I’ve received some questions about the strategy portion from the 2011 Pro Golf Synopsis e-book. So, let me do some FAQ’s in this blog post.
Are you stating that golfers should play more conservatively?
No….hell no. The strategy of Pro Golf Synopsis is about playing for your ‘average swing.’ The problem that golfers suffer from is that they will do the exact opposite. They will either play for their ‘worst swing’ or their very ‘best swing.’
For example, I feel my ‘average swing’ with the driver will find an average size fairway about 80% of the time and will travel about 280-290 yards. An average swing with the driver for me will probably produce a very poor shot about 5% of the time and the ball usually fades.
Let’s say we have a par-4 like #3 at North Shore Golf Club:
What we want to do is play for the result of our average swing. The designer (Jeff Burton) made this hole long and has the green off to the right. So a golfer who hits a driver well and comes closer to the water will have a shorter shot into the green.
Most golfers play for their worst swing and aim well left. Some golfers play for their best swing and really try to hug the water. The problem with playing for the worst swing is even if you hit the drive well, you will likely be further away from the hole and you are effectively increasing your ‘expected score’ than if you had played for your ‘average swing.’ Even getting 15 yards closer to the cup lowers the golfer’s ‘expected score.’ All things being equal, I would rather hit an 8-iron into a green than a 7-iron or a 6-iron.
Conservative play is also a detriment to ‘going low’ and you can piss away those rounds where you are have your ‘A Game’ or even worse, when you are in the zone.
I don’t believe that the Danger Zone is my issue. I think I lose more shots with my driving or putter. Should I still work on Danger Zone play?
The strategy in Pro Golf Synopsis is not about labeling certain parts of the game as ‘important’ or ‘unimportant.’ If I can improve my fairway bunker play from average to ‘World Class’, that will improve my scores over time (provided everything else remains the same). However, fairway bunker play will not have as big of an impact on your scores than if I had gone from average to ‘World Class’ in driving the golf ball.
Furthermore, as the player metrics in PGS show, there are some great Danger Zone players who lost their Tour card. Boo Weekley was excellent in Danger Zone play and driving the golf ball. But, he was dead last in putting. I wouldn’t tell Boo Weekley he needs to improve his Danger Zone play.
The problem with amateurs is that they often misjudge the value of the shots they hit with the driver. If a golfer hits a poor driver on a hole and make a double bogey, they’ll claim that for the round, the driver cost them ‘2 strokes.’ In reality, the driver probably cost them 1 stroke and their shots following the driver were poor and those shots cost them 1 more stroke.
However, what they forget is that the good drives they hit in the round also have ‘value’ to them as well. That 300-yard drive that you piped down the middle of the fairway has a positive value to it compared to that 270 yard drive that went into the woods. The difference between drivers and Danger Zone play is that you have a chance to ‘make up’ for a bad drive with another 13 drivers in the round. Thus, you may hit your driver on the 1st hole into the woods and that may cost you 1-stroke. But then you can go and hit the next 13 drivers as well as you can hit them and that will more than make up for that lost stroke.
Conversely, you may only get 4 shots from the Danger Zone the entire round. If your first Danger Zone shot costs you 1-stroke, then you only have 3 more Danger Zone shots and it’s more likely that you will never ‘make up for’ that first Danger Zone shot that cost you 1-stroke.
I’ll leave it with this…
I believe that the practice I set forth in 2011 PGS is sound in theory. I do believe in practicing with your longest iron the most on the range because if a person can hit a 3-iron, they certainly can hit the rest of the irons well. Also, the practice set forth does include hitting the driver, but to really focus on the tough tee shots you may face and try to visualize those on the range so it becomes easier when y ou get on the course.
I have a problem where for whatever reason, I cannot take my ‘average swing’ on a particular hole on the course because it does not fit my eye. What should I do?
I believe that this is good that your recognize that a certain hole does not fit your eye. I think that since you are armed with this knowledge, there are a few things you can do. For starters, you can now go onto the range and visualize this shot and try to ‘simulate’ the shot so it becomes easier to hit on the course.
Secondly, we now have to adjust the result of our ‘average swing’ for THIS particular shot. Essentially, for this particular shot our ‘average swing’ has changed. Our ‘average swing’ for this particular shot is not nearly as good as our average swing elsewhere. If there’s water on the right side of the hole and we struggle with this tee shot, we now have to adjust our aim further away from the water because the average swing we produce on this tee shot is not nearly as good as our average swing elsewhere on the course.
Lastly, we need to gauge the risk and reward of the shot and plan our strategy from there. Take a look at #12 at North Shore.
There is a big oak tree where the 153 marker is at. IMO, the best play is to hit a 3-wood off the tee because the fairway is only about 12 yards wide right where that large oak tree is. If I hit a good 3-wood down the middle, I’ll be far enough behind the oak tree that I can take a full swing and the ball will fly below the oak tree.
The problem is that I do not hit the 3-wood well on this hole. I plan on working diligently on my 3-wood play this year so this shot is easier for me. But for now I just try to treat this hole with the mindset of it being a par-5 and using a driver off the tee. This way if I hit a driver well and down the middle, I’m now ‘playing for a birdie-4’ (technically it’s a par because it’s a par-4). If my driver winds up in the woods, then I’m ‘playing for a par-5.’
Before I started to theorize about course management, I would either stubbornly hit poor 3-woods off the tee or hit the driver in the woods and then ‘try to hard’ to make a par-4 instead of just punching out and taking my medicine and making a bogey-5. What would often wind up happening is I would make a double bogey-6 and double bogeys are KILLERS to good golf rounds.
I don’t see why you use ‘Proximity to the Cup’ to judge players from the Zones because often times players are just trying to hit the green safely instead of shooting for the flag.
The problem with a metric like ‘Greens In Regulation’ is that it is too vague and incomplete for our use. I have played better rounds of golf hitting few greens than the times that I have hit almost every green and vice versa. And in the end, GIR does not really help in explaining where strokes are lost or gained.
The thing with the PGA Tour is that over the course of a year, every player gets their fair share of shots where they have to seriously consider just aiming for the middle of the green instead of shooting at the flag. But, over the course of time, the players who can hit the ball closer to the cup will see their scores drop.
It’s like I mentioned in 2011 PGS, we are talking about probability, not certainty. That means there is no guarantee that a particular outcome will happen every time, but we do want to put the odds in our favor because over time, it will work out in our favor.
This is somewhat similar to the principle that the Blackjack ‘card counters’ use in casinos. The card counter knows that if they card count correctly every single time, they are shifting the odds in their favor. Now, those odds may be in their favor by only…say, 2%. Thus, they will often lose a lot of hands. But, if they keep at it…over time they will win money. And that’s why casinos kick skilled card counters out of their casinos.
Still, we use the GIR metric to some use. For instance, Shane Bertsch finished:
6th in Birdie Zone
6th in Safe Zone
44th in Danger Zone
But, he was 126th in Greens in Regulation (64.3%). He also finished 82nd in Putts Gained. Perhaps, Bertsch was firing at the flagstick a little too often and while he was hitting shots closer to the cup, they were off the green or he was leaving himself with a slick, downhill putt.
Brandel Chamblee says that the ‘Money Zone’ is from 50-125 yards and has some players that won multiple times in 2011 to prove it. Is he right?
Chamblee is wrong because statistically it does not correlate to Adjusted Scoring Average as strong as putting, driving the ball, Danger Zone play, Safe Zone play and even Short Game play.
It’s a mathematical FACT. Much like arguing against D-Plane when it comes to the physics of how the ball flies.
There are a few common flaws in Chamblee’s thinking. For starters, the sample size is not big enough. You can’t take one year and look at a few of the players in the top and then make the judgment of how important that area of the game is. David Duval finished 3rd in Birdie Zone play and was 174th in Adjusted Scoring Average. John Senden finished 184th in Birdie Zone play and was 25th in Adjusted Scoring Average.
Secondly, the flaw in using the 50-125 yard metric is that if a player has more shots closer to the cup, they are more likely to going to hit those shots closer. If all of Dustin Johnson’s shots are from 55 yards and all of Luke Donald’s shots are from 125 yards, Dustin Johnson will likely wind up with a closer Proximity to the Cup. That doesn’t make Dustin a better player from this range. With the 2011 Pro Golf Synopsis, I utilize formulas that essentially ‘cancel out’ the differences in the yardages where the shot was taken from.
Lastly, just looking at the shots from 50-125 yards does not consider other parts of the player’s game. Luke Donald and Shane Bertsch are a good example.
Here’s a look at their rankings in each Zone and their driving of the ball:
Safe Zone: 1st
Birdie Zone: 1st
Danger Zone: 46th
Adjusted Total Driving: 132nd
Safe Zone: 6th
Birdie Zone: 6th
Danger Zone: 44th
Adjusted Total Driving: 97th
So why is Bertsch nowhere near as good as Donald?
In large part due to Bertsch finishing 82nd in Putts Gained and Donald finishing 1st in Putts Gained. Donald also hits the ball higher which I believe helps and is a better player from 225-275 yards. Combine that with dominating Birdie and Safe Zone play, that’s why Donald is such a great player.