Monday, January 4, 2016

Short Game Inventory

It's a new year and it's time to take stock of your game.  Here is a Short Game Inventory for you to test your skills and track your progress.  Do this test monthly or more often and record your results to assure yourself that you're spending enough time on your short game.  It will be a good test and also a very good focused practice schedule.

These tests are based on your individual games, so there aren't any guidelines for what you should make, but included is a PGA Tour standard based on the 2014 Statistics found at  I included both the best on tour and the 90th ranked, which is close to the middle of all players.  Almost all of you reading this probably can't compare to the best in the world, but a benchmark of any kind is a great way to measure yourself against a standard.  Even if you're a beginner, the benchamarks are merely a constant for you to use, not your immediate goals.

Short Putts:
Start 3 feet from the hole.  Put 5 tees in around the hole so that you face all slopes possible.  Putt from each tee once and go around the circle twice.  Use a routine as you would on the golf course. Record your made putts and repeat it from 6, 9 and 12 feet.  

Jason Day practicing from 3 feet using Eyeline Golf products.  The pros take nothing for granted and Day's use of a mirror helps him with both his alignment and his head position.  

Here is an example of a log with the PGA baseline included.
3 ft.: 9/10 = 90%  
PGA Best: Jason Day + 7 others -100% PGA Avg. 91st - Billy Hurley + 4 others 99.35%
6 ft.: 5/10 = 50%  
PGA Best: Graeme McDowell - 88.89% 90th PGA: 90th - Zach Johnson 70.73%
9 ft.: 3/10 = 30%
PGA Best: Billy Horschel - 70% 91st PGA: Chris Kirk 46.84%
12 ft.: 1/10 = 10%
PGA Best (putts from 10'-15'): Aaron Baddeley - 39.62% 91st PGA: David Toms 30.07%

Distance Control:

Lay string on the green in six lines each 3 feet or 1 large step from each other.  Putt from 15 feet away from the closest string.  Your goal is to get a ball to stop in between the first two sets of string.  You get one putt to each area.  With your second ball, go at the area between the second and third string.  It will be 18 -21 feet.  You get one putt to each area. When you're finished, start over and do it a second time.  How many of the ten putts did you hit into your intended target zone?  Log your results.
2/10 = 20%

There is no standard PGA Tour measurement for how well the pros lag the ball, but here are some stats that will give you an idea of their talent from these distances. Ricky Barnes had no 3-putts from putts between 15 and 20 feet in 2014 and he was tied with 34 other players who never 3 putted from those lengths. Jason Dufner was tied for 90th with 1 3-putt from these distances that accounted for 1.28% of all his putts from these distances.

Move it back to 20-25 feet and you will still find 22 pros who were perfect in avoiding 3 putts in 2014 from those distances. When you look at the 90th place, you find two players tied with 2.35%. That means that the best in the world might 3 putt 1 or 2 times per season inside 25 feet.

If you look at these distances from the other perspective, that of made putts, you will find that it is rare to make these putts, even if you're the very best in the world. That is why we are measuring your ability to roll the ball the proper distance instead of your ability to read the putt or to start it on your line. Those are also important skills for putting, but your distance control is the most important skill for 3-putt avoidance and better scoring.

PGA Tour best from 15-20 feet: Matt Every 32.86%, 90th - Jamie Lovemark 17.95%
PGA Tour best from 20-25 feet: Graeme McDowell 23.53%, 90th - Roberto Castro 11.39% made

Start with a chip that is 4-6 feet off the green and requires you to fly the ball ⅓ off the distance and have ⅔ of the distance be roll.  Chip 3 balls and measure the length of the middle ball.  In other words, pick up your best chip and your worst chip and measure the distance from the hole of the third ball.  Repeat this 10 times, moving around.  See if you can keep your chips similar in the flight vs. roll of the ball.  You can make it more realistic by dropping your balls and not bumping them into a perfect lie.  Don’t repeat more than three shots at a time.  Add the 10 distances together and divide by 10.  That number represents your average chipping distance.  

Ricky Barnes chips from off the green.  Photo from

The reason for the ⅓ flight vs. ⅔ roll is, we want you to record shots that have a low trajectory and rely upon roll which is the most common definition of a chip shot.  In reality, a chip shot can fly 1/8th of the distance and roll 7/8ths or it can fly half of the way and roll half of the way.  While that’s recognized, the purpose of the skills inventory is to produce a consistent test that can be repeated wherever you’re practicing.  

Here is an example of a chipping log.
1. 5'3"  2. 6'1"  3.  8'6"  4.  2'2"  5. 9'  6. 4'5" 7. 0  8. 1' 9. 5'4"  10. 8'9"
Add your feet missed.  5+6+8+2+9+4+0+1+5+8=48" then multiply by 12 = 576
Add your inches missed.  3+1+6+2+0+5+0+9+4+9=39
Add the 2 sums together.  576+39 = 615 Divide it by 10 = 61.5 Divide it by 12= 5.125
Your average chip shot is 5.125 feet from the hole.

If you don't want to hit 30 shots, you can do this five times and hit sets of 3 that add up to 15.  The more data you gather, the better, but 15 shots will give you a good idea also.  You can add as much information as you'd like to your log.  You can try this with different clubs or from different lies (fringe, fairway, rough, hard pan).

Every time you do this, you can choose two different distances. You can go on the 5's or the 10's. This is your call.  From each yardage, you will hit 5 shots.  If possible, use a pitching green for this drill so you can get realistic ball reactions.  Pick up the two best shots and the two worst shots and measure your middle distance.  Repeat this from both distances and record the results.  You can do this testing from as many distances as you like, but make sure to record the median from each distance. Using the middle ball of five balls is a great indicator of your average shot.

Here is an example of a pitching log.
50 Yards - 21 yards, 2 feet.
75 Yards - 10 yards, 5 feet.  

You can use this information to work on certain distances and get better. One thing that the Shot Tracker has proven is, the closer the pros are to the hole, the better their shots. The idea of laying up to a distance that is your best doesn't matter to the best, but it might matter to you if you aren't good at controlling your distance. Your goal shouldn't be to lay up to distances, but to be great at any distance of pitch shot that you face. You can go further on your log and add information. Here is an example of a detailed log.
50 Yards - 21 yards, 2 feet. (I used lob wedge and hit it high. My goal was a shoulder high swing.)
75 Yards - 10 yards, 5 feet.  (used sand wedge and hit medium trajectory shots. My goal was a 1/2 swing on each shot).

If you do this well, you should begin to see what clubs work best from different distances and hopefully you will improve on controlling the length of your swings.
Bunker Play:
Choose two bunker shots of any distance and repeat the exercise you did for pitching.  Hit 5 shots from each place and measure the middle ball for your distance.  Add the two together and divide by two to get your average bunker shot distance.  

Here is an example of your bunker log.
Shot 1:  7'8"
Shot 2:  10'5"
Average distance for bunker shots is 9'.

Pernilla Lindberg practices from the bunker on the LPGA Tour.

You can add as much information to this log as you will find helpful.  You can vary your lies (fried egg, buried, uphill, downhill, sidehills, ball in and feet out, wet sand, etc.)  You can keep track of club used.  You can keep track of carry vs. roll out.  This log is for your use to improve your game.  Understanding where you stand is a good start.

Have a great short game test!  It will be a very good practice, too.  If you have time to report on how you found the tests, it would help in the writing of a practice guide. Thanks!

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