Golf.com just posted an interesting instructional titled, “10 skills golfers need to go from a mid- to a low-handicap.” One skill in particular stood out to me: Hit more greens in regulation.
The green in reg, or GIR, is one of the greatest feelings in our great game. You have successfully navigated the first shot, or the first two shots, or the first three and have a look at birdie.
For most of us, that means a happy ritual: You take off your glove and put it in your back pocket. That signals that it’s time to putt.
The golf.com tip suggested that you need to hit six to 13 greens on average to be a single-digit handicap. I checked my spreadsheet with this year’s rounds and, sure enough, my rounds in the 70s all had good GIR totals.
However, I’m nowhere near the high end the article recommends. My best this year is nine greens in reg. In fact, I can’t recall ever reaching double digits in that category. Maybe I did once, but it certainly is not the norm.
But there’s another facet to this: What about the shot that is just off the green?
I would bet that I miss a GIR by a foot or two at least twice a round. It might as well be on the green – I’m putting, and I’m certainly trying to make it. Maybe there should be an AGIR – almost a green in regulation.
The article mentioned three other skills directly related to the GIR.
The first two skills – hitting consistent drives with good distance and making consistently solid contact – set up the GIR. They go hand in hand. Yes, it’s a shame to hit a big drive and then mess up the hole, but I’d rather be out there long and strong off the tee and at least have an opportunity for birdie.
When I scroll back through rounds that went well, I usually can see that I got it going with the driver or 3-wood and either was in the fairway or was far enough down the hole to have a good look at the green.
And solid contact is the only thing I’m looking for when I keep my TG score – the percentage of shots that I consider good strikes of the ball. If you’re hitting the ball solidly, chances are it’s going to end up in some good locations.
The other directly related skill is the dreaded three-putt. I would rather play the hole horribly and somehow make bogey than three-putt for bogey – it is that much of a defeat. That is especially true when I’m close enough to be thinking birdie.
The flip side to this discussion, of course, is that awful feeling you get when you’ve missed the GIR and you’re scrambling for par or worse. It’s when your dreams of a GIR turn into a nightmare that has you saying, “Grrrrrrrr.”
I should clarify: It’s an awful feeling if you’re lacking confidence in your short game. There’s nothing worse than having the yips around the green and knowing that your chances of turning this into a double bogey are greater than any hope of salvaging par.
I play this mental game with myself in every round. If it’s a GIR, I’m happily taking off my glove. If I’m trudging up to the green and preparing for a chip or sand shot, sometimes I’m struggling to stay positive.
The skills mentioned in the article were pretty obvious. Good golfers make more mid-length putts, they can get up and down, they avoid penalty shots and they know when to play for a “good bogey.”
But there was one other skill worth noting: They can curve the ball on command. If you can’t do that, go to the range and hit a whole bucket with that in mind. It’s going to be needed at least once or twice a round to get around a tree or navigate a dogleg.
I love common-sense articles like the one I found in golf.com. These are skills we can refine if we’re intentional about practicing them, and that can lead to more GIRs and less “Grrrrr.”