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Why our long game is important

February 23 2010 at 10:32 AM
Allen  (Login allenws)
SAGF Members 2000

There have been many questions asked on this forum about why someone would work so hard to improve their ball striking. Invariably, statements are made that there is no proof that improving your ball striking/long game will improve your scores. I have found an article written by a Columbia University mathematics professor, Mark Broadie, which provides some insight.

Traditional advice tells us that 65% of our shots come from inside of 100yds, and therefore, to lower ones score it is more important to practice the short game rather than the long game. Broadie recorded and analyzed 43,000 shots from volunteer golfers of all abilities. He discovered that if you discard putts inside of 3.5 feet, shots that almost everyone makes (i.e. gimmies for most am's) then the percentage of shots made inside of 100 yds drops below 50%.

Perhaps the evidence most in support of the importance of the long game is that high handicappers have four times as many "awful" shots per round as do low handicappers. An awful shot is defined as a shot who's result is far different from what was expected. He found that these are primarily shots involving long clubs; e.g. a topped long iron that goes 30 yds into the bushes.

Using this data he computed something he calls Fractional Remaining Length (FRL, which is the distance of a shots endpoint to the hole, divided by the initial distance to the hole, e.g. a 120yd shot lands 6 yds from the hole, the FRL = 6/120 or 5%.) As you would expect, lower handicappers have lower FRL's. You can compute your own average FRL and use his chart to determine if it would be more useful for you to improve your short or long game. Click on the multimedia graphic picture of a golf green on the second page of this article to get the chart.

From my own experience, a typical 520yd par 5 before Bertholy would go something like this. 1st shot = 240yd drive, 2nd shot = 90yd 3 wood pull hooked into the trees left, 3rd shot = punch out, 4th shot = 160yd 4iron into sand trap, out in one with a two putt for a 7.

Post Bertholy is more like this: 1st shot 270yd driver, 2nd shot 230 yd 4 wood, 3rd shot - pitch on green, two puts for a 5. Even though my short game didn't change (3 shots inside of 100 yds) I dropped two shots. This is why I've been working on my long game so much and why I think it will pay off in better scores.

This message has been edited by allenws on Feb 23, 2010 1:17 PM

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