Golf Made Simple Blog

Hitting Fairways

In the last year we’ve had 73-golfers write on their Registration Evaluations that “in order to get lower scores, I need to hit the golf ball in the fairway more often.” That sounds like a reasonable request. It’s actually quite simple to help someone to hit their Driver in the fairway more often. We help people do it every week. And I’m not going out on a limb by saying – “Learning to hit the ball straighter is easy, what most people should be doing is learning to hit the golf ball more solid and thus gain distance!”

As Vijay Singh stated on national television and proved during 2004 – Fairways Hit is a meaningless category. And if your strategy to lower your scores is based on hitting more fairways – you’re doomed to a future of never achieving better scores. Although the Monkeys will tell you otherwise – the Fairways are clogged with short and straight hitters that are stuck with using 3-woods, 5-woods and 3-irons for their 2nd shots into Par 4’s. Vijay would rather have an 8-Iron out of the rough than a 3-Iron off the fairway.

Vijay Singh, the #1 Men’s golfer in the world said -“Hitting fairways is the most overrated statistic in golf.” And he backs up his statement by ending 2004 ranked as the 149th most accurate Driver of the golf ball on the PGA Tour! He hit the fairway only 60% of the time, though he hit the Green in Regulation 73% of the time and had more birdies than anyone else. What’s so beautiful about this statistic is most Monkeys will tell you that in order to hit More Greens in Regulation, you need to be in the Fairway. And not to leave out the Best Player in the World – Annika Sorenstam – she was ranked as the 19th most accurate Driver on the LPGA, hitting 73% of the Fairways, but ranked #1 in Greens in Regulation with an amazing 78% success rate.

So coming back to everybody that says they need to hit the ball in the fairway to have lower scores – it’s not necessary. Now it’s necessary to keep your ball in play. But, please remember there is a huge difference between hitting fairways and keeping your ball in play. Keeping your ball in play means not taking penalty strokes for lost balls or having to hit out of the trees. But as both #1 Players’ in the world proved – Fairways Hit are almost meaningless.

We had a gentleman that came to see us not long ago who’s average score was 94 – a great guy – that kept saying over and over that “in order to get lower scores, I need to hit the ball in the fairway more often.” Knowing that hitting fairways wasn’t going to help him and also knowing that by me saying otherwise to someone who firmly believes something is fruitless until I can show them otherwise using our Results Based Approach – “talk is cheap and results speak for themselves” – I just smiled and nodded as an acknowledgement.

So we went through the first 5-hours of class and at 2:00 PM went out on the golf course for our 9-holes of On-Course (Instruction). During those 9-holes of On-Course, an amazing thing happened because of the improvements we made during our morning Instruction – this gentleman hit 6 out of 7 Fairways with his Driver. Another amazing thing happened – he scored 46 for the 9-holes (which is only 1-stroke better than his average). And yet another amazing thing happened – when we asked him how he played he said “Terrible, I didn’t hit the ball good enough off the tee, I need to hit more fairways.” So I pointed out to him that he hit 6 out of 7 fairways and he didn’t believe me, so we went over the 9-holes together and yes, he did hit 6 out of 7 fairways.

Huh, now what? This is a tough thing to take for someone that is a career “I need to hit the ball in the fairway more often” Golfer. Where do we go from here?

Vijay Singh played his best golf ever in 2004 and he hit the ball less accurate off the tee than he ever had before – go look at his stats – it’s not even close. Yet, he hit more Greens in Regulation than ever before – he hit the Green in Regulation 73% of the time. Now most Monkeys I meet equate Driving Accuracy to Greens in Regulation – but Vijay and Annika prove that Theory is wrong! Vijay’s average distance off the tee was his second longest ever – 300.8 yards per Drive. That’s huge!

So where did Vijay improve the most? His putting? No, his putting actually was better in 2003, 2002 and 2001 when he was using the Belly Putter.

When I went over the round with this gentleman we discovered some interesting things. One of which was his scores on the Par 5’s – he had one double bogey and one triple bogey on the Par 5’s. He was 10 over par for the 9-holes and 5 of those 10 strokes happened on the 2-Par 5 holes. We see this often! Let me put this more in context – We see this with 3 out of every 4-Golfers. 75% of the Golfers we see average more over par on the Par 5’s than on the 3’s or 4’s. Yet, the Pro’s are far, far more under Par on the Par 5’s than the 3’s or 4’s. It’s completely opposite between the best Players in the world and the regular Golfer. Maybe there is something we can learn from the best Players?

Now before you say – “well the Pro’s are probably getting on the Par 5 greens in 2-shots a lot”. Yes they are getting on in 2-shots once in a while, but most likely not as much as you think. Vijay was 125 stokes under Par on the Par 5’s in 2004 (that is not a misprint – 125 strokes under Par – INCREDIBLE), yet he only had 17-Eagles. I say “only 17-Eagles” not because I belittle his accomplishment (that is an incredible number of Eagles, more than most people get in a lifetime), but because it’s such a small percentage of the 125 strokes under Par. Even without the 17 Eagles, he was 91 under Par! Contrast that with Mark O’Meara who hit more Fairways than Vijay, but hit the ball 30-Yards less on average with his Driver and was only 57 under Par and had only 2 Eagles on the Par 5’s. Again I say only not because 57 under Par is not good, but because it is such a huge difference between the #1 Money Earner on the PGA Tour and the #135 Money Earner on the PGA Tour. And O’Meara was more accurate off the Tee, had less Putts per Round and was better out of the Sand.

Why is it that the majority of Golfers that we see are more over Par for Par 5’s and the Pro’s are more under Par on the Par 5’s. It goes to 2-things:

Hitting the ball farther off the tee and playing smart.

When we see golfers ready to hit their second shots on Par 5’s, it doesn’t matter what the situation is, they always have their 3-woods or 5-woods or 3-irons in their hands ready to go – even before they size up the shot they’re about to play. They get out of their cart, walk right to their bag, pick out their 3-wood, go to their ball, look for the middle of the fairway and then hit the ball. And they end up taking 2-Double Bogeys and 2-Triple Bogeys every round that account for 10-shots over Par. So most golfers are 10 over Par on what should be the easy holes and still have to play the 14-hard holes that are left where they will have to score only 7 over Par if they want to break 90. I say the 14-hard holes because Vijay Singh averaged just under Par – 3.96 shots on Par 4’s and over Par 3.02 on the Par 3’s. So if the Pro’s are scoring Par or over on the 3’s and 4’s – what do you think is happening to you?

So to see if we could help Golfers to start making more Pars and (at worst) Bogey’s on the Par 5’s – we now go out on the golf course and force you to think through every shot like a Pro would. And we do this by allowing you on the first day of Golf Made Simple to only use 4-golf clubs on the golf course, your Driver, 7-Iron, Sand Wedge and Putter. And you know what has happened using these clubs? The average score on the Par 5’s has improved, not just a little, but dramatically! Where we used to see a lot of “blow-up holes” of 7’s, 8’s and devastating 9’s – now we see 4’s, 5’s and 6’s. Yet, most people when they hear that after they hit their Driver, they need to rely on their 7-Iron to get them down the fairway, say “How are we going to play the Par 5’s with only our 7-Iron’s?”

This is not to suggest that you should always play your 7-Iron for your 2nd shot on par 5’s. This is to say that instead of doing the “same old, same old” on the Par 5’s – there might be a better way. Maybe after an OK Drive, you could take your 6-Iron and get the ball 150-yards down the course and then take another 6-Iron and an end up 20-yards short of the green and then hit your Sand Wedge onto the green and then 2-putt for a Bogey, maybe 1-putt for Par. And some Monkeys will say “Bogey, I don’t want to make a Bogey on a Par 5 – I’m trying to make Birdies!” And I say – OK, keep the same strategy you’ve been using of trying to make Birdies (and ending up with Double’s and Triple’s) and I wager a good sum of money that you’ll make more Double Bogeys than you’ll make Birdies on the Par 5’s. I’ll also wager that you’ll make more Double Bogeys than you’ll make Pars. Guess what, I’ll even wager you that using the strategy of going for it with your 3-wood in order to make Birdie is causing you to make more Triple Bogeys than you make Birdies, Pars and Bogeys combined.

So why is Vijay the #1 player in the world right now, why is he playing the best golf of his life? My vote is that he’s hitting the ball longer and he’s matured as a Player. He’s playing smarter than he did in the past – I’m not saying he was playing un-smart in the past – he’s just playing smarter now.

So have your best year of golf and step off the “I’ve gotta get the ball in the fairway” bandwagon. Hit the ball long off the tee and then play smart to the hole! And if you still think that hitting the ball in the Fairway is more important than Distance than what do you think would happen if we had a match between Vijay Singh (hitting only 60% of his Fairways), Allen Doyle (the most accurate Driver on the Senior Tour hitting 84% of his Fairways) and Seol-An Jeon (the most accurate Driver on the LPGA Tour hitting 84% of her Fairways) – and had them all play from the same distance of 7,000 yards. Who would you lay your money on winning that match? I tell you what – I’ll give you both Allen Doyle and Seol-An Jeon, plus 1000 to 1 odds and I’ll take the long but inaccurate Vijay. Any takers?

Hit the ball long and play smart – the Fairways are clogged with short hitters that don’t score!

Golf Made Simple!

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