Tag Archives: ball striking

My 2017 Golf Improvement Plan

Image from gameimprovementgolf.com
Image from gameimprovementgolf.com

2017 will be about simplification.  What I’m very good at is taking a metrics based approach towards past performance and identifying shortcomings.  My downfall comes when I implement solutions that are overly complex and require unrealistic time and effort.  So let’s use a simplified three-goal approach.

Goal 1:  Play a minimum of 40 rounds.  29 in 2016 were too few and left me disconnected from the game.  In addition, I’m going to focus the bulk of these rounds before August, when my interest wanes.  I will still play through the fall and winter, but need to focus on improvement while I’m motivated.  This is very achievable.

Goal 2:  Improve putts per round to 31.  Last year (32.67) was a disaster compared to 2015 (31.26) and was characterized by trying too many new things too often.  I putt my best when getting plenty of reps but need regular reps and not reps smushed into a single practice session.  I’ve been rug putting over the winter, and taking three dozen 10-foot putts after every indoor workout.  Yesterday I think I found something 🙂 and am excited to leverage this approach throughout the year.  This goal has a medium level of difficulty because there are dependencies on short game effectiveness and ball striking.

Goal 3:  Hit ten greens in regulation per round.  Since I’ve been measuring (2007 to present) I’ve averaged between 8 and 9 GIR every year.  Other than shooting lower scores, good ball striking gives me the most satisfaction.  Admittedly, I am a tinkerer and love to make subtle changes to my move in hopes that I’ll find something to permanently implement.  Yet, while reviewing swing videos over several years, I look strikingly similar in each video.  Despite all that tinkering, nothing changes.  So here’s what’s going to change.  Starting in March, I’m taking a lesson once per month through July.  Last summer, while mirrored in a particularly bad ball striking slump, I took a lesson from my instructor and saw the light that professional help can provide.  It had been years since I took a lesson and I realized that all that self medication didn’t work.  This is going to be the most difficult goal to hit, but I’m starting today.  This afternoon, I’m heading out to the range to film myself to see if I have retained any of the swing changes we worked on last July.  It’ll function as my baseline video and I’ll repeat the process before each lesson.  Next month is Lesson One and we get to work.

So three goals, one easy, one medium, one hard.  I’d say that’s a fair but reasonable approach.  I know some of my fellow bloggers have published your 2017 improvement plans and wonder if you’ve started to implement?  I wish you all a great 2017.  Play well!

 

Formula for Improvement in 2016

ImprovementBefore we start, let’s try a quick mental exercise: You are playing a par-4 hole under benign conditions, and your drive has left you 130 yards to a pin cut just four paces on the front of the green with no hazards to clear. What is your approach? Do you pick your 130-yard club and go right for the pin, knowing if you may stiff it, but if you mishit it you may be 10-15 feet short of the green and have to chip to recover, or do you take your 140-yard club and hit for the center of the green, knowing you may have a downhill 30 foot putt but probably won’t be close to the flag for a realistic birdie chance? Hold that answer for later.

In my ongoing effort to improve, I just completed a full game analysis which included a statistical review of over 200 rounds played since 2010 and a subjective self-evaluation. Combining the two, I think I’ve landed on a reasonable strategy to take a couple strokes off my game in 2016.

The subjective component was derived from assessing my strengths and weaknesses as a player, and being as honest as possible. If you try it, this will vary by your skill level.  I realize I do not have the game of a scratch player, so I rated the various components of my game in relation to what an average 5-handicap might look like. If I could calculate strokes gained or lost for various categories, that would be great but you can’t so what I came up with was letter grades. My rank against the class: Driving: B, Irons: C-minus, Putting: B, Short Game: D, Mental game: A-minus.

Next the objective component was using data for scoring average, GIR, and putts per round. It’s well known that the most highly regarded statistic on the PGA Tour as an indicator of good play is GIR but we amateurs are not playing the PGA Tour so how relevant is GIR? Let’s see. I divided up my rounds into good ball striking days (10 or more GIR), poor ball striking days (less than 10 GIR), and good putting days (30 or less putts). What I found was there was a much higher correlation to good scoring from good ball striking than good putting. The data:

Category Average GIR Average Putts Average Score
Good ball striking rounds 11.21 32.97 76.46
Poor ball striking rounds 6.78 31.62 81.34
Good putting rounds 7.27 28.97 78.32

The difference in good ball striking rounds and poor ball striking rounds is clear.  Essentially, with each additional green hit, I lowered my score by one shot.  However, notice that during the good ball striking rounds, I averaged four more putts per round than during good putting rounds.  This is because the more greens you hit, the farther you are from the hole and you will naturally take more putts, but my stroke average was nearly two shots lower per round than the good putting rounds! What does this mean? Back to our initial example: I would probably benefit from hitting the 140-yard club and playing more conservatively on my approach shots to allow me to HIT MORE GREENS. It also speaks volumes that my short game is very poor 😦 and needs to improve to get me closer to the hole when I do miss.

Conclusion: I’m convinced, the main part of this plan is better course management.  During rounds, I need to discipline myself to aim for the fat part of the greens and assume that there’s nothing wrong with settling for two-putt pars. The occasional birdie is fine but I can’t force it.  I also need to focus most if not all of my practice time to improving short game and putting.  In essence, don’t be a hero, just lower my stroke average using the law of averages and common sense. Given the data, what do you think of this approach? Silly? Too conservative? About right? Please let me know!