Although golf is just my hobby, I have great fun trying to improve at this most demanding of pursuits.
As such, I set myself performance related goals at the start of each year. I have a natural break in my play for the school holidays in August, so this is a perfect time to analyse and re-assess. I hope that by laying out my personal strategies other golfers can take something away to help them improve aspects of their own games.
Note: All stats analysis is from the app MyRoundPro. There are certainly alternatives on the market that will allow for more detailed analysis, but I find that this option works perfectly for the depth that I have the time and inclination to pursue. The Strokes Gained stats in particular that are calculated on this app provide a useful comparison mechanism over and above the traditional fairways hit, putts per round etc.
2019 Actual: 75.3
Ultimately, the performance stat that really matters and measures progress is your stroke average. I am currently missing my 2019 target by over 2 shots. Although this information is crucial, it does not provide enough detail as to why this might be and how to improve. For this, we need to delve a little more deeply into the different areas of my game:
Targets: Fairways Hit: 60% Strokes Gained: +0.5
2019 Actual: Fairways Hit: 52% Strokes Gained: +0.58
In January, I visited the Titleist National Fitting Centre in St. Ives (Cambs) and got properly fitted for a new Driver, Fairway and hybrid to replace my old Callaway Epics. The main change was a slight increase to the weight of the shafts. For a full description of this day, read my earlier blog.
The main benefit that I have felt has been the improved ability to ‘feel’ the club during the swing. This has aided my rhythm, tempo, balance and confidence. With the trend being to make clubs lighter, it is worth taking advice on your own clubs and the optimum weight for you – lighter is not always better.
From a performance point of view, I have maintained average distance (265 yards) whilst improving consistency. In particular, I have lessened the possibility of the ‘big miss’.
2018 distribution pattern with the Driver is on the left with 2019 on the right.
It is clear that the cluster is tighter. This has allowed me to keep the ball in play and hit my strokes gained target. As I play more and get more adjusted to the Clubs, I would expect the stats to continue to trend in the right direction.
Targets: Greens in Regulation: 66% Strokes Gained: +1.0
2019 Actual: GIR: 56% Strokes Gained: -1.01
It is abundantly clear from both key stats that it is my approach play that is the main reason why I am not hitting my stroke average targets.
This has been a surprise to me as I have always considered iron play as one of the strengths of my game. With the benefit of hindsight, there were a couple of key errors that I made that have contributed to the fall off in this part of my game.
Firstly, I got into the habit of playing sort of punchy, half shots with my irons. This was initially a positive addition to my arsenal of different shots, but became a sort of crutch. My rhythm was thrown out as my swing became shorter and shorter and my distance judgement was all over the place.
Secondly, I started to play practice rounds with a pencil bag, half-set and no GPS. This is fun but led me to neglect the crucial aspect of distance judgement. As a result, in competition I have hit a lot of good strikes with my irons that have finished short or long of my target.
I have now started to correct these errors and have seen positive results. My play between 150-200 yards is now showing positive strokes gained. I am still having issues with tempo of my short irons and having played just 8 competitive rounds in 2019, my confidence with the new hybrid for those crucial 200-230 yard approach shots is not quite how I would like it.
Target: Strokes Gained: +0.50
2019 Actual: +0.05
When I conducted this exercise in July 2018, it was my short game that stood out as the area that I was losing shots. During the second half of 2018, I worked hard on improving my strike and distance judgement on pitch shots between 25-100 yards and I started to see results – improving my SG from -0.90 to +0.27 during the latter half of the year.
This process continued into 2019 and I have become increasingly confident with my wedge system. I have 5 different distances with each of my wedges, depending on the length of swing and I am becoming better with choosing the best option depending on wind, slope, ground conditions etc.
Unfortunately the progress in this area has been de-railed by a bout of the short chipping yips in the last couple of months.
The left image shows shots within 25 yards for my first 4 rounds of the year and on the right my last 4 rounds – I have gain from gaining a shot to losing 0.3 of a shot in this area.
It is difficult to explain the mental challenge of standing over a seemingly easy shot and thinking only of whether you will thin it through the green or duff it a yard or two in front of you. I am still working through the mental and technical aspects of solving these issues but it has helped playing with a couple of Pro’s recently and seeing their short game techniques and strategies.
Targets: Putts Per Round: 31 Strokes Gained: +1.0
2019 Actual: PPR: 32 Strokes Gained: +1.27
My putting was pretty consistent in 2018 and my goal for this year was to continue that trend whilst being slightly more aggressive from long range in order to make more of these putts.
I had some confidence issues with the putter early in the season, but once I found a technical key that worked, I have largely hit my targets.
2018 stats on the left with 2019 on the right.
Putting continues to be a strength in my game, although there is still room for improvement.
I hope that all golfers can find a benefit from the process and maybe the detail that I have outlined to evaluate your game. My advice is to be careful of traditional stats and utilize strokes gained analysis against a suitable base level for your own ability.
In my game, I missed my stroke average target by 2 shots. I was certainly under-golfed, with only 8 competitive rounds in the book this year (I had 12 in the same period during 2018 but various aspects of real life got in the way during early 2019).
Whilst this certainly played a part in missing my targets, there have been a number of areas identified that will allow me to focus my practice time in the second half of the year that will hopefully allow me to hit my goals in this period.