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Herkimer

Great Ball Striking

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How many times have you heard that this player or that player is a "great ballstriker?"  We hear it all the time.  What makes one tour player a better ballstriker than another?  If you take the top 20 PGA Tour players, are some better ballstrikers than the other?  If so, how do you define "ballstriking" and what do you look at to determine if one player is a great ballstriker?  Can it even be defined?  Secondly, how would one become a great ballstriker?  Can you be a great golfer but not a great ballstriker? 

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An uneducated answer from me would be "ball striking" = great iron play.  One may not be the longest or most accurate driver of the ball but after that, iron play takes over.  Put an iron in your hand and you are going to have a chance at par or birdie if you are a great ball striker.

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22 minutes ago, Herkimer said:

Can you be a great golfer but not a great ballstriker? 

If you consider all PGA Tour golfers to be great golfers, but not all of them to be great ballstrikers, then they are.

Even a scratch golfer can be both a horrible ballstriker (compared to a PGA Tour player) and a great ballstriker (compared to a bogey golfer).

And an 18 handicapper could be a great ball-striker… if he's a 90-year-old former Tour player who is only an 18 because he hits his driver only 150 yards.

You've asked questions for which there aren't really any answers, because everyone's going to picture a different frame of reference.

But, in general:

  • You can learn to become a better ballstriker, of course.
  • "Ballstriking" at its core is hitting the ball on the sweet spot a higher percentage of the time, with good impact alignments (the right amount of shaft lean, etc.).

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I don't see how a scratch golfer can be a horrible ballstriker compared to anyone.  Everyone knows how great scratch golfers are -- pro or amateur.  They must be striking the ball very well -- or so it seems to me. 

You never hear how great a ballstriker Jack Nicklaus was, yet you always hear how great a ballstriker Lee Trevino was.  I'm a big fan of both.  But when it comes to talking about "great ballstrikers," you never hear the name Jack Nicklaus.  (And you always hear the name Moe Norman.) 

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5 minutes ago, Herkimer said:

I don't see how a scratch golfer can be a horrible ballstriker compared to anyone.

Compared to a PGA Tour player… they're not great.

The gap between a PGA Tour player and a scratch golfer might be larger than the gap between a scratch golfer and an 18 handicapper.

6 minutes ago, Herkimer said:

You never hear how great a ballstriker Jack Nicklaus was, yet you always hear how great a ballstriker Lee Trevino was.  I'm a big fan of both.  But when it comes to talking about "great ballstrikers," you never hear the name Jack Nicklaus.  (And you always hear the name Moe Norman.) 

Jack was. You have to be to have won as many tournaments as he did.

Same with Phil Mickelson, given what we know about what it takes to win on the PGA Tour.

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Jack was one of the great ballstrikers of all time.  This is my point exactly.  I think certain golfers known as "ballstrikers" has become a meme when others are just as good but never mentioned. 

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7 hours ago, Herkimer said:

Jack was one of the great ballstrikers of all time.  This is my point exactly.  I think certain golfers known as "ballstrikers" has become a meme when others are just as good but never mentioned. 

If we think of the definition that Erik gave,

"Ballstriking" at its core is hitting the ball on the sweet spot a higher percentage of the time, with good impact alignments

and add

with the result of very small dispersion of the their shots in both distance and side to side width

and add

the result being proximity to the hole being consistently better than PGA Tour average.

then you have the reason Jack was a great ball striker, as was Lee and Tiger and (insert great PGA Tour golfers name here).

That is the difference between a good Tour ball striker and a great one. They consistently get closer to the pin with great ball striking and strategy against the course and elements.

Put a PGA Tour player, even a lower tier one, against a scratch golfer and the results would be eye opening.

Put a scratch golfer, @iacas against a 14.9 Handicap, me, even if the scratch golfer has an injury, and the results are eye opening. Even my best iron shots were farther from the pin than his worst. 

And by the way, it just made me want to work harder at my ball striking.:-)

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I was always confused about being a great ball striker because I was always taught to "swing the club" or make a good swing instead of trying to "hit" the ball. Wouldn't a great "ball striker" also be  a good "swinger" of the club?

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11 hours ago, Herkimer said:

I don't see how a scratch golfer can be a horrible ballstriker compared to anyone.  Everyone knows how great scratch golfers are -- pro or amateur.  They must be striking the ball very well -- or so it seems to me. 

Take a look at the photo's of the different golfers ability and their strike consistency.

151.jpg

I was teaching a PGA Tour professional the other day and while we were hitting drivers on the Trackman, I sprayed the face with Dr. Sholl’s Odor X...

There is a stark contrast between scratch golfers and PGA Tour players.

Compared to a high handicap golfers, a scratch golfer is a good ball striker. Compared to a PGA Tour player, a scratch golfer is probably slightly above average if that.

9 hours ago, Herkimer said:

Jack was one of the great ballstrikers of all time.  This is my point exactly.  I think certain golfers known as "ballstrikers" has become a meme when others are just as good but never mentioned. 

It's just something announcers have to say. They need a way to differentiate the golfers. Jack was known as a bomber of the ball. Lee was known as a ball striker. Probably because his iron play stood out compared to the rest of his game. I bet Jack's iron game was better, but Jack's power stood out more than his iron game.

To be considered one of the best golfers of all time, you need to be one of the best ball strikers of all time.

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14 hours ago, iacas said:

The gap between a PGA Tour player and a scratch golfer might be larger than the gap between a scratch golfer and an 18 handicapper.

Really?? i think it´s more like the gap between a scratch and a 10 handicapper.

I think the good ballstrikers are the players that their Iron play it´s above average against players with the same overall skill (same handicap). 
Same for good putters, good driver/bombers and good scramblers.
In my case it´s the last one, I do magic around the greens but I´m an awfull ball striker for my handicap. 

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18 minutes ago, p1n9183 said:

Really?? i think it´s more like the gap between a scratch and a 10 handicapper.

I don't think that's close.

A 10 and a scratch player are 10 shots apart. A scratch and a Tour player are about six or seven. Those six or seven are significantly harder to obtain than the 10.

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When I think of great ball striking handicap actually never comes to mind for me because I don't think it is the truest measure of the skill.  I immediately think of quality of strike with any given club.  Hitting the ball inline with the CoG reliably and consistently is much easier said than done as evidenced by watching Tour Pros hit it all over the yard during a telecast. They are just better at playing the game, which is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest amount of shots. 

I asked a former European tour Pro, that I had the pleasure to play some 50 rounds with over 6 months, what his best ever round was and he said that his best round was hitting all 14 fairways and all 18 greens on a tight long course. He said that even though he shot 5 under, that was his best round ever.  His best score was 10 under, but his best ball striking round was 5 under.  That is why I don't associate handicap and ball striking. Your lowest score is likely a result of a hot putter and saving par for everywhere and will likely give you the feeling like you stole one.  Your best ball striking day will likely feel like you didn't get the most out of it because you will be putting for birdie so much, and not converting most of them, that you will feel like it was a woulda shoulda coulda round. Just my two cents. 

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On 1/10/2019 at 12:15 PM, iacas said:

I don't think that's close.

A 10 and a scratch player are 10 shots apart. A scratch and a Tour player are about six or seven. Those six or seven are significantly harder to obtain than the 10. 

I agree. Scratch golfers also do not generally attain their handicaps playing in the type of tournament conditions experienced by tour pros. That's worth a few strokes per round too.

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7 hours ago, Righty to Lefty said:

When I think of great ball striking handicap actually never comes to mind for me because I don't think it is the truest measure of the skill.  I immediately think of quality of strike with any given club.  Hitting the ball inline with the CoG reliably and consistently is much easier said than done as evidenced by watching Tour Pros hit it all over the yard during a telecast. They are just better at playing the game, which is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest amount of shots. 

Nope, PGA Tour players are the best ball strikers in the world.

151.jpg

I was teaching a PGA Tour professional the other day and while we were hitting drivers on the Trackman, I sprayed the face with Dr. Sholl’s Odor X...

There is a big difference between scratch and PGA Tour level of play. Especially ball striking.

Read through this, http://www.columbia.edu/~mnb2/broadie/Assets/broadie_wscg_v_200804.pdf

7 hours ago, Righty to Lefty said:

I asked a former European tour Pro, that I had the pleasure to play some 50 rounds with over 6 months, what his best ever round was and he said that his best round was hitting all 14 fairways and all 18 greens on a tight long course. He said that even though he shot 5 under, that was his best round ever.  His best score was 10 under, but his best ball striking round was 5 under.  That is why I don't associate handicap and ball striking. Your lowest score is likely a result of a hot putter and saving par for everywhere and will likely give you the feeling like you stole one.  Your best ball striking day will likely feel like you didn't get the most out of it because you will be putting for birdie so much, and not converting most of them, that you will feel like it was a woulda shoulda coulda round. Just my two cents. 

Which speaks to how hard it is to shoot under par. It's most likely he hit a lot of greens, but had a lot of long putts for par (greater than 30 FT).

Look at it this way, you are not making birdies if you don't hit a lot of GIR. I bet you if you asked him how many GIR he hit with that 10 under par, it would be very close to all greens in regulation, probably near 16. He also probably hit a few of them extra close than normal. He probably drained a few putts from over 25 FT.

He isn't shooting -5 if he doesn't hit at least 12-14 GIR. There is a level of ball striking that is required.

You need ball striking. Ball striking is what separates every level of play. Can you find that special case, sure. That special case is what is called an outlier. A very low percentage instance that speaks nothing about what is truly happening.

 

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On ‎1‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 2:15 PM, iacas said:

I don't think that's close.

A 10 and a scratch player are 10 shots apart. A scratch and a Tour player are about six or seven. Those six or seven are significantly harder to obtain than the 10.

I see your point and I agree, i even suffered it after hitting my wall at +1 and couldn´t go any further. Those +handicap strokes are really hard to achive in order to close the gap against a pro. From 10 to 0 it´s hard but not that much.  

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Obviously, it's relative to who you are comparing against.   I mean in comparison to a scratch golfer, every tour pro is a great ball striker.   but, compared to other tour pros, not every pro is a great ball striker.   

To be a great ball striker would be someone that is extremely consistent with their irons, but also has the ability to play shots that others are not able to play.   Tiger Woods is obviously an exceptional ball striker, in comparison to other tour players.   That said, being a great ball striker doesn't always equal great tour player.  

For example, Paul Casey is constantly noted as one of the great iron players over the last decade, and his strokes gained on approach stats seem to justify that appropriation.   yet, he has just 2 PGA tour wins.   not exactly the stuff of greatness.     Yet, Bubba Watson, one of the most inconsistent and, frankly, bad PGA tour iron players of the past decade has a considerably more decorated resume.  

There's more than one way to get around a golf course, y'know.   makes things a bit easier when you can bomb 350 yard drives over and around doglegs, I suppose. 

 

All that said, those are just examples.  typically a better ball striker is a better golfer.   (which, of course, is obvious). 

Edited by lastings

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13 hours ago, Righty to Lefty said:

When I think of great ball striking handicap actually never comes to mind for me because I don't think it is the truest measure of the skill. I immediately think of quality of strike with any given club.  Hitting the ball inline with the CoG reliably and consistently is much easier said than done as evidenced by watching Tour Pros hit it all over the yard during a telecast. They are just better at playing the game, which is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest amount of shots.

No.

Except for the rare cases (like a former Tour player who still absolutely flushes it, but who is 90 so he has a 10 handicap because he only hits it 160 off the tee), handicap is pretty directly correlated with ball striking.

The better the scores the player generally shoots, the better the ball striker. There are exceptions, of course, but they're rare.

And a player's handicap isn't a result of "a hot putting round." If you're "hot" ten times out of twenty, that's just your better half of your rounds, it's not "getting hot."

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14 minutes ago, lastings said:

For example, Paul Casey is constantly noted as one of the great iron players over the last decade, and his strokes gained on approach stats seem to justify that appropriation.   yet, he has just 2 PGA tour wins.   not exactly the stuff of greatness.     Yet, Bubba Watson, one of the most inconsistent and, frankly, bad PGA tour iron players of the past decade has a considerably more decorated resume

Paul Casey 2018 to 2014

Tee: 82nd, 41st, 23rd, 24th, 105th,
Approach: 11th, 2nd, 13th, 3rd, 5th,
Putting: 77th, 74th, 77th, 102nd, 38th,

Paul Casey reminds me of Jim Furyk from 2011 thru 2015

Tee: 105th, 56th, 101st, 78th, 96th,
Approach: 9th, 5th, 4th, 1st, 2nd
Putting: 138th, 25th, 77th, 81st, 115th

Top 15 in approach shots, not near the top in tee shots, not great putters. Paul Casey has 13 European tour wins. Overall, Paul Casey has 18 professional wins over 18 seasons, and Furyk has 26 professional wins over 26 seasons. Maybe if Paul Casey played in more PGA Tournaments he would win more of them. I am not sure of his schedule.

Also, Bubba Watson has 14 professional wins over 17 seasons. He is winning at a lower pace than Furyk. Maybe we are thinking Bubba is more successful because he has won more recently than Furyk?

 

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