Which will improve your score – your short game or long game? Should you work harder on driving the ball or chipping and putting? You can scour the internet and see there are plenty of schools of thought on this concept, but what you really want to know is which one will improve your golf score and boost your golf handicap.
Many golf tips magazines and newsletters will tell you to work hard on your short game if you want to see a major improvement in your scores quickly. After all, the short game is where you lose most of your strokes, isn’t it? So improving it, will dramatically improve your game.
Well, maybe. According to a Columbia Business School professor, Mark Broadie, you lose more strokes in your long game than you do in your short game. A recent study completed by Broadie seems to support this idea.
As part of the study, the professor logged in 70,000 shots hit by golfers from all playing levels and ages and on all different courses for over a decade. Then Broadie developed a formula to assess the value of each shot by comparing it to a scratch golfer’s average score on a given hole.
When applied to the 70,000 shots, the formula showed that you lose more strokes with your long game than your short game. According to study’s findings, if you’re a typical 90-shooter, you lose nine shots per round from shots outside 100 yards and six shots per round from 100-yards and in. Either way, that a lot of shots to lose.
Against Conventional Golf Tip Wisdom
Broadie’s findings come at the expense of conventional golf wisdom. It says that the typical weekend golfer loses more shots with her short game than her long game. Hence, the adage: You drive for show, but you putt for dough. To take your game to the next level, says conventional wisdom, you need to work more on your short game than your long game.
Obviously, the professor’s work cast doubt on conventional wisdom. In a statement, Broadie says his research “makes it clear that, while the short game is important, weekend golfers have more room to improve in the long game.” In other words, if you want to take your game to the next level quickly, work harder on driving than your chipping and putting.
Three Factors Affect Your Long Golf Game
Broadie’s research points to factors the contribute to why you lose more strokes with your long game than with your short game:
1. Location, Location, Location — It’s not just important in real estate. It’s also important in golf. With more real estate to cover in the 300 or so yards to the green, comes more chances for getting yourself into trouble—water, out of bounds, traps, and so on. If you can’t avoid these land mines, they’ll cost you strokes big time.
2. Bad shots are really bad — Hitting chunks, shanks, clanks, and so on—, says Broadie’s research, add strokes to your score. We all know that. So that’s not a revelation. What is a revelation, however, is just how bad these shots are for our scores and our golf handicaps. Hitting a really, really bad shot, says Broadie’s research, can pump up your score significantly on a single hole.
Broadie defines a bad shot as anything less than 80 yards and that results in a penalty or forces a recovery shot. These shots can happen anywhere and to anyone. But more than twice as many occur in the long game than the short game, says Broadie. So staying away from them will save you dozens of strokes and help you go low.
3. Gives your short game a chance — Sure. A good short game is critical to going low. But there’s a ceiling on how many strokes you can save with your short game. So while improving your short game will provide dividends, it’s not the whole story when it comes to improvement.
Put another way, you need both length and accuracy off the tee to give your short game the chance to work its magic. If you’re not long and accurate, having a great short game might not mean much. More important, better course management can help cut down on those card-killing shots you hit in your long game.
So what’s the point? It’s simple: Your short game is still critical to going low. So you need to work on it to improve your game. But it’s not the be all and end all of improving your golf game. In fact, hitting straighter, accurate shots may contribute more to our scores and your golf handicap than conventional wisdom says.
So you’re serious about improving, work hard your short game but also make time to work on your long game. Doing so will pay off in the long run with better golf scores and a lower handicap.