If we are going to make a decision to improve our golf whether it be to achieve certain goals or just enjoy the game a little more it is vital that we tackle the area or areas that give us the biggest and often the quickest wins.
Ideally as I chronicled in my blog ‘Are you playing the play better golf lottery?’ if you are not using performance statistics to monitor your game it becomes very much a guess as to how to achieve the optimum results for your efforts.
That said there is one department of the game that has the biggest influence on your score and therefore becomes the most important!
Most coaches and performance analysts these days would separate the the game into 4 departments, Tee Shots, Approach Shots, Short Game (shots inside 100yds) and Putting.
The overwhelming winner in terms of influence on score is Approach Shots, in other words any time you are trying to knock it on the green from outside 100yds. Being specific probably the most important distance is from around 150 yds and I will explain why I can make these bold statements.
I am a massive fan of the work of Mark Broadie, his 2014 book ‘Every Shot Counts’ was in
my opinion a landmark in golf coaching.
In it not only does he champion the cause of analysing golf performance by the method ‘Strokes gained’ but he quite categorically proves that approach shots account for around 40% of leading Tour players score advantage.
Now you might well say that is for tour players, but when analysing amateur data an almost identical pattern is found!
So the simple conclusion is that if you want to lower your scores the chances are your biggest gain will come from improving shots to the green from outside 100yds.
Maybe this is why our PMG Performance Clinic - ACE Approach shots is always sold out?
Now of course these are averages and your game may be slightly different and there may well be some easy wins in the other departments. As an example though, if you’re a 90 shooter and want to be an 80 shooter, there’s a good chance 4 of those 10 shots improvement will be found in approach shots.
Ok so now we’ve found out that we need to work on approach shots how do we go about it?
Firstly for me is gather some data on current shot patterns and dispersions, fortunately in this day and age the use Trackman and various other launch monitors makes this a simple tasks for coaches.
With the information above the coach can identify very easy wins in course management and club selection. For example it is commonly reported that amateur golfer on average finish 13yds short of the target when hitting from the fairway to a green from 150yds. A simple adjustment of hitting one club more can save simple shots. In fact I would encourage everyone to book an hour with a coach and Trackman and if you do nothing else but gather yardages it has to reduce your scores! This knowledge and information is powerful.
We need a process of how were going to improve these shots. It may well be a technical change advised by you coach. It maybe just spending more time practicing approach shot skills or it maybe practicing under pressure to simulate golf course like conditions. More likely it's a combination of all these but you do need a plan of attack.
Once you have that plan of attack you need to make your practice count. I’m often bewildered by how many people are on the range just clipping balls with no real purpose. Your practice MUST have a PURPOSE and this purpose must fit into the overall plan of development. None of us have limitless time to improve our golf so we must make the most of every opportunity.
Constantly assess whether it is improving on the course and keep re-evaluating the plan.
As a final note what I find really quite interesting as an observation over the last 30 years coaching. Even before we had this information it was pretty clear that the players that made the most improvement were actually improving faster in this department. In turn I guess I spent most time with people hitting approach shots, it was like we knew it was the right thing but couldn’t prove it!
Thankfully Mark Broadie and his research now make life much easier!
If anyone want more information on approach shots please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org