Missing greens short

Like the vast majority of amateurs, I miss the green short a lot. My GIRs have never been high (rough 4 per 18); while I can attribute a bit of that to the course I play (with very small greens), it’s still a bad number that has to improve.

Arccos makes it very clear that the short miss is killing me. Just over 50% of my approaches finish short of the green.

I have what I’d like to call a semi-realistic perception of how far I hit it. I do not have any delusions that I’m a long hitter; I’m pretty ordinary. In general, I’d pull my 8 iron from 150.

And I know I can hit my 8 iron 150 yards without strong wind gusts, concrete bounces, or roller coaster elevation changes. But here’s the thing: it’s the distance I hit my 8 iron when I hit it properly.

That’s the killer. I’m not missing greens short because I’m playing a totally unrealistic club for the distance I want to hit. It’s not that everything has to go perfectly and I’m hitting a once-in-a-lifetime distance. Rather, it’s a distance that I need to hit it well to attain.

This evening, I tried something new. For the first time ever, I used Arccos’s Caddie feature, hitting the club that Arccos suggests on approaches. Honestly, I wouldn’t tip Arccos’s Caddie: it’s rude and insulting, regularly suggesting a club one or two up from what I want to pull.

But I doubled my GIRs tonight, shot 4 over on 9 holes (I’m about a 10-12 handicap). One GIR was on a 105-ish shot that I’d ordinarily grab my GW; I used my PW at Arccos’s suggestion, fatted it (mudball!), and it still trundled up onto the front of the green.

One round does not a revolution make, but I’m more convinced than ever that I need to center my distribution over the target, not merely left/right, but also long/short.

If you want to read @jon on this, check out this article: https://practical-golf.com/back-center-green/

8 Likes

I have the same love/hate relationship with arccos caddie. I try to use it as a guide rather than a fact, just another piece of data to consider. That being said it is right more often than I’d care to admit, especially after I chose a different club

1 Like

Prior to this year, I used my range finder, got the distance to the pin and picked my club for that distance…
After reading that article of Jon’s and getting into decade, I do not use my range finder much anymore. I use my watch to get the back of green distance (unless there is a hazard or OB behind the green) and play to that distance. This alone, is the main reason my handicap has dropped from a 13 to an 8.

6 Likes

Why wouldn’t you just hit an extra club into every green? It sounds like you are choosing your irons based on how far you can hit them rather than how far you typically do.

Unless going long is in a hazard, no harm in pulling an extra every time. If you hit it good 50/50 worst case you’re on the back of the green.

Great experiment and kudos to you for going for it.

3 Likes

Great share! It’s amazing what some small adjustments in decision making can do to your performance on the course.

1 Like

I’ve been playing back center yardage on every approach shot over a 100 yards this year. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably saving me 3-4 shots a round.

3 Likes

This is great! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on a good round!

1 Like

Not having a go at the original poster…

“I hit my x iron y yards but always come up short” so how far are you actually that hitting club?

1 Like

I think that’s a question without an easy answer. Even without ego pushing the number at all, how do we say how far we hit a club when it is variable? Do we take the “mode” of shots and the most common distance that comes up? The “mean” for an overall average? Each are going to have their flaws. I think having the number in your head of how far a well struck shot goes on average combined with playing to the back number of the green is the best solution. The well struck shot will probably still hold the back of the green, but the misses (and almost all misses will be shorter) will catch the green more often.

1 Like

Some good pushback, especially from @GolferFiveNine and @Wasa. First, good questions. Second, part of the answer here is going to be psychological (and golf is irreducibly psychological, for better and worse).

One idea that @Adamyounggolf has mentioned that I know is a particular weakness of mine is this: I don’t merely want to score better, but I want to do it “the right way.” Some won’t relate to this at all; you are golf pragmatists—whatever gets the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes is what you want to do, no matter how it looks. Carry a chipper? Whatever. Unconventional swing? No biggie. Play a ginormous slice but make it work? As long as you hit target, hurray.

But there are others of us who struggle with this. We want to score well, for sure. But we also want to do it by some standard of “the right way.” Sometimes this is irrational. Other times it is a recognition that some other way might “work,” but there’s a method that would likely be more reliable if mastered.

This mindsight affects this discussion significantly, at least for me.

Let me stipulate again: I’m not basing my club selection on my “once in a lifetime I hit a 7-iron 200 yards off a tee downwind off a cart path.” They are based on measured distances. Here are my current Arccos club distances:

Nothing impressive here. But two for instances.

  • On the 2nd hole yesterday, my approach was just over 100 yards. Arccos recommended my PW.
  • On the 3rd hole, a par 3 that yesterday was playing just under 150, Arccos recommended I play a 6i.

Both those shots turned out well; I mishit the PW and ended up on the green, and hit a very smooth 6i to about 10’ and made the birdie on the next hole.

But the psychology of it is hard for me, because even given my GPS-measured “ordinary” distances, those are the “wrong” clubs for those shots. I want to pick the club that, if it hit it properly (not once in a lifetime, but just a good strike) will hit the right distance. Picking the club that will go the “correct” distance if slightly mishit—that will go long if hit properly—that’s hard for me.

It’s what (for me) is not easy to say “just go a club up” or “just choose the number for the back of the green.” That kind of advice makes my brain fritz out a bit. It’s like people who set the clocks in their house 10 minutes fast so they’re not late; I find that kind of thing useless for myself, because I can’t convince myself of something like that. So if I know that my actual target is a certain distance, I struggle to intentionally aim at the “wrong” distance.

In principle, yep, it’s just a matter of going up a club. But I need, for my own sake, a reason that that is the right play, or else my brain is protesting that I’m hitting the “wrong” club. This is why something like a DECADE idea appeals to me. It’s not that the point is to aim beyond the flag. The point is to center the distribution of shots over the flag, not only left/right, but also short/long.

That unlocks “permission” in a brain like mine that I’m hitting the “right” club.

Some are understandably going to roll their eyes at this; I get that and I don’t blame you. But there are others out there like me: massively analytic, committed to doing things the “right” way. I hope for those like me, this is a helpful idea.

11 Likes

You are bringing the heat today, another great post!

3 Likes

This for me is simply dropping ego at the door. Go to a range and do a proper yardage check. If indoor you also get your dispersion.

This then allows you to properly select club, not on your percieved best shot with said club but your average.

Knowing this will allow you to avoid and plan for trouble…and ultimately swing with confidence

2 Likes

How does Kirke play? Does he try to do it the ‘right way’ or the most effective way? Does he care that he had to use a 7 iron instead of a 9 iron to hit the green or is he happy to hit the green? From what I’ve seen, you’re definitely imparting the right wisdom to him, but I agree that it’s hard to give that advice to yourself.

I’ve always struggled with the ego, and had a tendency towards trying to get the most out of a smaller club than hitting a smooth longer club. I had a coach that tried to hammer home ‘It’s not how, it’s how many’, but it never quite got through. I will say the last few years reading stuff from Jon and Scott, from understanding the data to changing my mindset has made me a much smarter and better, though less spectacular player.

2 Likes

Good question.

[Quick word for those who don’t know: Kirke is my son. He’s 7 and is a better golfer now than I’ll ever be.]

It’s a bit of a double-edged thing for him. Because the most obvious “weakness” in Kirke’s game is distance (you know, because he’s 7), he’s very conscious of his distances. And because of SkyTrak, he also has a solid knowledge of his bag gapping. So he will get stuck, at times, on insisting that he should hit his PW from 50 yards even though there are mitigating factors that make his 8i (the next club up in his bag) a better choice.

But it’s a great reminder than the next time we’re out, I should have him drop a half dozen balls at 60 yards and try to hit the green with every club in his bag.

2 Likes

For me it’s not about hitting a certain club a certain distance, it’s about using the most effective tool to get the ball to the target. Yes I can hit my 7 iron 150 yards, but I do not even attempt to. My nice smooth repeatable 7 Iron swing carries 130.

2 Likes

I keep track of my GIRs in the GHIN app. It also allows you to specify if you missed greens short, long, left, or right. Note that short will always be over represented, as nearly every time you hit a crappy drive you will end up short of the green, and that has nothing to do with club selection. Nearly every time you hit a crappy approach shot you will also end up short. What you really need to know (IMO) is “ how often do I make fairly decent contact and still end up short?”

2 Likes

Gotta agree here. Clubbing up and making a swing where I can more easily control distance, shape, and angle is something I started doing in college golf and took me from a 3.5 to +1.5.

I had to get it out of my head that just because I CAN hit a club that distance doesn’t mean I should or will every time.

3 Likes

Sometimes the simplest things are the most important. And you never go wrong by bringing out an oldie but a goodie. I keep a journal with notes from every lesson I’ve ever had. It is amazing and sad how much I’m still working on the same things with my swing that gave me problems 20 years ago.

2 Likes

The yardage usually isn’t the problem for me, but the direction is lol. I know I can hit an 8 iron 150 as well, but very often I use 7 iron from 150. It depends on how well I’m swinging and if hitting it 160 would be ok. My home course doesn’t have many holes where long is good. In fact I’m not sure I can think of a single hole where missing long would be good. You could recover from short, but long could put you in a horrible spot, OB or unplayable on pretty much every hole.

I don’t like the adage about “clubbing up” as that generally means you either don’t know your average yardage or you’re not being honest with yourself about it. Also I may not swing crisply if I think I have too much club in my hands. I prefer to pick the right club, not the extra club.

2 Likes