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Lihu

Why do so many golfers think short game is holding them back?

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Related to this topic is how lots of people talk about what they could've shot or would've shot.  "I had a great round, shot 81, and it could have been 77!"  "I shot 92, but I should have been able to keep it in the 80s."  When they talk like that they are almost always taking about the putts they missed or the times they failed to get up and down.  It's like it's a given that their long game shots end up where they end up and the game is really how you chip and put.

"Shot 81 but it could have been 77":  right, if you made everything inside 10 feet and still hit the ball above average like you did.  But what if you didn't get those lucky breaks on your long game?  Or what if you drove it how you normally do?  Then it could have been 87 also.

My last round I shot 91, but it should have been 69!  If I only bombed it down the fairway every hole like I sometimes do, nailed every iron shot to the middle of the green like I sometimes do, pitched it real close on par 5s like I sometimes do, and just putted medium bad the way I did.

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So I'm decent at the long game....happily.  Except for just plain big errors, I'm ok with this today.  for now.  there's always more to improve. 

So, for now, yeah, I'd tend to want to minimize long game errors and also find gains in my short game.  But  "Short Game"  depends on what you mean......  so ordered from least benefit to most opportunity (in my uninformed mind)

I'm a mediocre putter, but I don't 3 putt that often.  There's a "little" I could get from there.  So not that 'short game'.  Now, my putting stroke is crappy and a few lessons wouldn't hurt, I'm very twitchy.  But I know what a 'great' day is for me and I suspect that I could find that feeling and make a more regular occurence.

Chipping and short pitching from just off the green?  that's not too bad, frankly, there's bad putting days when I 'feel' like I'd rather be chipping.  so not that 'short game'

Approaches outside of 60 yards to about 120 or so?  that's the fun area, but I do well enough that I'm not frustrated.  I'd like lessons and improvement, but it's not yet on the radar.  so not that 'short game'  (but this does have payoff, it's just not on the top of the list.)

Specialty shots (sand, odd lies near the green, touchy tidbits) - I could improve there.

Now - short game - inside about 60 yards to what I'd consider 'long' chips to try and get up and down.  This is where I invariably see a great opportunity and tank the shot again and again and leave myself WAY out in 'long layup' range.  I see this more often than not as my long game is good.  But I don't cash in the payoff when I hammer a great drive on a par 4 or a good 2nd shot on a par 5.....  I get closer on approaches from 60-120 yards it seems.  I think I could get much better scores if I improved in this area....  (these are confidence shots in my mind where you have to take a nice FIRM swing and make clean contact).  I want these shots, I don't believe that laying back is an advantage.  I believe the win is being able to cash in when you are extra near.

 

That said, I like my game, it's not great, but I'm finally stepping up to each whole and thinkin 'par' is just how I should score, I'm finally walking up to approach shots and expecting to get on the green rather than 'hoping' to get on the green.  It's a nice place to be.

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1 hour ago, Vinny Cap said:

I think Patch summed it up pretty good as I see so many golfers spending all their time on the driver.... that 300yd  drive is more important than anything else.

Not for me.  I spend most of my practice time on bump n runs, flops, chips, pitches and putting.  I would rather hit my 3W shorter and be in the middle of the fairway and have a nice 5i into the green and hope to get up n down that fly a 300yd drive and 3 chip and 3 put for the dreaded Snowman!  My 2C

If you ran that same scenario 100 times, where you hit 3 wood then 5 iron into the green, and another player of similar handicap hits 300 yd drive then only has chips and putts left, the person with the 300 yard drive will shoot lower than you will, guaranteed. @iacas wrote a book dedicated to this exact topic. Proximity to the hole on your approach shot is directly related to the distance that you are from the hole. 

Sure maybe a few times that person might flub 3 chips and then 3 putt resulting in a 7 (not 8), but over time those will balance out with the times they chip on and 2 putt for a par, or chip on and 1 putt for a birdie. 

You are probably not getting on the green all that often with the full 5 iron since you said "and hope to get up n down" for a par. So you are going to have to 1 putt the majority of the time just to save par (not realistic), and at a 16 handicap there will be some 3 putts in there too so those would be a 6. 

Lets pretend you and this other player of similar handicap are equal putters. Hypothetically you both 2 putt every single hole. no one putts, no 3 putts. I would bet a lot of money that someone with similar handicap as yourself would be able to chip (10-30yds?) and get on the green at a much higher percentage than you would being back in the fairway with a 5 iron. 

 

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17 minutes ago, allenc said:

Related to this topic is how lots of people talk about what they could've shot or would've shot.

for many that this isn't bragging or excuses, it's just another shorthand way of verbalizing where one thinks they need to practice or work on and then quantifying how that would improve their game

I'd not let it bother me and rather try to hear it as someone saying "I left a lot of opportunities out there and need to work on ..........."

Edited by rehmwa

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I think its mostly because a lot of players don't record their stats and if they do they don't analyze them properly. It also could be that when they mean they hit it solid they just mean near the center of the club face, not necessarily the right direction. They could hit it in the middle of the face all day but if it's pointing wide open that isn't going to do them any good.

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14 minutes ago, klineka said:

If you ran that same scenario 100 times, where you hit 3 wood then 5 iron into the green, and another player of similar handicap hits 300 yd drive then only has chips and putts left, the person with the 300 yard drive will shoot lower than you will, guaranteed. @iacas wrote a book dedicated to this exact topic. Proximity to the hole on your approach shot is directly related to the distance that you are from the hole. 

Sure maybe a few times that person might flub 3 chips and then 3 putt resulting in a 7 (not 8), but over time those will balance out with the times they chip on and 2 putt for a par, or chip on and 1 putt for a birdie. 

You are probably not getting on the green all that often with the full 5 iron since you said "and hope to get up n down" for a par. So you are going to have to 1 putt the majority of the time just to save par (not realistic), and at a 16 handicap there will be some 3 putts in there too so those would be a 6. 

Lets pretend you and this other player of similar handicap are equal putters. Hypothetically you both 2 putt every single hole. no one putts, no 3 putts. I would bet a lot of money that someone with similar handicap as yourself would be able to chip (10-30yds?) and get on the green at a much higher percentage than you would being back in the fairway with a 5 iron. 

 

Maybe I worded this wrong as that is not how I play every hole.  I was kinda generalizing the average bogey or +bogey golfer.

That would be me on a par 5 so if I was on the green putting for eagle, cool!  If I missed the green I would be going up and down for birdie and if I 2 putted it would be a par.

On par 4's I am trying D down the middle to be inside 100 and a GW to the green looking for birdie.

I will have to update my index as I have not changed it since last summer and have had some decent rounds this year.

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I don't think most people have a good long game or are good ballstrikers - they are too inconsistent. I think a poor short game is the last refuge of a poor long game. They want their short game to save them, and it can't most of the time, and as a result, they blame their short game.

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I think there are a few reasons this happens. One of them is that people watch the pros on the tv and they know that they'll never be able to drive it like Dustin Johnson. They are physically incapable of doing that. But there is no physical restriction that prevents them from chipping and putting like the pros do. So they watch all these incredible short game shots and they think "I should be able to do that too". Conveniently forgetting that those pros are working on those shots every day and they play once a week. So part of it is a false expectation. 

To put that another way, you watch Jordan Spieth hole a 20 foot putt and you've done that. There's no reason you can't do it again. You watch DJ carry one 320 in the air over a fairway bunker that you couldn't reach with a driver and a wedge and you've never done that and never will. So you don't expect to drive it like DJ, but you do expect to putt like Spieth. 

The other thing is on a strokes gained basis, the variance you'll see in your long game is likely pretty low. If you are a -10 strokes gained player tee to green, you're not going to be getting to -5 strokes gained for a round. Just won't happen. If you're a -2 strokes gained putting type player, you can have a round where you hole a few longer ones and, for that round, you wind up being a +3 strokes gained putter. 

allenc also made a great observation. When you think back on your round, you typically think "if I hadn't three putted three times and if I'd holed out from 6 feet and in, I'd have been six shots better". I do that a lot. Rarely do I think back to long game shots, unless it's something egregious like hitting it OOB. Otherwise it's just too hard to see those shots being frittered. A drive in the rough costs you something, but it doesn't feel like a stroke. A missed 6 foot putt feels like a stroke gone. A failed up and down from 10 yards away in the fringe feels like a stroke gone and a 3 putt from 40 feet feels like a stroke gone. It's much easier to pinpoint.

I've had arguments with people at times about a match between two hybrid players. Player A is you from outside 50 yards and Tiger Woods in his prime from inside 50 yards. Player B is Tiger Woods in his prime from outside 50 yards and you from inside 50 yards. It's scary how many people think that player A will beat player B. If your name is Lee Westwood, maybe. If I haven't heard of you, then no. I think that's part and parcel of the same idea.

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11 hours ago, Lihu said:

Are there any long hitting solid ball striking people out there who can't putt to save their lives?

For some of us, everything is holding us back.

My limited distance is offset by the fact I play shorter courses. While that effects my HC, it doesn't affect my average. Lack of distance is not the reason my scores are so high. 

Full Swing: For most of the season, what got me in trouble is that it only took a few wayward shots to counter the more frequent solidly hit shots. (That has shifted recently. Penalties have been down but my inability to hit GIR's has diminished. For the last several rounds it has become as costly as my poor putting.)

Pitching and Chipping: Getting on the green is easy. Getting to within a few feet of the cup, not so much. This part of my game costs strokes but not as many as putting.

Putting: I'm one of those who would blame this part of my game as the most costly. It's not because I have a good full swing, it's because my putting is that much poorer.

Combine my poor putting with a mid 80's golfer's full swing and they're no longer an 80's golfer. Combine my poor putting with my full swing and you get high 90's or >100 scores.

Pretty simple.


Stats show the full swing is more important... no argument. A full swing takes so much more time to develop and is more valuable.

But you can't excel at the full swing, suck at the other parts of the game, and expect to score well. This is just my opinion and not based on all that much experience, but better players are good at everything.

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9 minutes ago, JonMA1 said:

Pitching and Chipping: Getting on the green is easy. Getting to within a few feet of the cup, not so much. This part of my game costs strokes but not as many as putting.

Realistic expectations are important. The best player on the PGA Tour last year averaged 6'2" (and has terrible fashion sense). For an amateur, being on the green in one stroke is the goal. When I hit it inside of my handicap # of feet, then I consider that a good shot.

15 minutes ago, JonMA1 said:

Combine my poor putting with a mid 80's golfer's full swing and they're no longer an 80's golfer. Combine my poor putting with my full swing and you get high 90's or >100 scores.

I know we've talked about this before, but a glaring weakness shpuld be addressed. You need to shift your practice priorities so that putting is not longer the weakest part of your game. The upside is, putting is the easiest part of golf to improve.

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12 minutes ago, JonMA1 said:

For some of us, everything is holding us back. . .

Obviously no one argues your points, but if speed is a limitation are you working on that?

The point of this thread is not to target any individual, but rather the general feeling I get when reading these sites that most golfers feel like short game is holding them back.

What I think and am observing about bad holes versus good ones is a string of bad shots starting at the tee box. It can go sour with any long game shot, but generally starts with a bad tee shot on a standard parkland course layout.

So, if the tee shot or approach shots are bad, you'd need to chip from whatever distance to get a par putt. Then you'd need to turn that potentially long putt into a par by making it. If you miss it, do you blame your tee shot or approach shot? If you blame your approach shot was your tee shot putting you in a position to make a decent approach?

So, I think the 30 putt figure for scratch golfers is so low not because they can putt better than the rest of us by a huge amount, but because they are in a position where they don't need to 2 or 3 putt every hole. Their scrambling statistics are better because they are again, closer to the hole and can make a less aggressive simple chip near the hole for an up and down.

To me, it kind of all fits together in a package that requires a decent long game.

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9 minutes ago, billchao said:

Realistic expectations are important. The best player on the PGA Tour last year averaged 6'2" (and has terrible fashion sense). For an amateur, being on the green in one stroke is the goal. When I hit it inside of my handicap # of feet, then I consider that a good shot.

I wasn't talking about expectations. In order to get up and down, I'd have to chip it to within a few feet for a realistic chance. Because that doesn't happen, I don't score pars. But as I said, chipping and pitching don't cost me as much as putting. That was more my point.

15 minutes ago, billchao said:

I know we've talked about this before, but a glaring weakness shpuld be addressed. You need to shift your practice priorities so that putting is not longer the weakest part of your game. The upside is, putting is the easiest part of golf to improve.

I would have agreed with this up until the last month. It has become apparent recently that there are not enough hours in the day for me to maintain my skills, much less improve on others. I let up on my iron practice to devote more time to the driver. The driver improves and I cut down on penalties, but the irons diminish and suddenly I can't buy a GIR. It's not like I develop a skill and keep it.

But you're right and this thread isn't about me. For others, simply allocate practice time to a glaring weakness. And I agree, putting should be an easier part of golf to improve.

26 minutes ago, Lihu said:

What I think and am observing about bad holes versus good ones is a string of bad shots starting at the tee box. It can go sour with any long game shot, but generally starts with a bad tee shot on a standard parkland course layout.

I think you're close with this statement, but there's more. Other's have said this many times and I believe it's true...  par 5's are harder for higher cappers because it offer more chances to expose our weakness - which is normally the full swing and with longer clubs. However, even a perfect drive followed by a beautiful second long iron shot doesn't guarantee a successful wedge shot for a GIR. And a GIR doesn't guarantee a 2-putt.

When we struggle at this game, we struggle at more than one part of it. It's not as easy as saying "every part of your game is good except for this one thing". Again, just an uneducated opinion.

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1 hour ago, JonMA1 said:

I think you're close with this statement, but there's more. Other's have said this many times and I believe it's true...  par 5's are harder for higher cappers because it offer more chances to expose our weakness - which is normally the full swing and with longer clubs. However, even a perfect drive followed by a beautiful second long iron shot doesn't guarantee a successful wedge shot for a GIR. And a GIR doesn't guarantee a 2-putt.

When we struggle at this game, we struggle at more than one part of it. It's not as easy as saying "every part of your game is good except for this one thing". Again, just an uneducated opinion.

This is not what quite what I was saying, but I agree that golf has no guarantees which is kind of why it's fun.

What I was trying to convey is that the 30 putt stat for scratch golfers is because their tee shot and approach shots put them into a position where they don't have to make miraculous putts. Furthermore, that their great scrambling stats come from once again having a great long game so they're not making miraculous chips.

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@Lihu, I can answer your question with one sentence. 

They don't know that the short game, while important, is probably not the thing that is holding them back the MOST.

My short game holds me back, sure. (I have statistical proof of this point). But it's not where I need to improve the most... I'm not going to include every shot inside 100 yards, because up until 50 yards, most of that is some sort of full swing motion. From 50 yards and in, in October I averaged almost 3.1 strokes to hole out. Is there room for improvement there, sure... 

But the key thing is the easiest way to improve your short game, Hit more GIR, and if you miss, nGIR so your short game, is shorter. 

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@Lihu, I was unclear in my original reply to your question of why so many golfers think their short game holds them back. I apologize. Let me start over.

First, I don't personally know that many players at my level who believe their full swing is better than their putting. Most have ok putting games and are aware of the need to work on their full swing. I tried to google a national poll but couldn't find one. Maybe you could add a poll?

Second, of those making that claim, is it not possible a better short game would improve their scores?

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2 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

@Lihu, I was unclear in my original reply to your question of why so many golfers think their short game holds them back. I apologize. Let me start over.

First, I don't personally know that many players at my level who believe their full swing is better than their putting. Most have ok putting games and are aware of the need to work on their full swing. I tried to google a national poll but couldn't find one. Maybe you could add a poll?

Second, of those making that claim, is it not possible a better short game would improve their scores?

I think the amount of improvement depends upon how bad is a golfer's short game. It's kind of a hyperbolic improvement if he already has an adequate one.

For instance, if a golfer can already make half of his 6 foot putts along with other equivalent skill level putts, chip within 3 feet half the time from 20 yards and all the equivalent level short game skills then he really can't improve it that much more.

On the other hand, if he's missing 80 percent of his 3 foot putts, then he can improve a lot.

6 hours ago, onthehunt526 said:

@Lihu, I can answer your question with one sentence. 

They don't know that the short game, while important, is probably not the thing that is holding them back the MOST.

My short game holds me back, sure. (I have statistical proof of this point). But it's not where I need to improve the most... I'm not going to include every shot inside 100 yards, because up until 50 yards, most of that is some sort of full swing motion. From 50 yards and in, in October I averaged almost 3.1 strokes to hole out. Is there room for improvement there, sure... 

But the key thing is the easiest way to improve your short game, Hit more GIR, and if you miss, nGIR so your short game, is shorter. 

Exactly my point. A month ago, my short game was holding me back a lot but it really didn't take a lot to improve it.

The last thing I'd do is to improve the short game, until I needed to score well. Once I wanted to do that it was only the matter of 2 lessons and 2 clinics to improve it to an adequate level.

Basically, everyone misses 20 foot putts most of the time.

Edited by Lihu

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When you think about things like hazards, OB, trees and penalty strokes, the longer shots are the big difference makers and deserve the most attention. Still, it's amazing how bad the short game can be. Some of us bleed plenty of strokes around the greens as well. You get close and think it ought to be easy. The green is just a few yards away. The hole is just sitting there. Just a little nudge with the ole iron or wedge and it will be a tap-in. Then you skull it or chunk it and still aren't on the green. It really comes off feeling like you missed the ball entirely. It's a stroke where you haven't even managed to get the ball closer to the hole. That's hard to take emotionally.

Most of this stuff can be quantified. I often keep my putting totals on my scorecard. You could do the same with short-game shots. That would give the individual golfer a good look at where the most damage is coming from.

In my case, bad days can start at the tee and work their way down to the green. Good days nearly always mean fairways and few to no penalty strokes off the tee. 

 

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