Score one for better understanding your game

I have the found the cure for obsessing about your score.

TG is worth a shot. Maybe a lot of shots.

That stands for Tee to Green, and it has immediately transformed my way of thinking about our great game. It’s the first score I write down for each hole. It’s my main focus. And I’m convinced that it will have a positive effect on how well I strike the ball.

I wrote about this last week, and I since have refined my thought process about it. Here’s how TG works:

I simply am trying to determine how many shots per round I would consider “good shots.” Forget results. I’m not concerned so much about results. But I AM concerned about ball flight, solid contact and direction.

We’re only talking about longer shots – say, 50 yards or more. Chips, putts and sand shots from greenside bunkers are a different animal.

When I wrote about this last week, I lamented that in a recent 18-hole round my TG percentage was only 31.7% (13 good shots out of 41). That is pathetic in my world. It certainly explained why my stroke score was so high.

So I set out in my next round, a 9-holer, to improve on that number. All I cared about was a better TG score. The number of strokes I needed was secondary. Here’s how it went, with an explanation of what constitutes a TG “point” – in other words, a good shot:

1ST HOLE: My drive on the long par-4 was a low hook that went only 225 yards or so. I expect a lot more than that out of the driver. That left me with about 210 yards to the green, which meant a 3-iron – not exactly the club you want to be hitting when you aren’t warmed up (we were playing at dawn). But I struck it pure, and it ended up right next to the green. All in all, a terrific shot under the circumstances. TG score: 1 for 2.

2ND HOLE: My 6-iron to the par-3 was hit very well but slightly right and caught the bunker. It’s an extremely narrow green, and on just about any other hole it would have wound up 20 feet from the pin. Can’t be unhappy with that. TG score: 1 for 1. Total TG: 2 for 3.

3RD HOLE: This drive was much better but caught the bunker on the left side of the fairway. If I had hit it just a little more to the right, it would have scooted another 30-40 yards on the par-5 and given me a look at the green. Despite the result, that’s a point. I was right under the lip and had to go down to an 8-iron to get it out, but I hit it well. Another point. Now I had a 4-iron left, and I skulled it. Even though it stopped rolling right in front of the green, that’s not a good strike despite the decent result. TG score: 2 for 3. Total TG: 4 for 6.

4TH HOLE: Same type of drive as the last one, only this time it reached the left rough. But it was struck well. That left me with a flip wedge on the short par-4, and I hit that one solidly, too. Even though it landed right on the bank of the front of the green, I’m going to give myself a point for that one as well. It was right on line and would have been next to the pin, which was up, if it had been hit another 2-3 yards. TG score: 2 for 2. Total TG: 6 for 8.

5TH HOLE: It’s a par-4 with a lot of trouble, and my 3-wood off the tree was troublesome, too – a popup to right field. That’s unacceptable. It left me with a 5-iron, and I hit it well. Even though it wasn’t enough club and was short of the green all the way, I’m not judging on club selection – just on club contact. TG score: 1 for 2. Total TG: 7 for 10.

6TH HOLE: I hit my biggest drive of the day, but I opened up and hit it dead right into the next fairway. Yes, it went a long way, but on most courses it would have been out of bounds or in a lot of trouble. You don’t get a TG point for missing your target by 50 yards. I made up for it with an exquisite gap wedge over a tree to a tough pin placement, leaving me 15 feet from the hole. TG score: 1 for 2. Total TG: 8 for 12.

7TH HOLE: This drive was much better, leaving me with a 7-iron to the green on a long, difficult par-4. My second shot wasn’t awful, but it was a hook that was heading left all the way into the bunker. TG score: 1 for 2: Total TG: 9 for 14.

8TH HOLE: It’s a par-3 where anything short or right is in the water, and it has slayed me more times than I care to remember. But my 6-iron was hit perfectly and made for an easy two-putt par. Thrilled with that one. TG score: 1 for 1. Total TG: 10 for 15.

9TH HOLE: Here’s another example of not getting caught up in results. The bunker on the right seems to have a magnet for my ball, and once again that’s where my drive ended up. But it was hit well. Point. I once again was under the lip, and this time I hit a 7-iron in the hope of getting it somewhere near the green. I hit it thin, and it caught the lip and went about 50 yards – not a terrible result, but not struck well. Can’t take a point for that one. My sand wedge was a little off line, but it found its way to the narrow green so I have to give myself a point for that. TG score: 2 for 3. Total TG: 12 for 18.

Now that’s some serious improvement – 31.7% to 66.7%. My stroke score wasn’t good, but that was partly because the greens had been punched and sanded three days before, making putting treacherous. I walked away feeling really good about my ball-striking overall.

More important, I didn’t even know my stroke score until I got home and looked at the scorecard. I view that as a good thing. I’ve tried every which way to end that obsession, and TG is a much more positive statistic that, if properly applied, will reduce the number of strokes I need out there.

I encourage you to try it, but the first step is to be honest with yourself: What do you consider a good shot? This might be a way to truly understand how well you’re hitting the ball.

Maybe it’s time to stop saying, “It’s not how, it’s how many.” This gives you a better idea of the how.

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