I rushed that one" or something.

This misconception is an issue because the way we practice is responsible for our good and bad shots.

If we don't adjust, and improve our practice methods the best we can hope for is to maintain whatever our ability to execute is. Obviously not ideal if we're uncomfortable with our current scoring trends.

Being oblivious to this is a reason you know guys that are athletically competent who fail to emerge into lower scoring thresholds.

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I voted 3-5 with 3 being most likely?  I assume Jack would keep Bob from under clubbing (common fault), shooting at tucked pins, going for greens with fairway woods when the likely result is a bunker or odd lie.

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It would be a bit different if Nicklaus knew the guys game but I voted 1-2.

I know when I was shooting mid nineties strategy wasn't very important.  I'd have just as much chance of mishitting a lay up as a full drive so might as well play aggressive.

Now that I can play a little better there's more strategy involved.  

 

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3 hours ago, bkuehn1952 said:

I voted 3-5 with 3 being most likely?  I assume Jack would keep Bob from under clubbing (common fault), shooting at tucked pins, going for greens with fairway woods when the likely result is a bunker or odd lie.

Players don't do those things nearly as often as you seem to think. And even if they aim for the fat side of the green, they still chunk it in the bunker or water or shank it into the trees, or blade it over the green…

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2 minutes ago, iacas said:

Players don't do those things nearly as often as you seem to think. And even if they aim for the fat side of the green, they still chunk it in the bunker or water or shank it into the trees, or blade it over the green…

Just not as often as the average golfer.   It's easy to imagine them hitting perfect shots all of the time because of what we see on TV.   Usually, on TV, we only see the leaders which don't make too many mistakes. 

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34 minutes ago, dennyjones said:

Just not as often as the average golfer.   It's easy to imagine them hitting perfect shots all of the time because of what we see on TV.   Usually, on TV, we only see the leaders which don't make too many mistakes. 

I meant that players - the average golfer being discussed - don't "fire at tucked pins" or those other things nearly as often as some seem to think. The whole point of the thread is to say that they don't make that many strategic mistakes - they mostly make errors in execution.

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I chose zero. An 18 capper is still fairly experienced (atleast 1-2 years of playing) golfer. Don't think the reason they would not hit a green from 130 y out is because they chose to fire at a pin.

A chunk is a skull is a chunk is a skull. No strategy would account for that. 

For me if I loose shots other than execution is if I misjudge wind/carry, and over-club or under-club, which is not a 'strategy' error.

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I thought I commented but apparently never hit submit...

I voted 1-2 based largely on experiences in my own game and around others, but most people who are at least a bogey golfer have a general idea of strategy and what not to do, enough so that a good caddie won't help much. I can't say zero because there are times where a caddie can help in terms of shot selection or how to play a certain hole that can save strokes.

56 minutes ago, iacas said:

Players don't do those things nearly as often as you seem to think. And even if they aim for the fat side of the green, they still chunk it in the bunker or water or shank it into the trees, or blade it over the green…

 I agree with this. I think better players tend to forget or don't realize just how bad an 18 is at golf. Too many times I make bogey on a par 4 after hitting a perfect drive and then flubbing a short approach where there is literally zero strategy involved, just a simple wedge onto the green. 100% execution failure.

If a player can hit decent shots consistently, they're not likely to be an 18 for long.

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On 5/29/2017 at 0:12 PM, JonMA1 said:

I play the same course almost every week. I know every nook and cranny, every fairway and every green on it. Of course failure to execute is the reason I score so high.

Yes, I agree with this. I know my home course(s) very well, I don't make strategic mistakes. I make mishits: pull or overcorrect and push, which results in a missed green and bogie. Or occasionally pop my driver up for a short drive, which gives me a longer club into the green = bogie 60% of the time.   

I think Nicklaus would probably save me 3-5 strokes a round in strategy. Where I sometimes am indecisive is in the rough around the greens, where I should be able to scramble for par. I see different lies, different types of grass, and I sometimes choose the wrong club or make the wrong play.

But, I think if Nicklaus would play with me I imagine he would mostly tell me to slow down and relax, and trust my swing. 

 

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