In our 3rd case study, the team at Shot Scope provides an analysis of Ian, a mid-to-high handicap golfer who, like many golfers of his ability level, struggles in multiple facets of his game. Ian’s practice time is limited, so the recommendations are simple and easily integrated into his existing routine.

Ian’s Story

Ian is a 16 handicapper who doesn’t hit many greens and suffers from poor proximity in the short game. Hitting greens, and when you don’t, chipping it close to the pin, is key to keeping your score down, and playing to your handicap (if not better).

Compounding his issues, Ian struggles with a slice, which is highlighted by his high percentage of right misses. His Shot Scope data shows that 57% of his shots finish right of the fairway. Even when his drives do find the fairway, the data shows a strong right-side bias as seen in the image below.

Ian’s slice causes him to lose distance, and subsequently, he struggles to reach some of the longer Par 4s in two or even three shots. As you’d expect, Ian’s tee shots go farther when they hit the fairway, and there is a significant distance loss when he misses right. It’s like that Ian will always have to contend with a slice, as he doesn’t have the time to devote to the practice required to fix it. As a simple workaround, Ian could change his aim point to help mitigate the consequences of his slice. If he aims farther left and still slices it, a greater percentage of his shots will likely find the fairway.

Focus on The Short Game

What is most likely to help Ian lower his score, however, is to focus his efforts on chipping and putting, with the greater emphasis on chipping. On his best day, Ian got up and down 48% of the time and shot 83. 48% is an outlier for Ian, as highlighted by his season up and down average of only 12%.

Shot Scope defines a short game shot as any shot 50 yards or less from the pin. Ian hits only 27% of greens, so a high percentage of his shots are from inside 50 yards. Ian’s average proximity to the hole on short game shots is 21ft, with only 16% of his short game shots finishing inside 6ft (referred to as the Red Zone on the Shot Scope dashboard).

For Ian to get up and down and lower his score, he needs to be hitting chips inside of 6ft with greater frequency. Ian’s putting stats show he makes 78% of putts from 6ft or less, whereas he converts only 8% of putts from 18-24ft. Therefore, focussing on chipping inside the 6ft circle will ultimately lead to fewer shots per round.

By way of comparison, PGA Tour players average a short game proximity of 7ft. If Ian can reduce his short game proximity to even 15ft (10ft ideally), the likelihood is that a higher percentage of shots will finish inside that vital 6ft (red zone). This will significantly improve his chances of getting up and down, or saving par (bogey at worst). Should Ian be able to reduce his average proximity to 15ft, the Shot Scope team projects he would save an average of 2 shots per round.

Ian’s short game statistics show he uses his 7-iron most frequently. This high percentage of use suggests he is comfortable with this club, but the lower loft limits the type of shots he can play. For example, when short-sided behind a bunker, a high lofted wedge shot is more appropriate. Unfortunately, Ian’s short game statistics are poorer still when he uses his lob wedge around the green, as seen in the image below.

So how can Ian improve his proximity? When it comes to the short game, there are many variants on shot type and club choice. For those who struggle, the recommendation is often to keep it simple, stick to what works best, but work to develop the ability to use other clubs as necessary.

Conclusion

A simple suggestion for Ian is to arrive at the course 20 minutes earlier than usual (as this is all the practice time he has). He should spend that time chipping onto the practice green with both his 7-iron and lob wedge. This will likely not only improve his skill level but should greatly enhance Ian’s confidence knowing that if he misses the green, he has a good chance of hitting it inside that vital Red Zone.

If Ian can improve his average proximity to the target to 15ft, he will be much more likely to start playing to his 16 handicap again. If he can reduce it further still to 10ft, he may even start to shoot below his handicap.