What are your goals to improve your game in 2019, and how do you go about setting up those goals?

What I wanted to kind of get into for the remainder of the year, which is not very long obviously, is talk about what sort of data we can use to properly set up realistic goals to improve our golf games in 2019. So I thought we use the PGA tour’s stats to do it. We’ll look at actual players and their statistics and try to come up with a plan for us in 2019, with some realistic expectations based on data from the best players in the world. Then we will come up with a plan for ourselves and set some goals. This exercise has really helped me keep my expectations realistic, which is important because as you’re trying to get better at the game of golf, having unrealistic expectations can be super frustrating, and frustration is not what you want to feel when you’re trying to get better at golf.

Let us try to avoid setting up goals that are so lofty and so ridiculous that they’re unattainable. The first stat I wanted to look at is accuracy off the tee or driving accuracy. So I’ve just gone to PGATour.com website and I’ve looked at the stats for driving accuracy for 2018, and from this data was are going to create a benchmark for ourselves by looking at the driving accuracy averages of the PGA tour. Now some would say, look, these guys are professionals. They are highly skilled. They practice all the time, they have access to all the latest technology. And all of that would be very, very true, but they also hit the ball much further than we do, and the further you hit the ball, the higher the chance you are going to miss the fairway. So in my mind it all just kind of balances out, and there are good numbers to use as our benchmark.

But I’ll admit we are talking about averages from PGA tour players, but from what I’ve seen over the years of talking to amateur players about the expectations of their golf games, is we often have these unrealistic expectations in our own golf game and on how we should be performing, which causes all kinds of undo frustration which kills our motivation to work at getting better. Okay, so here we go. Looking at the Driving Accuracy for 2018 in the number one position, right up there at the top is Henrik Stenson. Henrik actually hit the fairway an average of 75% of the time off the tee. That is pretty impressive right!

But, all of us who follow Henrik Stenson understand that he likes to hit that strong three wood off the tee a lot. He’ll get to some holes where it’s obviously a driver and he will still hit the three wood. He’s comfortable hitting a three wood. Hey, he’s hitting 75 percent of the fairways. He likes to play from the fairway, so it seems to be a good decision for him. Now, how much distance is he losing? I think that is a fair question. So I jumped back to see what his average distances and he is still hitting it some 291.5 yards off the tee with this 3 wood. Now all of us would love to average 291.5 off the tee with the driver. Right? So, Henrik still moves it out there, but as far as where he is compared to the entire tour, he is ranked 139th in driving distance out of roughly 200.

So yes, he has given up some distance but he’s hitting the fairway 75% of the time and he made $2.6 million last year. So, it seems to be working for him!! All of us could probably live off $2.6 million right? And if we could do that by hitting a three wood off the tee and hitting 75% of our fairways, we would love it. Okay. So there’s the top end. Henrik leads the PGA tour at 75% of fairways hit. Let’s now look at the very bottom and we will find Mr. Ricky Barnes. Bless his heart. Ricky Barnes hit the fairway 47% of the time off the tee. He missed the fairway more than he hit the fairway in 2018, which is just WOW!! That would be a tough way to play golf.

But here you go. Here is a guy who made what $340,000 on the PGA tour last year by hitting the fairway less than half the time. There are our two extremes in the driving accuracy category. Three are 193 individuals tracked for this stat, which puts the 96th spot right in the middle, so the average of the averages. The 96th person on this list is Tyrrell Hatton who hits the fairway 62% of the time. Okay, let’s use that then as the benchmark, let’s say 60% to keep it simple. We want to set up a goal for ourselves to hit the fairway somewhere around 60% of the time in 2019. Now in a normal round of golf, we have 18 holes. And typically, four of those holes are going to be par 3s, so we’re going to throw those out. And that now leaves us with 14 holes where we actually hit a driver (for simplicity’s sake we will leave it here, even though there might be short par 4s we choose to leave the driver in the bag).

So if we are going to hit 60% of the 14 holes where we hit driver, that means we should plan to hit around fairways per round and miss 6 fairways. So there is our benchmark for 2019 (and beyond). We are going to track our performance, and if we fall below these benchmarks, then we know that this is a part of our game that we need to spend a little extra time on to bring it up to the benchmark. Always realizing that we are amateurs. We don’t have time to practice every day, all day, so let’s practice on those parts of our games that are the weakest, and not based on how they make us feel when we are playing, but based on real data. So if we hit less than eight fairways a round consistently, then we know we need to work on our off the tee skills.

There are so many I play with that freak out every time they miss a fairway, which is completely crazy. They aren’t tour players, they are going to miss at least 40% of their fairways, and that is if they are as good as the average pro on tour. Their expectations are crazy/stupid.

Perhaps you get upset yourself? So, can we take a step back and realize that the best players in the world, the ones that do this for a living and practice all the time, have the best technology, have the best coaches play in the best conditions, that these very players are missing fairways, and I mean a lot of them. To the tune of 405 of the time, and then cut ourselves a little slack?!? Let’s throw away these unrealistic expectations, put some proper ones in place, work on the part of our games that aren’t holding up to the benchmarks and not freak out as much. We are going to miss fairways and that’s okay. That’s part of playing golf, it has nothing to do with us not performing well. It has everything to do with the fact that we are trying to perform a very difficult task, to play a very difficult game, so missed fairways are going to happen… Period.

So when you miss a fairway, shrug it off as golf and stay calm.

Some of you are saying, okay, why are you looking at the 96th spot and creating a benchmark, that’s ridiculous. Well, let give you a few names of some PGA Tour Pros that are down below the 96th spot on the list. We’ve got Jordan Spieth at 99th, we’ve got Dustin Johnson at 125th. Dustin is one of those where the length of his drives is causing him a problem when trying to hit fairways, but he is known to be a very accurate driver of the golf ball. In fact, during the US Open this year the commentators talked about it a ton. How Dustin could just boom it but was still so accurate with his driver. Well, he’s 125th on tour. He’s hitting the fairway only 60% of the time. Tiger Woods hits the fairway less than 60% of the time. Jon Rahm, his short backswing is also less than 60% of the time. Justin Thomas is ranked 138th out of 193. He hits the fairway less than 59% of the time. Jason Day, just 58% of the time. Okay, so there you go, just a little additional proof for all of us. 2019 is the year of being realistic. We are going to miss the fairway at least 40% of the time, and we’re going to be okay with it. If we hit eight fairways a round, let’s just be completely thrilled. If we’re hitting seven fairways a round, we’re close. If we’re hitting six, it still really isn’t that bad, but we might need a little work.

Brooks Koepka, for example, won two majors in 2018 and went back to back with US Open victories, and the US Open is known as the most difficult driving test in golf. Brooks is ranked 155th place on this list. He hits the fairway 57% of the time in 2018. So let’s keep it real. Golf is hard. We will miss fairways sometimes, and that’s okay.

Hopefully, these statistics and benchmarks are helpful to you in your golf game. So for the rest of the year, we are going to keep looking at other stats to create other benchmarks we can use to accurately measure the health of our game, and get better by working on things that aren’t up to the standards we set, which are based on real data. That’s all for today!

Remember always better data always means better golf!