Fairways Hit Is An Incomplete Statistic – Track Your Tee Shots This Way Instead
Traditional golf statistics do not give a complete picture of your performance on the course. They’re a good starting point, but stats like putts per round can be misleading. In this article, I want to focus on why fairways hit is an incomplete statistic.
Tee shot performance is critical to scoring. But if you are only tracking your progress by how many fairways you hit versus missed, you are not getting an accurate representation of your success off the tee.
I’m going to offer an alternative way to track tee shots. Hopefully, my different view will help manage your expectations more appropriately and help you focus on how to improve.
The Goal of a Tee Shot
Whenever you tee it up on a par 4 or par 5, the general goal should be to hit the ball as far as you can while keeping it in play. Golf is a game of proximity, and modern statistical analysis has proven that the closer you are to the hole off the tee, your opportunity to post a lower score increases. Additionally, being in the fairway is not always a requirement.
Choosing an optimal target and club selection based on the design of the hole helps improve your chances. In this article, I discussed how I use dispersion analysis and hole layouts to plan out my tee shots.
Long story short, no matter what level of golfer you are, you want to keep the ball in front of you. While errant tee shots can’t be prevented entirely, they can cause a lot more damage to your overall score compared to poor putting performance.
However, I am against using the fairway as the only measuring stick of success. I believe that even if you miss a fairway, but still have a clear path to the green with a manageable lie, then I would say you were successful.
Varying Levels of Success
When I discussed golfer performance by handicap level, I showed that a tee shot landing in the trees costs a golfer around 1.1 shots. A fairway bunker is even more penal at 1.4 shots. But the light rough? It’s only a penalty of about 1/3rd of a shot. Of course, landing in the fairway gives you the best chance to hit the green, but all is not lost if you don’t keep your tee shot on the short stuff.
In my estimation, it makes sense to group tee shot results into four separate categories:
- Fairway – perfect lie, and a clear path to the green.
- Rough – manageable lie, and a clear path to the green.
- Trouble – in the trees, fairway bunker, or a tough lie in rough. Any recovery situation that makes it unlikely you will be able to reach the green.
- Penalty – if your ball goes out of bounds, is lost, or in a penalty area.
I can’t account for every situation on the course, but I feel you can use these four scenarios as simple guidelines. You could even lump the last two (trouble/penalty) together if you would like. Another caveat would be the dreaded topped tee shot; you can add that to the trouble category.
Speaking anecdotally, I can tell you that one of the keys to lowering your scores is eliminating trouble and penalty tee shots. A lot of golfers get upset with themselves if they miss a fairway. But if you’re still in play, and can easily get your ball near the green or on it, you’ve substantially eliminated your chances of making a double bogey. That my friends is one of the keys to becoming a better golfer.
As a side note, I should also warn you against trying to make up for your mistakes with aggressive play when you do get into a recovery situation. If you make bogey, you’ll be keeping pace with PGA Tour players, which I discussed in this article. Get your ball back in play, and take your medicine.
While I don’t believe all golfers need to keep close track of their statistics, I do think it is a good idea for most of you. With technology, there are plenty of apps and shot-tracking systems that help you keep track of your shots on the course.
You can get very interesting visual representations of your tee shots that can help you make smarter strategic decisions and even evaluate your equipment.
If you track your stats the old fashioned way, I encourage you to go beyond fairways hit with these four (or three) categories. You could rename the stat “successful tee shots” – and keep track of your percentage of tee shots that land in the first two categories (fairway and rough). For example, let’s say you hit 5 fairways and had eight other tee shots that avoided trouble and penalty situations, then your successful tee shots would be 13/18, or 72% for the day. That’s not too bad!
I think many of you will find that you might not be as bad off the tee as you think. Additionally, if you are finding that the amount of trouble and penalty situations is substantial, it might be worth looking into the source of the issue. It could be club/target selection, equipment issues, or a technical problem in your golf swing.
Hi guys just thought id put out a lin to a great site if you are looking to improve your golf game. They have completely free tutorial on how to lower your scores and make your misses smaller throughout the round. I personally started using this site at the beginning of the season and my handicap when from a 10 to a 7. http://bit.ly/2Ysbjbu here is the link if anybody is interested.
Thanks, Jon. I think not just using fairways hit as your tee game measuring stick makes a ton of sense. Same thing with hitting it into the fringe vs the actual green. If I’m putting, I’m putting (providing it’s not from 150’ in an Irish fairway).
One thing about Game Golf. I purchased their system in January this year, after waiting out their numerous product delays. To say the experience was terrible would be severely understating it. This was the new version, with no ‘clicking the box’ needed. Well, in my case it wasn’t needed because it didn’t work at all. They even had the gall to try to keep my money when I finally said I wanted to return the product because I’d worked with them for 2-3 months to try to fix the issues and “your warranty was only 30 days and has expired”. This after their ‘experts’ blew me off for scheduled meeting a both times THEY scheduled them. Really incredible. Broken product, uncaring tech support, and ridiculously callous customer service. Thankfully I bought with Amex and they took care of everything. The only good part of the whole miserable experience with Game Golf.
I want to second DS statement regarding Game Golf. Adds two years successfully using the original device, I decided to upgrade to the new pro version. What a waste of money! It never tracked more than 60% of my shots initially, then tracked ferret and fewer each round. I contacted support multiple times getting email responses to try reloading the firmware but the AP couldn’t reload most of the tags. I put the old version back on my clubs. After a couple of months they said in an email that they found the problem and place reload the tag firmware. However, after only five months the tag batteries are dead and not replaceable. Support said they would send me new tags but I never got them.
I still use the old ones but I’ll never recommend Game Golf again.
For tee shot tracking (usually driver on all the par 4’s and 5’s at my course), I rate all my drives as 5/4/3/2/1. 5 means perfect, solidly hit, long (for me) and in the fairway. 4 means decent, not as solid or straight but still able to reasonably reach the green. 3 means too short to reasonably reach the green or crooked enough to be obstructed. Will require an up-and-down for par. 2 means lateral hazard. 1 means lost or OB.
Here in AZ pretty much all of the courses I play are proper target golf, meaning you’re either in the fairway or in the desert. So it’s either a 5 ( successful) or a 1( trouble/penalty)
Willie T says
I use my Garmin S20 Approach to track my rounds (got it for Christmas this year) and it gives a detailed spread of all tee shots. Currently I tend to hit more of a fade and it suggests that I work on aiming more left on tee shots. I like to the idea of counting fringe/light rough shots that are NOT in the trees as still decent drives. It doesn’t mean you become lazy and not work on improving tee shot accuracy but rather not get too down when you playing, knowing you can still make GIR.
What you say about the fairways hit statistic makes perfect sense but of course, it’s too nuanced for some of the talking heads on TV who just enjoy spitting out numbers.
The beauty of golf is that every course and the weather and ground conditions are different, so for a particular course or golf tournament, hitting the fairway might be critical whereas for others there might be a lot of leeway.
I’m thinking, for example, of the standard US Open setup, especially as it was during the 70s and 80s. A drive that missed the fairway nearly always meant a lay-up with an iron, whereas in the British Open in the middle of July a drive that missed the fairway often meant a straightforward approach with a wedge from wispy grass and maybe an uneven lie. The issue then is whether the player has an opening to the pin. You could see it in St. Andrews this year, where players could miss the fairway by miles, but the issue was whether they could get at the pins because of where they had been tucked.
Golf is really about putting the ball in the optimum position for the next shot, much like the snooker player who thinks several shots ahead and works backward from that. It would be a hard thing to measure but a good golfer (or a good TV analyst) can appreciate it, especially during the Majors, when the margins are so tight. There is a right time and a wrong time to slash away with the driver and your breakdown of the penalties for hitting the ball into the rough, trees or bunkers illustrates that very well.