In part I, I showed players who had ‘big lag’ swings and their Birdie Zone rankings in 2011. I don’t have the resources to delve into every ‘non-big lag’ swing, but let’s take a look at some of the top Birdie Zone players in 2011 and their swings.
Luke Donald - #1 Birdie Zone play
Advanced Total Driving: 132nd
Safe Zone: 1st
Danger Zone: 46th
Camilo Villegas – 2nd in Birdies Zone Play
Advanced Total Driving: 130th
Safe Zone: 91st
Danger Zone: 173rd
Steve Stricker – 4th in Birdie Zone play
Advanced Total Driving: 80
Safe Zone: 55
Danger Zone: 95
Shane Bertsch – 6th in Birdie Zone Play
Advanced Total Driving: 97
Safe Zone: 6
Danger Zone: 44
Brian Davis - 7th in Birdie Zone play
Advanced Total Driving: 34
Safe Zone: 16
Danger Zone: 47
Justin Leonard – 9th in Birdie Zone play
Advanced Total Driving: 123
Safe Zone: 37
Danger Zone: 177
Brian Gay – 16th in Birdie Zone play
Advanced Total Driving: 124
Safe Zone: 28
Danger Zone: 126
Bryce Molder – 19th in Birdie Zone play
Advanced Total Driving: 129
Safe Zone: 48
Danger Zone: 137
While I discussed ‘Big Lag’ swings in part 1, the more important common denominator is shaft lean at impact. Out of the 7 players listed, each of them finished in the top-20 in Birdie Zone play in 2011. Furthermore, each of them do not have a lot of shaft lean at impact.
Examining their rankings in the 4 main ballstriking metrics, only Luke Donald and Shane Bertsch were as strong in another category as they were from the Birdie Zone. And that happened to be the ‘kissing cousin’ of the Birdie Zone, the Safe Zone (125-175 yards). In fact, each player ranked the best in Birdie Zone play and second best in Safe Zone play. Furthermore, the order of best category ranking to the worst category ranking, typically went like this:
1. Birdie Zone Play
2. Safe Zone Play
3. Advanced Total Driving
4. Danger Zone Play (Donald and Bertsch being the exceptions).
All that being said, let’s make a couple of things clear:
A. Each of these players have shaft lean at impact. However, the top players in the Birdie Zone tend to have much less shaft lean at impact than the worst players in the Birdie Zone.
B. Most amateurs do not have to worry about having too much shaft lean. In fact, more often than not amateurs do not have enough shaft lean at impact, even with shorter irons and wedges.
My feelings (currently) is that this goes to show that in the Birdie Zone, particularly on the PGA Tour, distance control rules the roost over directional control. And thus the best players from the Birdie Zone are not so much better at controlling the direction, but much better at controlling the distances over the worst players from the Birdie Zone. Thus, shaft lean tends to play a major influence on a golfer’s ability to control the distance with the wedges.
We will have to examine Safe Zone and Danger Zone play in the future. But my gut tells me that the further the distance from the cup on those Zones, the more of an influence compression and directional control play in a golfer’s efficiency from those Zones.