Good days vs Bad days: Where are we trying to improve

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

Am I trying to make my BEST days better or my WORST days better? Does it take the same skill set and how can I change my focus between the two.

From a 10,000 foot view, practice and improvement should improve everything, but as I finish out this season, I’ve found that my high scores have been significantly lower, while my low scores haven’t move a ton. Most of my focus this year has been on not compounding mistakes, so this makes sense. I am taking less overall risk, so the delta between my scores has grown smaller.

My worst score this season is a 91 from the tips in my club qualifier, and I tried to force my game back (it didn’t work) instead of shooting an 86-87. I hit 5 balls OB and recorded some truly high numbers. My lowest score this season is a 75, and it featured 1 birdie. I wouldn’t call it boring golf, but I was mostly in decent position all day, and never far out of position. I had a putt for par on every hole.

As I look forward, I think it’s time to start working on LOWERING my scores. I’ve mostly cleaned up my bad rounds, and now I just need to figure out where to step on the gas on the course. After listening to Jon, Adam and Lou, I do think I am going to spend some time grinding 10 foot putts, and make sure I have a good look at birdie on holes where variance puts me close to the hole… and also work on 30 foot putts to make sure I am not three putting.

I’m actively working on tightening up my driver (though that should lower ALL my scores) and tracking strokes gained…

I think, overall, I’ve done a decent job this year of lowering my scoring average without throwing up any super low rounds (I’m usually in the 79-82 range, so 75 isn’t all that far off) but I wonder if I left something on the table by not grinding the “killer instinct” and making sure I had opportunities to go lower.

I’m not abandoning DECADE and chasing birdies, or anything like that… I just wonder if when I am in the GREEN LIGHT range on the course if I need to be more aggressive and get better at scoring.

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To me, they go hand in hand, and as you improve, both your good rounds and your bad rounds will get lower. I’m sure you’ve heard Jon and Scott Fawcett say repeatedly not to chase birdies and that eliminating big numbers is the best path to lower scores.

The number one thing for me is eliminating the big miss off the tee, which partially can be addressed by picking smart targets and club selection, but mostly is achieved by better technique/skill improvement.

Once you start hitting more playable tee shots, you should have easier approach shots, and more birdie chances will follow.

And I think this is what you’re getting at, but at a certain skill level, yes, I think you can and should get more aggressive on approach shots from say 100 yards or so.

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I had a lesson yesterday and we were reviewing the last year and we agreed that my floor is higher but my ceiling hasn’t really moved much. I’ve been a bit frustrated by that but he was happy since I am only halfway through a swing change and the fact that I could improve while making changes is a very good sign. I do think that, in diving into the boring golf philosophy (which I agree with), I have become too conservative. I never go through the actual decade math and I’m pretty sure the result is that I pick a target that is less aggressive than the math would suggest most of the time. I think part of that is due to the fact that, while I’m pretty comfortable with the swing, I’m not totally confident over the ball.

We started phase II of the change yesterday and now I’ve got 7 months to work on it. I hope that, when I’m back next spring, I have greater confidence and will be able to take more aggressive lines and execute. If that happens, I’m pretty sure my ceiling will rise and I’ll be in the plus handicap range all summer instead of every so often.

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I 100% agree, and most of my score lowering will come from avoiding big numbers… but I also think I need to make sure I’m better capitalizing on birdie opportunities… Basically, making sure I’m performing well with wedge in my hand and sinking putts. My three putt numbers have gone way down, but my make rate from 6-10 feet is still below average.

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I was going to say, to realistically make a birdie on Par 3s and 4s, you’ve got to put your approach inside of 10 feet. And even then, it’s only 40 percent for the pros, and 1/3 for scratch. If your make rate is below average, then that radius is even smaller.

Even 20 feet (10 feet left and right) from 150 yards is 2 & 2/3 degrees of arc. That’s pretty tight dispersion. And if you have to get closer than that, because your makes from 10 feet are only 15 percent, instead of the scratch’s 1/3…?

This is a rule of thumb, but even wobblier, but your closed fist held out in front of your outstretched arm, blocks about 10 degrees of arc. If that’s true, than 2 2/3, is narrower than 1/3 of your outstretched fist

(Try it. Stand somewhere you can see the horizon, hold your arm out with the bottom of your fist on the horizon, and try to ‘stack’ it on top of itself until you get directly overhead. Takes me 9 fists.)

The point I’m trying to make is, this is really hard to do. Of course, if you get closer, the required angle widens…

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Yeah. When I say make more birdies I’m talking 1-2 per round vs my current average of about .75

Less doubles and bogeys will lower my score more, but I have a much clearer picture on how to do that.

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I am pretty happy with where I’m at right now. The last 10 rounds…My highest round at home base has been 76 and away the highest round has been 78. Today was a 76 that should have been 68. I literally missed 2, 3ft birdie putts. I did make 3 birdies today and had 3, 3 putts for bogeys from 25-35 ft. And I dipt 3 chip shots that were only 8ft off the greens but in wet thick, 3 inch deep ruff. Now everything is aeration recovering, so I’m not reading alot into anything. My average off the tees today when I hit driver was like 250-265 and ripped with a slight draw. I was firing at every pin not playing safe side scoring clubs. I started this season at maybe 210 avg off the tee box, I’m really thrilled, and I know with some added flexibility and weight loss there’s another 10-15 yds to be had over the winter. Not bad for a 62yo. It is nice to be reintroduced to my wedges. As bad as I putted I still had 3.26 strokes gained even with the 3 putts. I happy that I can now play 6400 to 6500 yd courses and not have to hit 3w into everything.

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Can I give you one tiny bit of advice to really improve your scores? Stop worrying about scores…I’ve said this probably 20x since I joined this site Golf is a game of misses. It is not a game of makes. It’s not about eliminating misses, it is about managing your misses coming in with the full knowledge and expectation…that you will miss. I will bet you a round of golf…improvement comes when you learn that each shot, chip or putt you take needs to be managed. If you can clear the mechanism and execute, each stroke, because each and every one is going to be executed under different circumstances is what you need to improve…don’t let your brain or lack of confidence get in your way…that is why we practice…we need the knowledge of our distances, ball flight, swing tendencies. Knowing those will better help you manage your game. For real… golf is really just a series of single shots…When you are on the tee, what is your mindset? Like today for me. I got on 16 trying to rip one, I came over the top…blew it into th hazard, took my drop, hit 3w into ruff to R of green, Flopped to 14 ft, 2 putted for double. Went to 18, 380 uphill all carry…ripped a drive to 145, dropped an 8 iron to 23 ft I did not take that one at the flag, hit to the fat side of the stick Left the bird about 6" to easy and made par. Manage each shot as they appear to optimize the scoring on each hole…Add em up when you get thru 18…your scoring will come down

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I’m not worried about my score until after the round, and it has helped significantly. Just working on the task ahead of me…

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I was just referring to your original post here. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. But if I read it correctly you mentioned lowering your aggregate scores at least 6 times. I’m saying Take it one stroke at a time. What’s your mindset on the tee? If you rip one down the middle…what do I have to do to get the ball in position to get down in 3. If I rip one into the hazard…what do I have to do to make no worse than 6. If I read it correct…sounds like your game is at a point where the improvement needs to come from from managing your thought processes one swing at a time, I mean sitting on the practice green banging 10 ft putts will definitely help your stroke confidence process, but each 10 ft putt is its own separate event and you’re still only going to make 4-5 out of every 10…no matter what you do.

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Ultimately, my score is the metric I measure my success on the course by… it’s the result of the processes I’ve put into place.

Lowering scores (either the aggregate or the lowest score) is based on having good processes.

I’ve done really well this year at keeping focused and playing the shot ahead of me… when I’m inside the process I’m not worried about the overall result. I’m never thinking “I need to make par here” I’m always just looking at what the best next stroke is…

And that’s been great for keeping my mistakes from blowing up a round. My worst days are significantly better than the my ever have been.

And now I’m looking at my process and trying to figure out if I should adjust my aim a little bit and worry less about making doubles and start looking at better ways to turn bogeys into pars and pars into birdies.

For instance, if I get “more aggressive” with my wedges and put some shots to 6 feet , but more to 20 feet instead of a lot to 10-15 feet, I’ll still have a good look at par while also putting birdie on the table.

Basically, I’ve figured out (mostly) how to drive the car around the track without crashing… now I’m looking at where I can safely add speed.

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Let me use me as an example, The only way I was going to get my game down into single digits over par was to add distance off the tee and significant distance. I would say going from 200-210 to 250-265 is significant. I was re-introduced to my wedges again. I had to re-learn mechanics. I think I said I was trying to drive a nail with a screwdriver instead of a hammer. 50 yards is what I needed and that’s what I got. I learned this game using persimmon drivers…todays equipment requires a different process. I was able to develop that process with lessons and hard work. Then I basically worked on eliminating LEFT… I’m pretty much there…most of my misses will be RIGHT… I took out 70-80% of my misses…Now it’s all about choosing the right shot with the right club…Now I don’t have to hit driver every hole, I hit clubs that will put me into proper position for the next shot. I will hit to widest part of a FW now…My playing partners are basically IN WTF stage now…I am outdriving them significantly, I am mumbling about not making birdies and pars, I have basically taken Dbls out of my equation…they can’t keep up with me now…they are 12 hdcp players…they are hitting utility clubs into holes and I’m hitting 8,9,W in consistently and I’m now not missing left…It’s managing the misses and getting that confidence level up with tee balls. I had them move to the Gold Tees today and it still didn’t matter…We are driving the car…the question now is where are you going and how are we getting there? I think you are looking to add better management of each stroke on each hole. Look I don’t know your game, I don’t know your tendencies, but for me I dont fire at every pin that is left, …I took left misses out, I will aim at the middle of the green…ah, but right pins,I;m firing at those because thats my ball flight…basically, I’m pretty confident I’m not missing left, if it does what it’s supposed to do, I’m there if it doesnt I still have a 20 ft putt

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If you can do that currently—I can’t, though like the rest of us, I do have occasional (Pee Wee Herman)“I meant to do that!”(/Pee Wee Herman) approaches & chips—but if you can do that, then why aren’t you now? Sucker flags? Taking Broadie’s advice too much to heart?

Because I agree with you, trying to get it in 1-putt range, even if that makes for longer putts than ‘normal’ when you don’t pull it off (it shouldn’t), beats hell out of consistent approaches that are going to end up juuust out of realistic 1-putt range. Besides, going for it is really fun when it works, and fun is why we’re out there. No Masters Sunday pins, but you’ve been playing your course awhile: you know there what’s going to end in tears and what won’t.

Increasing your birdie rate from 0.5-0.75 to 1-ish isn’t going to improve your score all that much, though it’s a great incremental goal. This game always will be easier to screw up a hole than to do really well on a hole, and consequently, we drop our scores by reducing our screwups. But if “screwup” for you at this point is only a bogey, why not sharpen the knife a little? Just don’t jeopardize your GIR percentage.

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Hi Jay. I don’t know anything about you or your game. Improvement in this game is easiest going from 100 to 90, 90 to 80 and 80 to about 77. After that, it’s incremental. My story, is different, at one time, I was a pretty good basketball player, I had dreams of playing some sort of pro ball. I actually played with and against players that were signed to play on professional teams. As good as I felt I was, those marginal pro players were way, and I mean way better than I was. I ended up playing golf. I took lessons, I had the opportunity to play in my early 20s because I worked late evening shifts, to play every day for 7 years str8. I learned the game way different than most and I went from a poor player to a pretty good player quickly, again, aspirations of becoming good enough to hit a tour…then reality sets in. Contrare to these folks that want to sell you systems to manage your game, Broadie, Fawcett et al. You can get decent at this game using any system if you put in the work and it takes work. Golf is a hard game and just playing 1 round takes 5 hours and did u hear me say practice? Oh yeah … expensive… So let’s spend more money on a system that measures how poor I really am. Now, enough of gloom. I was taught early on to manage expectations, my first 2 lessons, I never touched a club or made a swing and my first 5 lessons after talking about the game started with a putter and learning how to chip and pitch and everything else built on that. To be honest I was lost, I wanted to bash balls. Well that’s not golf. You tell me this, where do you spend 1/2 to 3/4 of the game…it certainly isn’t on the tee box or the fairway. I dare anyone to tell me otherwise and prove me or my teachers wrong. If you learn to put the puzzle together that each stroke is an independent and individual move to get you into a 4inch hole 18 times. I watch the trackman analysis of guys trying to tighten dispersion and they are all trying to hit these dead straight shots, first how many people do you play with that hit dead str8 shots, obviously that’s the goal, but the group I play with, 2 hit really big fades, the other one hits alot of pulls, they all have gotten better because I show them how to manage their misses and tendencies better. The other part is learn your swing. The biggest mistake going on is the old thud/click. Yea hitting the ground first then the ball. Lost distance, lost control, lost stroke. To me, before anyone starts with any system, learn your swing, your tendencies, your misses. Work on making that better first, I mean Fawcetts system won’t work as well for a guy on a 425 yd par 4 that only hits the ball 225yds, you still have probably a 5w or 3w into a hole assuming you are a normal golfer. Learn to manage your game first. If you agree great, if not, great, I’m just being real. Like I said above. You can grind all you want on the practice green on 10-12 ft putts, it will build confidence for sure, know this no matter what, statistics will still say you’re gonna miss 50% or more of them, if you can even have a few of them in the normal course of play on 18 holes. I mean for a 10 hdcp, your GIR might be 6 or 7 if you are lucky and out of those how many are within 10ft? I’m just trying to be real.

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I don’t know the answer to this question… I do know my wedge play from 100 yards has been an issue in my scoring… honestly, I think I just need to grind the 100 yard fairway shot and make sure I’m as good at it as I can be.

To me, that’s improving my “good” rounds because I’m much more likely to have 100 yard into the pin on my good days where I’m driving the ball well…

I guess that’s more my overall point… do we practice the skills that lower the chances of a bad day (making sure driver is in play) or practice the skills that improve the chances of a good day (hit driver farther)… I like to believe ive done a good job at improving my bad days, so now it’s time to improve my good days.

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I just want to add one thing regarding scoring as a metric. I personally don’t use my score as a metric. I have had some great ball striking rounds and have shot 15-18 over par. I’ve had some rather crappy ball striking rounds, but got a few lucky bounces, made some crazy putts, chipped the ball into the hole 2 times and shot 4 over par. To me your score is what is. When I sit back, at the lunch table with the boys, we all inevitably piece together what we did well, how many mishits we all had and FINALLY, how many poor or great decisions we made for the round. Again, for example, I played our #2—2x—on Saturday. First time I toed a Drive into the ruff to 130 to a back pin, hit PW to 18ft and 2 putt par. The second time around, I hit a decent drive middle of FW, wind picked up in your face had 118 same pin. My partner says PW or GW, I said neither, I’m gonna flight an 8i to center of green, and see if I can’t get a check release. I executed perfect to 12ft, my partner just shakes his head…2 putted for par. He asked why I did that? My fairway lie happened to be a little tight and a little soft, I know I can take a 3/4 swing and cover the ball alot easier than hitting a sloppy PW that, if I chunk it slightly, is gonna come up short of target. Same hole, same score, 2 different ways to play…how did I execute? That is what I am looking for…did I make a good decision and execute that decision. I could NOT do that out of ruff I had to hit the flier… I was taught to analyze my decisions on the course…inevitably…good decisions can lead more often to good scores, and poor decisions could add a stroke more often than not. It’s like do I chip from 10ft uphill, very tight lie or do I putt it. Which is going to give me the result I’m trying to achieve. I forget what tournament it was, but TW needed par to break a record but needed bogey to win the tourney, he laid back and missed a par putt and made bogey. He was asked why he didn’t use a driver, he said driver put 6 or 7 into play. Laying back took that out of the equation completely…“Bogey is what I needed to win” it doesn’t matter if I win by 1 or 7, I won!..I hope I didn’t hurt anyones feelings…

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I don’t think one score can necessarily show me how well I’m playing, but I didn’t shoot any 75s last season and did this season…

My whole point in this thread is to question what we are chasing and how we are chasing it… Are you trying to make your off days less off or be better on your best days. A number of the skills for the two correlate, but there are some places where you can work on one without impacting the other.

Strategy out of the trees is a great example… You can lower your big numbers by getting back into the fairway, but on your “best” days, this might not be a choice you have to make…

I don’t think scores or handicap indicate how good a golfer is as much as they indicate their overall potential for a round.

One of the things I’ve dedicated this season to is finding areas where I can improve and grinding that improvement (and it’s a slow and methodical process)… I’ve come to realize that ANY positive change in golf takes months, if not years to be realized… I’m starting to slowly see the work I’ve put into putting pay off, and I really got in gear back in January.

I agree with you it’s important go reflect on the decision making of the day, and see where you had bad breaks, good luck or simply didn’t make a good decision or commit to a swing… but it has to be tied to some sort of real metric…

It’s alot like working on a new recipe… you can keep trying a dish and getting different elements right, but at the end of the day if you can’t put it all together into one meal where everything just WORKS, then what’s the point… and like cooking, what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for me, and that’s OK.

We can measure success differently, and that doesn’t make anyone wrong or right. My best round had a ton of mistakes I wish I had back, and the next days 82 had a bunch of good shots and some bad bounces… Variance will always happen.

Honestly, I think the biggest challenge with golf is finding the tangible ways to measure improvement, as every round is so different. Even strokes gained can be misleading on one round trends, as one shot can skew the data (the aggregate data is much more useful)

Tiger was the GOAT because he understood what his goals were and where he needed to perform. He consistenly avoided big mistakes on the course. He also had the benefit of competition, and knew exactly where he stood…

Going into 18 with a good round are most of us willing to take a look at birdie off the table if it means we won’t make worse than bogey? If the score doesn’t matter to anyone but you, and you are one over headed into 18, does it make sense to try to shoot even par for the first time ever? or do you shoot for the part putt and walk away happy with a 73? Does it matter to anyone but you? I’d argue you can defend either choice very easily. That’s the fun of recreational golf… we all have our own goals and metrics. It’s also the biggest challenge. If we want to get BETTER we have to first figure out what BETTER is.

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My main areas of focus this season has been on the mental aspect of the game and focused based off strokes gained data.

I’ve practiced my physical game less often but when I did, there was an aspect of mental training involved.

I saw my handicap drop from 4.5 to start the year to 0.7 and my scoring average improve by three strokes.

How do I measure my course performance by not using score?

I use a mental scorecard for each hole and my goal is to follow my process on all shots for a hole. If successful, I get a 1. 18/18 is the goal and the rounds when I stick to that well, I typically play well.

As for other stats, strokes gained data is extremely valuable in determining where to spend my time. I might feel like I’m not putting well only to realize I’m putting better than the average scratch golfer. So why spend time there if I’m coughing up 2-3 strokes with tee shots or approach?

As for breaking barriers, I enjoy Will Robins’ game of playing alternating holes of 2-ball worst ball and the forward tees. Teaches us to play conservatively where needed and go low when in position.

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I’ll agree with you about changes to your swing and that it takes a very long time and alot of work. In my 20’s…For 7 years and actually hitting balls and playing the game probably 260 days a year; literally hitting 10’s of thousands of balls with wedges and short irons, so much so I would have to get new ones every so often because I wore out the grooves… I did put in the work to get that consistent…most likely you’re not there yet… You will find alot of it is like riding a bike. My issue… I was trying to hit a newer technology driver the same way I was taught to hit a persimmon. I mean when we learned to hit… it was about bulge and roll, I really knew nothing about launch angles, side spin, spin rates etc. It’s nite and day, but it is a tweak that took me 3 in person lessons and probably 1000 balls with recordings of the swing, 4 trakman sessions and 3 re-grips. I started in February 21 and now, 7months later I’m finally starting to reap the distance and consistency benefits of the work I put in. I did gain 40-50yds off the tee box and now I’m starting to control it. In the meantime, some other parts of my game suffered slightly, but slightly is enough to pull all your hair out! I have a very good understanding of my swing and what it does and how it performs when I’m on. A couple of things I had to come to grips with at age 62. I think my swing is the same as I always was, but trakman says otherwise, I’m less flexible and slower so the ball does NOT travel as far. I had to come to grips with that. So, you have to adjust, your eyesight and nerves are bit more off, for the worse, again adjustment of expectations. Now, this year, now that my distances were recalibrated using trakman, I still hit the same 5yd fade with my scoring clubs, I’m considering adding a 9wood to the arsenal (not fully there yet). So yea, riding the bike, I can still drop wedges close to where I want within reason. At the end of the day, I’m trying to execute shots. 18 puzzles & each puzzle requires a piece 3, 4 or 5 (6,7,8 too…hope not though) pieces. I put them together and if I thought it out decently I can break 80 pretty easily.

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Good discussions in here, pretty interesting!

Coming from the POV of an average recreational bogey golfer - my larger area of concern is making the bad days not as bad. Which entails a bunch of different things, of course, and already talked about in the posts above. The main focus for me probably is learning not to compound mistakes…

There was a mention of “what does better mean?” - great point; and to me, a big part of that is hitting the ball more solidly, more crisply AND in the right direction … and doing that more often per round. If I can do that, then the good scores will … eventually … follow.

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