Pro Golf Stats to Help Manage Your Expectations
Amateur golfers are a rather self-critical bunch. We judge, criticise and generally give ourselves a harder time than we should during a round. We set standards that can be both a curse and a blessing. Unfortunately, many of us set those standards too high. When we fall short, we unleash our inner critic.
So how do you take the edge off your self-flagellation? Let's try a bit of a reality check as a start point.
We recently gathered together some interesting stats from the professional game to provide some comparisons with amateur golfers. Some of them are pretty mind-blowing to us.
What you tend to see on TV is the best in the world playing at their best. Rarely do we see the guys grinding to make the cut or propping up the leaderboard. The play you see from the leaders is the equivalent of watching a highlight reel in any other sport. Golf is so competitive at the top and the margins so narrow that winners often have to be playing the best they've EVER played consistently for four days.
In reality, the average professional golfer's level of play isn't as dialled in as the coverage might suggest.
What do PGA Tour averages look like?
Take putting as an early example. You might feel that you should make more short putts than you miss. After all, the pros make it look so easy. Well, not quite. Statistics have shown that PGA Tour players miss 50% of their putts from 8 feet.
What about driving performance? PGA tour players hit around 60% of fairways (60.72% to be exact) on average with their driver. And while they're likely bombing it further than most of us, this should demonstrate that missing a few fairways per round isn't going to completely derail your quest for a good score.
Hitting more than 50% of fairways has been long considered a good target for amateur golfers.
How about a comparison with Tiger Woods? You might have heard of him. He's pretty good at golf. With 15 major titles to his name, you might expect he would hit almost every green with a wedge in hand.
Actually, he doesn't. Even Tiger misses the green 20% of the time from 100-110 yards out.
That's right. Arguably the best golfer ever misses the putting surface one in five times from 'green light territory'. Keep that in mind the next time you miss the green from the short stuff. OK, your success rate might be far lower, but remember... it's Tiger Woods!
Approaching the green
Let's nudge our way towards the hole. How do the pros fare from a further 20 yards closer?
PGA Tour golfers aren't landing as tight to the pin as you might think. From 80-yards in the fairway, 21% of their shots end up 25-feet or more from the hole. Flipping the stat on its head a little, from a similar distance - 60-80 yards in the fairway - PGA Tour players hit it inside eight feet just 25.4% of the time.
If you're a mid-low handicapper beating yourself up when you fail to leave a 'makeable' putt, those two stats should provide a little perspective.
As far as short pitch shots go, we all expect to find the putting surface when we're right up within throwing distance of the green. But should we be as hard on ourselves if we miss from close range?
Perhaps not. When PGA Tour players find themselves in the rough 25 yards from the green, it's not a certainty that they'll have a putter in hand for their next shot.
The pros miss the green (and fringe) 14% of the time - from 25 yards. Now think of the last time you landed short or long of the green from the same distance. You probably gave yourself a right verbal lashing.
A typical PGA Tour player averages 3.4 more birdies per round than a 20-handicap. So, while the pros are easily around 30+ shots better than a 20 handicapper per round, they average less than four birdies more per round. So what does that tell us?
If you want to score better, let's reduce bogeys, doubles, and worse.
Double bogey avoidance, in particular, is one of the keys to a good round - and your overall golf improvement. For most golfers, if you've managed 18 holes with no double bogeys, you can happily reflect on a pretty solid round over your post-round pint on the 19th hole.
What do the stats say?
As you will expect, both Tour level (0.3 per round) and scratch golfers (0.7 per round) have the art of double bogey avoidance down to a tee. So there's not too much of a difference between those two groups. But what about mid-high handicappers?
A 10-handicapper is averaging three doubles per round. Of course, with each double being a pair of strokes each time, that's six shots added to their score to par on just three holes every round.
A 20-handicapper makes 6.5 doubles on average.
To improve your handicap, you need to lower the number of holes you walk off after carding a double bogey or worse. They're never going to be completely unavoidable, but you can make plenty of changes to your game to stop wasting shots unnecessarily.
As a good starting point - we're talking reliable clubs off the tee. We're also talking fewer short-game mistakes. Get your lag putting nailed down, improve your course management and develop your mental game too.
You see, even the best in the business are missing more fairways, greens and putts than many of us ever thought was the case. Hopefully, this dash of perspective can help us all accept the rough with the smooth during our next round.
Golf's a far more enjoyable game when we learn to give ourselves a break once in a while.
If you enjoyed our golf stats reality check, take a look at our recent story to help you prepare for your next golf trip. You can read it here.