This year, I’ve made a commitment to myself to become a better golfer. However, the first step in becoming a better golfer is knowing precisely what you’re doing wrong.
That’s why I’ve teamed up with Shot Scope to track my performance with their easy-to-use product and use the data collected to gain some insight into my game. From there, I can take those insights and turn them into a real plan of action that yields actual results.
Maybe I might even be abel to try qualifying for the US Amateur, years after I absolutely fell on my face in qualifying for the US Open.
So, I have logged five rounds so far using Shot Scope, and the data has confirmed for me some things I know about my game in general, as well as what I had been feeling in the early portion of the season.
What I want to focus on in this piece is how often I’m hitting each club in my bag.
My club selection
First things first, I hit driver more than any other club. I hit it 39 percent of the time, per Shot Scope, though sometimes I hit two drives when practicing or messing around on the course. In reality, I hit driver 14 times per round, and I shoot around 72. That’s still 25 percent of shots. I know I love to hit driver, and I’ll tell anyone who will listen, but that nearly one in three of the shots I hit are with the big stick is pretty wild.
Curiously, I had my best round in six years when I played a round barely hitting driver — just four times in the round — and using a utility iron and long irons off the tees. That’s something to think about moving forward.
I only use my putter 8 percent of the time, per Shot Scope, though I use the product’s PinCollect feature to score putts given to me in match play situations. The number is closer to 22 percent including those given putts. Nevertheless, I two-putt plenty, hardly ever three-putt, and I get up-and-down for a lot of one-putt pars. Part of that is the familiarity I have with my home course. However, I’ve played more than half my golf this year away from my home club, so the good news is that I’m missing in spots that leave me good chances to make pars.
I hardly ever hit my 4-iron, 5-iron or 6-iron. I hit them a combined 8 percent of my total shots. On my home course, I occasionally use them on longer par 3s, but I otherwise only use them for getting home to par 5s in two. That might explain some of the variability I can have in hitting them. They’re used in special situations where I’m typically trying to hit them full blast, either to get an eagle look or hit an extra-hard shot into the wind.
Meanwhile, I hit 8-iron or less 32 percent of the time. I have a short iron in my hand about one-third of the time. That’s not always for a full shot. It could be to extricate myself from a bad spot behind a tree or with branches in my way. It could be to hit a bump-and-run shot. But when I look for a club in my bag, it’s predominantly either the driver, 8-iron, 9-iron or a wedge. That makes up 71 percent of my shots.
Now that I have a better idea from Shot Scope of how frequently I’m hitting each club in my bag, I can create a practice plan to improve my performance.
I know I like to hit driver, and I had been hitting it poorly to start the season. I hit the fairway 40 percent of the time to start the season, and I was going left another 50 percent of the time. The good news is that the right side of the golf course is almost totally out of play. The bad news is that I could save strokes simply by straightening things out.
In recent weeks, I’ve been able to do that.
I’m using my scoring clubs a lot, so the challenge is to become more proficient with them and make sure I can dial up or down distances and trajectories. In other words, I need to become a more creative player, no relying as much on stock shots and distances to get better birdie changes.
I also need to limit how often I nuke my middle irons. My longest shots with an 8-iron and a 7-iron are over 200 yards. That’s mind-blowing, and those kinds of bombs over the target almost certainly lead to bogeys or worse. The Bridgestone JGR HF2 irons I’ve been playing have taken some adjusting because they are so explosive and strong-lofted, they particularly jump from perfect lies in the fairway and flier lies in the rough. As I’ve learned to use them better this season, though, I’ve figured out those situations better and limited these kinds of unacceptable mistakes.
Instead of spending as much time hitting mid- and long irons on the range, I should focus my time on hitting a variety of shots with short irons and wedges. If I can know with certainty how far I not only hit my full shots with these clubs but also half and three-quarter swings with these clubs, I can dial in a variety of shots with different trajectories and intensities to give me even more options when I play.