What makes one player better than another? In golf, there are so many skills that it is sometimes hard to tell what exactly is going on.
Like many, I used to think that the search for the perfect swing was the most important thing but actually the facts (uncovered by Dave Pelz some time ago) do not support this. How you hit the ball is less important than you might imagine. It is how many times you hit the ball that really counts.
Not all about the full shots
The Money Ball of golf is……(cue fanfare)…..the short game. Not putting and not the full swing. Chips, pitches, partial swings, flop shots and bunkers shots….in fact anything where the ball goes in the air but is not a full swing. I know, not very exciting but nevertheless true. Dave Pelz has shown it and published it years ago in his Short Game Bible but has been largely ignored. Commentators still say of tour players “He swings the club so well, he will win soon for sure”. They may be right but if good striking is not backed up with good short shots then it will be much harder.
Of course, your long game must not be costing you shots and if you cannot keep the ball in play then that aspect of the game certainly needs attention. However, the crux of the matter is that after a certain point, being a brilliant striker will yield less of a scoring advantage than being a brilliant short game player.
The 12 shot difference
To illustrate, let’s imagine you are a tour player. You hit 13 greens a round in regulation. That means five short game shots per round, right?
Actually it means nothing of the sort. Yes, there will be five missed greens, there may also be four par fives where a chip, pitch or bunker shot is needed plus another three short par fours (350yards or less) where the second shot is less than a full swing. This leaves 12 partial shots (Pelz calls them finesse shots) even for a good ball striking round. Get them all up and down and you are -7, get none up and down and you are +5. This is a 12 shot swing on finesse shots combined with good short putting from 10 feet and less…..Money Ball!
Luke Donald World No1? Here’s how he did it.
These shots are the Money Ball of golf. Unseen and under analysed, the partial shots correlate with good scoring at golf like no other segment of the game.
How else can Luke Donald become the no.1 player in the world? He is not the longest or straightest hitter but with good finesse and short putting he rose much higher in the rankings than his striking would have suggested.
Have you ever wondered how it is that you hit the ball better than someone who has a lower handicap that you? If you are a 13 handicap, you may know a 9 handicapper whom you regularly out drive and wonder how it is possible that he is better than you. Almost certainly, the partial shots will be making the difference because they are the only shots that can get you close enough for a guaranteed one putt.
Coming Soon – The Money Ball of Golf (Part 2)
To completely understand the facts, we have to look a bit closer at Pelz’s statistics, which we’ll do in the upcoming blog The Money Ball of Golf Part 2.
References: My Short Game Bible – Dave Pelz
Jeremy Dale is resident teaching professional at Heythrop Park and a John Letters short game ambassador and coach. Click for more on short game coaching from Jeremy….