Here's how Shot Scope made me a better golfer in 2019
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Here’s how Shot Scope made me a better golfer in 2019

Courtesy: Patrick Koenig

For the last several seasons, I had been playing golf convinced I wasn't going to get much better.

I became a parent in 2012, and before our son was born in December, I became a plus golfer for the only stretch in my life. I got there because I played a lot of golf, and I worked at getting better. I disastrously tried to qualify for the US Open, and I haven't seen that peak since.

I don't get to play golf quite as much as I did. We now have two children, and they're becoming people with their own hobbies and corresponding transportation needs. I coach their sports teams and help them develop hobbies as much as I work on my own. Most of my rounds are nine-hole affairs -- sometimes even less.

Going into this year, I wanted to recommit to improving as a player. I wanted to identify what was keeping me in the 4-6 range of USGA index and try to get back down as close to 0 as possible. I teamed up with Shot Scope to keep track of my rounds this year, looking to figure out where I was struggling and then take action.

I got the Shot Scope package, including the GPS unit that doubles as a GPS watch, and I screwed in the sensors into the butt end of all my clubs. I downloaded the app, paired the unit to my phone via Bluetooth, and off I went.

Now that the year is effectively done, except for a few stray rounds when it's above 45 degrees, I can report back on my year. I not only lowered my handicap in 2019, but I became a significantly smarter golfer for the first time in a long time -- all thanks to Shot Scope.

Before starting with Shot Scope, I posted what I thought would be come out as my strengths and weaknesses. Among my strengths, I listed that I'm still a long hitter with a high ball, that I putt well outside of 10 feet, and that I'm a better-than-average long-iron player. My perceived weaknesses were my play with scoring clubs, including partial wedge shots. I said I thought my sand game could stand to improve.

As it turned out, Shot Scope affirmed a lot of my suspicions. However, Shot Scope sent me down the right path to address those problems in a way that has changed my game.

I gain a lot of strokes off the tee with my length. I thought I could stand to hit more fairways by laying back with irons. Turns out, that wasn't true. Shot Scope convinced me the right play is to hit driver as far as I can, provided I can keep it in the space between 5 yards left and right of the fairway. Putting shorter irons in my hand and potentially hitting from the rough turned out to be a much better choice for me than hitting from the fairway with 45 or 50 more yards left. It also turned out I can miss fairways with a long iron just as well as a driver. So why not pick driver?

I worked hard on my putting inside 10 feet this year. I made a lot more putts when I came up with a comfortable stance and grip. Not being afraid of a comebacker made me an even better putter from distance. Being able to knock down a few extra tricky putts per round was a difference-maker when taken in aggregate over a whole season.

I got better as a wedge player. I re-evaluated my technique, and I found out how to close the gap between my sand wedge and approach wedge, as well my approach wedge and sand wedge. There are fewer awkward numbers now for me, and that means hitting more confident and precise wedge shots.

However, the biggest change for me this year in dropping from a 4.3 to a 1.1 (and for a time being a 0.6) came in how I viewed my iron play. I'm an aggressive player, and I go for pretty much every shot. Part of that is the realities of playing a lot of handicap golf where I give strokes on most, if not all, holes. So I worked myself into a mentality to fire at almost every pin and play for birdies. That was hurting my game. The data from Shot Scope was telling me that I had to change my approach style, and that sent me to Scott Fawcett and the DECADE system.

Studying up on Scott's system convinced me the smart play was to fire aggressively at manageable targets, even if they're not the flag. Learning to not assume I'll hit an extraordinary shot every time -- which seems too logical in retrospect -- made me pick more accessible targets more easily. Since adopting some tenets of DECADE this summer, I've had more rounds where I'm hitting 14-plus greens in regulation per round than ever. I even hit 17 greens in a round this year for the first time. Those GIRs lead to more scoring chances, and I've been shooting more rounds comfortably under par than I have in my life. I don't need a hot start or a flurry at the finish (though they don't hurt) to put together a great round because having a higher volume of opportunities makes better scores possible with less stress.

I don't know that I would have gone down this path were it not for Shot Scope. I wouldn't have seen the data in front me to convince me that I could still play aggressively in a way that would net me more birdie chances by playing holes smarter and to my strengths.

This season has been a huge success, and I can't wait for 2020.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]

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