Why Iron Play Is So Important For Scoring Potential

I just posted a new article on the site sharing some data from Shot Scope, and exploring why iron play plays such a vital role in scoring. Have a read here, and let’s discuss!


I used ShotScope in the beginning of the season to get my distances confirmed but after that I dropped it and only track GIR because it really is by far the highest correlation to score outside of the odd lights out short-game round. The one thing I think some people misinterpret in Strokes Gained is that there’s a blanket “closer is better” mentality w/o consideration to risk. Seeing charts with how much further up you need to be in the rough vs fairway for it to pay off also has me thinking I should on some holes alter the strategy and go for the fairway instead of going for it. Especially if it’s a par5 and I’m not reaching in two etc.

Btw, there were some talks of ShotScope adding strokes gained still this year, any news on if that is still in the works?

Their plan is to release the first version of it (which will compare to PGA Tour stats) sometime in the early spring. I believe they’ll be adding more benchmarks (different handicap levels) as time goes on. It’s a lot of work to get it right so they are making sure everything is done properly before they roll it out. Either way, it will be a big feature that a lot of people have been waiting for!

Thanks for the information, that’s why I’ve been keeping my as I intend to take it into use when they activate the feature. Although it might be depressing when comparing to PGA Tour stats…

Good stuff.

Lowest Score Wins is another nice resource for those who want to understand where lower handicaps pick up strokes.

“Approach shots” are actually a bundle of skills that are related:

  • Technique / strike
  • knowing your true distances and tendencies on mis hits
  • strategy to maximize your chance of GIR without incurring penalty
  • mental / focus / execution

Lowest Score Wins + the practical golf articles re shooting for the center of the green helped give me a framework that has me:

  • pulling better club selections
  • being committed to my strategy / shot
  • making almost 100% stock swings

All of these things are related. It’s hard to emphasize how much being “committed” and really feeling confident in my strategy has helped me stay focused over the ball. Lack of interrupting thoughts leads to better swings. Better understanding of these dispersions leave me with a better attitude when i just miss a green and have a good look at up and down (hit a solid shot, should make a lot of pars, its all gravy baby)


This is why I encourage everyone to have a simple framework (i.e., the center of the green, knowing club selection off the tee before the round starts). The less indecision you have before you hit a shot, the better chance you will have a positive result.

When you are on the course and “wing it” from shot to shot and changing strategies based on short term results, you’re not giving yourself the best chance to score well.


Yes. This goes back @Adamyounggolf / motor learning deal where getting your “conceptual map” correct can all of the sudden have huge downstream impacts.

I am really analytical and so once i fixed my map, i began to relax and started playing better golf independent of any change in technique.


This is my off-season focus this year. Arccos tells me that my short game and putting are strengths relative to my handicap. I’m losing strokes off the tee and on approach play. I have limited ability to practice driving, so my chief focus is improving my approach play.

As Jon has written, a lot of the improvement is planning and strategy. I miss about almost 50% of greens short. Changing my perception of the correct club to hit, centering my dispersion over the target, is going to be a big help there.


Great article Jon! I’ve been playing some of my best golf this fall, and the biggest reason is I’m hitting 55% of my greens, which raised my year average to 48%. How did I do it you ask???

  1. Took a lesson to make sure I knew what I should be working on.
  2. Working on getting longer off the tee to give myself shorter approach shots. This is something I’ll keep working on over the winter.
  3. Playing to the middle or back yardage all the time. I use GPS for yardage rather than a laser to take my focus off the pin.
  4. If I have a tucked pin, play to the fat side.

I can’t wait for 2021 golf to continue to work on these things and see how much better I can get!


Those are great gains! This isn’t rocket science, the blueprint is there for everyone to follow :slight_smile:


Another great article! I’ve been working primarily between 50-120 lately. Actually doing the old method of golf, working from the green to the tee box. I’m waiting for my new irons still, but can’t wait to really dial in my distances. I’ve dipped making the big errors off of the tee box, for the most part, so I’m looking forward to a solid year of growth.


I don’t know why I waited so long to try to get better. Hopefully I can continue to see forward momentum in my game.


Loving Arccos because it tell me what to focus on. I was spending so much time practicing putting and then realized that it was a stronger part of my game. I switched gears to my approach and SG approach shots as that’s where I was bleeding strokes. It’s so helpful having that intel!
Aiming to back yardages and the “no flag” mentality of just getting on the green are huge for me as well.


Such a great article and something I think that gets lost in the mid-high hdcp am mindset.

After I took some time off after my failed attempt at that mini tour life my number one focus was distance control with the irons. If you have even a semi-consistent swing you know your miss, so really nailing your distances is the one thing that will lead to hitting more greens - EVEN WHEN YOU MISS!

For example, If your miss is 10-15 yards left you can play that miss and still hit most greens if your distances are right. Even if you play the miss and pure it, if played right you’ll still be putting, albeit maybe on the right edge, but putting nonetheless.

Know your tendencies. Know your distances. Hit more greens. Shoot lower scores.


Great points @jon! Another solid read. Only thing I’d add to “Make sure you have an accurate understanding of how far you hit each club on average” is knowing your carry yardage vs total yardage.


Good point - for my full swing game, I’m trying to focus on the carry numbers as I don’t have the pro-level “control your spin” thing so I can’t control the amount of rollout per full swing shot.

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Something that came up in another thread, but it’s also important to think about what you are hitting into, and how it will change the dynamics of your shot… Downhill will stop faster, and hitting into an uphill green, it’s sometimes good to try to hit a lower lofted club and less of a swing so the ball has less spin to come back down off the green… Might be getting into the technical weeds a little bit, but if you are comfortable hitting your irons different distances, you can use that to hit into greens differently. A “hard 7” is going to spin more than a “soft 6”, so you can choose which ball flight benefits you better.

I don’t get any backspin unless hitting off a tee with a 8i or less. I get topspin with my hooks. My best shots come when I land short and run up onto the green. Some holes have bunkers short left and right and then it is a bit off a lottery to how much I hook to whether I can thread the gap. It has helped me become a better bunker player. I accept that I will never be a scratch golfer. Around 10 over is my potential. In my best round I only hit 7 gir. Chipping is where I make my scores.

I will hereby; Stop :stop_sign: playing to Front pins.

I will plan my approach past the hole.

Therefore I will score better!