For many people, when it comes to golf, the only number that matters is the raw score. But ability and improvement can be measured in many ways. For the smart golfer, other numbers might just be the key to better play, and a better score after all. With the correct approach, keeping statistics from your rounds can improve your game by helping to find the things that need the most attention.
What Stats Help the Most?
Too much detail can just be confusing at first, so it’s best to focus on the statistics that have the biggest impact on that vaunted final score. According to the PGA, these are the big three:
Hit Fairway Percentage
Greens in Regulation
Number of Putts
PGA stats show that scratch golfers hit 63% of fairways (about 11 fairways per round) while beginners hit around 48% (about 8 fairways). Most people would expect a bigger difference, but the real difference comes in how bad those misses are. Finding your tendencies can help you make both your hits and misses better which will lead to a lower final score.
A good way to start is to note fairway hits and, if you miss, to which side. You might add an asterisk to drives that miss badly. Then track greens hit in regulation and, if you miss, if you had an up-and-down or sand save opportunity. Finally, count total putts and distance of the first putt. These items may seem simple and obvious, but when you add up your stats and see patterns emerge, you might just be surprised what they tell you about your course play.
How to Use the Numbers
So you have compiled a good sample of your on-the-course stats and have a clearer picture of your average game. What now?
First, don’t try for perfection. A game of golf is an accumulation of many small actions and decisions that are influenced by a myriad of factors that change from hole to hole and day to day. Setting expectations too high can lead to frustration and a loss of focus. This is true on a couple of levels. You will want to improve your fundamental numbers, but might try to be too good every time. With golf, consistency is better in the long run than trying to make every shot something spectacular. Take emotion out of the equation and try for steadiness rather than flashiness. As PGA pro Brandt Snedeker puts it: “Don’t worry about hitting it to three feet. Hit it to the middle of the green and go on to the next hole.”
The best way to improve a single aspect of your game is to set specific, measurable goals for yourself. For example, if you do well on fairways and getting on the green but you average too many putts per hole, this is an indication that you should spend more time on the practice green rather than on the driving range. Doing better at each of the fundamentals makes them all easier and, in turn, will give you the opportunity to do better at the more specific skills. You might then begin to track those other stats to focus your skill work on more specific items such as sand saves, green saves, penalties etc.
Will This Work for Me?
It’s easy to overlook just how critical fundamentals are in golf and how useful simple statistics can be in making them strong and reliable. Keeping personal stats can be important in improving your play because it is difficult to remember details about a round of golf and what you think you remember might not be quite right. This is especially true for young golfers who are still learning the many facets of the game. Accurate information will give you a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses.
Will this really work for me? The only way to know is to try. Keep your stats for 10 rounds to get a decent sample size and see if the information you gather reflects your own sense of your game. Keeping stats and notes isn’t as difficult as it might seem and, like most things, gets easier the more you do it. Use this data to identify where you need work and set gradual, reachable goals to achieve them. Then you will be ready for your next level.
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