Are you wasting your time on the putting green?
As a teacher, I’m always investigating ways to help my players become more proficient both on the golf course and within their practice time. That’s why I am so excited to have come across one of the best books ever written on the subject of golf improvement, Mark Broadie’s Every Shot Counts, and if you are serious about moving your game to the next level I highly recommend that you find the time to read it.
Every Shot Counts tells the story of how conventional golf stats that we have all kept at one time or another can be misleading and can hamper your improvement. One of my favorite examples in the book is when Brody discusses the putts per round stat and how it can be flawed. Think about it: putts per round does not take into account the fact that many of a golfer’s putts might come after a chip shot, not an iron shot, and it doesn’t factor in how long or how short a putt is.
Brody suggests many other ways to look at putting in an effort to improve your approach and improve your scores. In this article, I’d like to show you how you might be diligently practicing your putting, but doing it in such a way that you are not improving as fast as you could or not improving at all!
There are two goals that every player should focus on while working on their putting:
- One-putting more often from the statistical distances that makes sense to your level of play.
- Eliminating three putts from the statistical distances that make sense to your level of play.
Here’s a chart that shows the probability of one-putting from different distances depending on a golfer’s ability level:
Let’s examine a few of the data points in more detail:
- For all players, any putt inside 2 feet is almost a guaranteed make.
- For better players, 3-foot putts are almost a given unless something radical happens.
- For golfers who shoot in the 90′s, 3-foot putts start to become an issue (84 percent success rate).
- Between 5 and 8 feet, a tour professional’s proficiency drops off dramatically.
- Between 5 to 8 feet, scratch golfers begin to show their putting weakness.
- Outside of 5 feet, 90′s shooters have extreme difficulty one-putting.
- At 10 feet, tour professional only make 40 percent of their putts.
- At 20 feet, a 90′s shooter isn’t half as good as a scratch golfer, but the difference between a scratch player and a tour pro is a mere 1 percent.
The numbers show that tour pros should focus their practice on 8-to-10-foot putts and 90′s shooters are better off practicing putts of 4-to-10 feet. 90′s shooters should forget working on longer putts, with one putting short putts being their only goal.
Here’s a chart that shows the probability of golfers of different ability levels three-putting from different distances:
Let’s examine the data points in more detail:
- Lag putting work from 20 feet and in is basically a waste of time for the tour pro and scratch player.
- The idea of lag putting for 90′s shooters should begin at 20-to-25 feet.
- For the tour pro and scratch player, the thought of lag putting should begin around 40 feet.
- 50-to-60-foot putts for the average golfer spell “three putt.”
For the levels we have discussed, here’s the synopsis.
The tour pro does not have much to worry about until he gets to 50 feet, and if he can get the ball inside 8 feet on those putts he has a good chance of converting a two-putt. Secondly, on normal tour greens (a.k.a. not Augusta), a tour pro should not have that much trouble lagging the ball within 8 to 10 feet on even on the most difficult breaking putts, which still gives him a good chance to convert his two-putt.
Based on the data, tour pros should work on putts from 8 to 10 feet as well as those outside of 50 feet to use of their most effectively. .
Again, you can see that beginning around 55 to 60 feet tour pros need to become focused on lagging the ball close. However, these players have a buffer that’s unlike what you will see with the 90′s shooters. The 90′s shooters only make putts that are inside 5 feet 66 percent of the time. That’s why 90′s shooters should focus on becoming better short putters within the 5-to-10-foot range. Those putts will be much more important to their score than the putts they hit from 15-to-45 feet.
The 90′s shooters should instantly go into “lag mode” from 20 feet out, ensuring that they have the proper feel to snuggle the ball close to the hole from longer distances. Remember that the proficiency of the 90′s shooters from shorter distances basically states that until they get the ball within 5 feet, they will miss more than half their second putts.
So the key for the 90′s shooters is to become more proficient from 6-to-10 feet so that they have a better chance from longer ranges. As a 90′s shooter, if you don’t get your putts from 40 feet and out into a 5-foot circle around the hole, your chances of two putting diminishes greatly. That’s the pressure poor short putting puts on the lag putting for average golfers.
I hope by now you have seen the importance of understanding how to use the stats you can derive from charting your game based on the data provided by Broadie’s book.
The book also goes over stats for all parts of the game that you will find useful, but the one-versus-three-putting stuff hit me like a hammer. I, like you, practiced and wanted to become the best I could be, but it’s data like this that makes me just cringe thinking about how many wasted hours I spent on things that weren’t very statistically relevant to the big picture.
I hope this story saves you an hour or two during your life of golf!